Showing posts with label art authentication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art authentication. Show all posts

May 8, 2014

Authenticity in Art Congress 2014: Retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry reports from The Hague

Martin Kemp presented "It Doesn't Look Like Leonardo"
on the first day of the Authenticity in Art Congress
by Virginia M. Curry

THE HAGUE -- The Authenticity in Art Congress opened Wednesday here at the Louwman [Automobile] Museum in The Hague to discuss how the seemingly opposed spheres of  science and art history connoisseurship  might be aligned  to synthesize a protocol for establishing authenticity of art, specifically paintings.

Jugen W. Wittmann, the Senior Manager of the Mercedes Benz archives and Collection Brand Communications, presented the protocols utilized by Mercedes Benz to preserve the integrity of their vehicles against forgery.  Documents in their archives record each car manufactured and the “as delivered” condition of the vehicle to the original owner, with the serial numbers recorded on the vehicle. Wittman noted that such transparency is important since although there were only 33 of the Mercedes SSK ever built, there are more than 100 hundred registered as SSKs with the international Vintage Collectors Group.

Keynote Speaker Javier Lumbreras, the CEO of Artemundi Global Fund, discussed the collection of art and the frustrations of the purchaser who is burdened with the proof of due diligence.  He concluded by saying that inasmuch as science cannot provide a “bulletproof” decision which can stand up as evidence in court, litigation, in his experience, is not worth the effort.  Lumbreras drew an analogy similar to that of Jugen Wittmann of Mercedes Benz by noting that of the fourteen Rembrandt works in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art only seven of them have an agreed authenticity.

Professor Martin Kemp, FBA, Emeritus Professor in the History of Art, Trinity College Oxford, (and an acknowledged Leonardo scholar) initiated the section on the Historical Developments in Painting Authentication and spoke about professional opinion in his paper, “It Doesn’t Look Like Leonardo”. Professor Kemp argued the construction of evidence of authenticity as “The judgment by eye in science and art and the tendency for the eye to see what it expects to see.”  He illustrated his point by comparing the points of view of a traffic accident, such as the point of view of the insurance adjuster, driver, weatherman, etc. noting that each one’s interpretation of what they see is relative to their interest. Professor Kemp concluded that the observable consequences of the visual techniques of historical and scientific that are the most specific in identification are the most malleable.  Above all, he cautioned, “We should be more cautious and prudent in our personal investments in our malleable acts and seeing.”

Marker for Vermeer in The Hague
Dr. Margaret Dalivalle presented a paper, “Picturarum vere Originalium: Inventing originality in early Modern London", which explored the question of originality of paintings and the invention of the idea of artistic originality in the eighteenth century.

Professor Frank James, Professor of the History of Science, Head of Collections and Heritage of the Royal Institution, London, spoke about the work of Humphrey Davy and Michael Faraday who developed chemical techniques in the late 18th, early 19th century to understand, conserve and record archeological and artistic objects, such as the wall painting and vase painting from Pompeii; the Lewis chess pieces; the unfurling and attempts to read the Herculaneum Papyri; and their comparisons with the pigments found on the Elgin marbles.

Dr. Lynn Catterson, an Art Historian from Columbia University, presented an extraordinary paper and cautionary tale about Stefano Bardini and his Art of Crafting Authenticity.  Dr. Catterson's research led into the archives of Stefano Bardini whose expertize involved the forgery of “originals” and falsification of context and provenance.  Dr. Catterson’s research  in the Bardini archive challenges the accepted comparanda and consequently, perceived authenticity and attributions in major museums.

Dr. John Brewer, Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, CalTech, discussed the Duveen Trial of 1929,  the hazards of presenting scientific evidence of authenticity in court, and the subsequent rejection of conflicting  connoisseurship in court.

Evan Hepler-Smith, a Historian of modern science and doctoral candidate at Princeton University, discussed the early utilization of x-ray to fit the material, intellectual and social contours of authentication and  connoisseurship.

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

January 23, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - , 1 comment

Rembrandt Authentications: Curator at Scottish National Gallery discovered red-ink drawing in its collection -- a rare find in a murky world of authenticating Rembrandt's prints

Scottish National Gallery, Rembrandt 98A:
Jan Cornelius Sylvius
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Tico Seifert, a senior art curator for northern European art at the Scottish National Gallery, identified a Rembrandt etching in the collection: the "rare red-ink picture" authenticated by specialists in Amsterdam, reports Edinburgh Evening News, is a portrait of Jan Cornelis Sylvius, a relative of Rembrandt's wife Saskia and godfather to their daughter Cornelia.
He said: “I was going through the boxes of copies of Rembrandt when the first thing that caught my eye is that it is an impression in red ink. “Normally prints, engravings or etchings are produced in black ink. This particular impression is in a brownish red ink which is pretty rare. That was what first made me hesitate going through to the next one.
“I checked the handbooks for what kind of copy this might be and they said the copies are always in reverse. 
“When I saw it wasn’t, I thought this is most likely not a copy.”
The Scottish National Gallery reports that the etching's provenance is unknown. In the collection posted online, the gallery shows 12 other works by Rembrandt, including an oil on panel of Hannah and Samuel; and two oils on canvases, A Woman in Bed; and Self-Portrait, aged 51.

