May 9, 2014

A Report on the second day (and conclusion) of Authentication in Art at The Hague

Presentation on discovery of a new van Gogh painting
by Virginia M. Curry

The second session of the Authentication in Art Congress at The Hague presented a tour de force of scions defining the new intersections of science, art history and the law.

Dr. Ella Hendricks (Senior Paintings Conservator, Van Gogh Museum) and Muriel Geldof (Conservation Scientist, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands) in ‘Evaluating technical and analytical studies of Van Gogh’s paintings in support of attribution 'contemplated the  role of art-technological studies in the process of attributing and authenticating paintings by Vincent van Gogh in terms of consistency of the materials and techniques used, also leading to improved connoisseurship by informing and therefore refining our perception of the artist’s changing styles and techniques' (program).

In ‘Van Gogh and his oeuvre: the attribution process evaluated’ Dr. Tilborough (Senior Researcher, Van Gogh Museum) and  Teio Meedendorp (Researcher, Van Gogh Museum) emphasized that both transparency and access are key to their research.  This philosophy of transparency in research recently permitted Dr. van Tilborough and his team to discover and authenticate a new van Gogh painting, “Sunset at Montmajour”. The team compared “Sunset” to  van Gogh’s “The Rocks” from the Fine Arts Museum in Houston, and they were able to discern that the paintings were completed within two weeks of each other.

Dr. Ellen Landau discussed Pollock's "Mural" 
“We carried out art historical research into the style, depiction, use of materials and context, and found that everything indicated that the work is by van Gogh," according to Dr. Tilborough. " We were able to track the provenance to Theo’s collection in 1890 and it was sold  in 1901.  Letters from the artist refer to this painting."

Many thanks to Dr. Ellen Landau (Professor  emeritus of Art History, Case Western Reserve University) for her presentation, “Conservation as a Connoisseurship Tool: Jackson Pollock’s 1943 Mural for Peggy Guggenheim, A Case Study” which highlighted the joint analysis of Pollock’s 1943 painting “Mural” recently undertaken by the Getty.  The analysis debunked many misconceptions concerning the manner in which Pollock worked, and converted me thereby, to a deeper understanding and appreciation of his art.

Professor Robyn Slogget (Director, Center for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne) and her associate, paintings conservator Vanessa Kowalski, highlighted several case studies involving the forgery of aborigine art and the pitfalls eventually overcome to develop a protocol of examination and non-invasive analysis -- assisting in successfully prosecuting a case of forgery of aborigine art in Melbourne.

PhD Student Elke Cwiertnia (Northumbria University, Newcastle) in ‘Examining artworks attributed to Francis Bacon (1909-1992) to aid authentication’ presented the methodology of examination and preservation employed by the Francis Bacon research project in their efforts to publish a catalogue raisonné of Bacon's work.

Panel chaired by Lawrence Shindell
The lively panel discussion led by art law attorney Lawrence Shindell examined the impact of current authenticity issues on the art market. The expertise of the responding panel drew on multiple perspectives ranging from those of the legal and academic communities to market economics.  The panel included Dr. Friederike Grafin von Bruhl, William Charron, Randall Willette, Dr. Jeroen Euwe and D. Anna Dempster.

Following the panel discussion, the congress group traveled for an exclusive view of the exhibition "Mondrian and Cubism, Paris 1912-1914” (in partnership with MOMA) at an opening hosted by the Mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, and presentation by Hans Janssen, curator at large for modern art.

Ms. Curry is a retired FBI agent, a licensed private investigator, and an art historian.

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