"The National Galleries of Scotland hold about 100 etchings by Rembrandt, several of which are of superb quality," Dr. Seifert wrote in an email to the ARCAblog.

In 2010, Jenna Johnson for the Washington Post reported in "Etching found at Catholic University may be a Rembrandt" the story of the college's president discovering a framed etching and the process and valuation of a possible Rembrandt work. In July 2012, Dalya Alberge reported for the guardian in "Rembrandt drawing found in Scottish attic" that Christie's would sell the newly discovered artwork.

Here's a link to the Rembrandt Research Project, chaired by Ernst van de Wetering, 'widely accepted as the Rembrandt expert. Mr. van de Wetering authenticated a Rembrandt painting from Buckland Abbey in Devon in 2013. The DVD, Out of the Shadows: Hidden Masterpieces, is produced with the Rembrandt Research Project and the University of Delft. And this video here explains how Rembrandt sold his plates and later drawings were made in the 18th century.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has published on the questions of authenticity in regards to Rembrandt's work. 

At the 2011 Art Crime Conference in Amelia, photographer and researcher Sarah Zimmer spoke about the event of a missing or lost Rembrandt etching in "The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt's 100 Guilder Print."

The Cleveland Art Museum exhibited "Rembrandt in America" in 2012, discussing what is and what isn't a Rembrandt. The exhibit also visited North Carolina and Minnesota as the 'largest collection of authentic Rembrandt paintings'. The Morgan Library and Museum also showed an exhibit, Rembrandt's World, of the artist's drawings from the Clement C. Moore collection.

In August 2012, a Norwegian art gallery lost an Rembrandt etching in the mail (Reuters, "Norwegian gallery loses a Rembrandt in the mail," August 23, 2012).

In this article, "The 'kissing couple' bride: A remarkable war story remembered", by Debora van Brenk in the London Free Press, a story is told that an 'enterprising wife arranged for delivery of some Rembrandt etchings to high-placed German officers' to free her husband during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands.

November 30, 2013

Is it a Pollack? New York Times Journalist Patricia Cohen looks at the case between two women and a painting; a few professionals weigh in

From the New York Times: Is this a Pollack?
In "A Real Pollock? On This, Art and Science Collide" by Patricia Cohen for the New York Times (Nov. 24), the argument between Jackson Pollack's widow Lee Krasner and his lover Ruth Kligman is examined in the authentication of a 'small painting with swirls and splotches of red, black, and silver'.
Until her death, in 2010, Ms. Kligman, herself an artist, insisted the painting was a love letter to her created by Pollock in the summer of 1956, just weeks before he died in a car crash. But the painting was rejected by an expert panel set up to authenticate and catalog all of Pollock’s works by a foundation established by Ms. Krasner. This month, it seemed the dispute that outlived both women might finally be settled. Ms. Kligman’s estate announced that forensic tests — comparing samples from the loafers Pollock died in, his rugs and his backyard — had linked the painting with Pollock and his home. But instead of resolving one dispute, the findings only reignited another, one that pits traditional ways of determining whether a work is genuine against newer technologies. 
On one side stands Francis V. O’Connor, a stately Old World-style connoisseur with a Vandyke beard and curled mustache, who believes erudition and a practiced eye are essential to judging authenticity. Mr. O’Connor, a co-editor of the definitive Pollock catalog and a member of the now-disbanded Pollock-Krasner Foundation authentication committee, said “Red, Black and Silver” does not look like a Pollock. “I don’t think there’s a Pollock expert in world that would look at that painting and agree it was a Pollock,” Mr. O’Connor said at a symposium this month.
On the other side is Nicholas D. K. Petraco, a retired New York City detective and forensics specialist who examined the painting at the request of the Kligman estate. Approaching the canvas board as if it were a body at a crime scene, Mr. Petraco said he had no doubt the painting was made at the Pollock house and is linked to Pollock. “I’ve had cases with less materials than this where people are spending 25 to 30 years in jail,” he said.
As technology advances, the art world has turned to microscopic analysis and pigment testing to buttress — or challenge — the judgments of a tiny club of experts whose opinions have long been treated as law. This pursuit of scientific validation has only deepened as art historians and institutions like the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which shut down its authentication board in 1996, retreat from certifying art for fear of being sued. But science has its limits. Paint or paper may help establish the date of a work, while hair and fibers can help pinpoint where it was made. A work’s provenance must also be verified. Still, connoisseurs — as well as most auction houses who rely on them — maintain that true authorship cannot be established without an expert evaluation of the composition and individual strokes that reveal an artist’s “signature.” In this case, the difference of opinion could be worth millions. Unauthenticated, “Red, Black and Silver” would be listed as “attributed to Pollock” and carry an estimate of no more than $50,000, said Patricia G. Hambrecht, chief business development officer at Phillips auction house, where the painting is consigned. If judged a Pollock, the painting’s estimated value would soar to seven figures, she said.
Ms. Kligman’s account of the painting dates to the summer of 1956 when she was 26 and living in Pollock’s house in East Hampton, N.Y., after Krasner, having caught the lovers together, sailed for Europe. Pollock was in an alcoholic tailspin and hadn’t painted in two years. As Ms. Kligman detailed in a new introduction to the 1999 edition of her memoir, “Love Affair: A Memoir of Jackson Pollock,” the artist was on the lawn when she brought him his paint and the sticks he used. After he finished, he said, “Here’s your painting, your very own Pollock.” A friend of Ms. Kligman’s, Bette Waldo Benedict, has said Ms. Kligman told her the same story at the time.
Art forensics have primarily concentrated on what a painting is made of. But Mr. Petraco, who has decades of experience with the New York Police Department crime lab and is now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, looked at what the painting contained: the dust, hairs, fibers or other detritus that might have fallen on the surface and under the paint. Because Mr. Petraco, who holds a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry, has more experience analyzing red blood than red paint, he decided to perfect his technique for removing materials without damaging the painting by making some Pollock-like drip paintings in his backyard in Massapequa Park, on Long Island. (It’s tougher than it looks, he confessed.) Despite what one sees on television crime shows, hairs and threads cannot be traced to a specific individual or sweater, Mr. Petraco said. What builds a forensic case is not any single piece of evidence but a combination of consistent factors. In this case, Mr. Petraco said the clincher was discovering a polar bear hair, a rare find in a country that has banned the import of polar bear products for more than 40 years. “Is there a polar bear in this story?” Mr. Petraco wondered. There was. A polar bear rug that had adorned the living room floor in 1956 was still in the East Hampton attic.
Colette Loll, a private fraud investigator who worked on the case, said she had no preset agenda. “I was looking to poke holes,” she said but “fraud just wasn’t supported.” Both she and Mr. Petraco said they had donated their services to the estate. Ms. Loll said the case presented “a real opportunity to shift the paradigm away from the dictatorship of the connoisseur, where only one or two people who sit on their thrones can decide what is and what is not an authentic painting.
Mr. O’Connor, who is widely viewed as one of the top authorities on Pollock, said art forensics are valuable, but in this case he found the results “redundant and essentially irrelevant.” The painting may have been made in Pollock’s yard but that doesn’t mean it was made by Pollock’s hand. He did not speculate by whose hand it might have been. To Mr. O’Connor, connoisseurship is just as rigorous as forensics. Its methods, he acknowledged, “can seem mysterious, if not laughable, to the lay person.” But the connoisseur, he said, has “absorbed into visual memory the artist’s characteristic form — his shapes, compositional devices, linear rhythms, typical colors” and handling of paint well enough to detect a fake. In “Red, Black and Silver,” a silver wash covers the canvas and a black ovoid shape near the center serves as a focal point. No other Pollock has either of those characteristics, he said. In 1995, the authentication board offered to designate Ms. Kligman’s painting as a problematic work, which meant that if other scholars, with further study, labeled the work as authentic, the board would not object. But Ms. Kligman rejected that qualification. In Mr. O’Connor’s view, “the Kligman work is in limbo with respect to authenticity.” Whether it remains that way is an open question: After all, precisely what happened between two people, now dead, who were alone on a summer afternoon in an East Hampton yard 57 years ago may ultimately be beyond the ken of science or connoisseurship.
ARCAblog found three professionals on Linked In who offered opinions on this issue of connoisseurship versus forensics and the recent Pollock case.

Dr. John Daab, a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research, posted the question on Linked In: "Connoisseurship v. forensics and the recent Pollock case: Isn’t time to take the mystery and politics out of authentication?" He offered this perspective here:
The recent Pollock work given a thumbs down by a so called Pollock expert was no more than a magic trick smoothed over by an assemblage of gibberish seemingly portrayed as scholarly analysis. The connoisseur expert used facts and scientific verbiage to drive his conclusions but the science (Chaos Theory) was unrelated to the subject matter and has been challenged by other scientists as bogus when related to Pollock’s works. The facts supporting the expert call consisted of a recent movie about Pollock and not a well carried out investigation based on acceptable methodologies, replicable, and verifiable by others. The connoisseur Pollock expert even got some of his facts wrong regarding forensic experts. Forensic experts are deemed expert by the Judge in a particular case, and their expertise can be jettisoned at any time during a trial via an In Limine challenge. Further, forensic graphology is not considered to be field of expertise in a court of law, whereas Questioned Document Examination and Examiners are. Yes the world of connoisseur expertise is mysterious and those of us involved in forensic examination of fine art raise the question of why now with all our advanced technology and empirical processing are we still using hocus pocus to authenticate? (The Knoedler gallery case with 60 bad calls by 20 experts demonstrates how bad the problem really is.) What seems to be happening is that the world of the connoisseurship is undergoing a paradigm shift. Just as we found that the world did not end at the horizon we are now finding that the world of connoisseurship is unraveling due to its subjective and intuitive nature. The solipsistic nature of connoisseurship coated with gobbledygook and sleight of hand magic is under siege with its cloak of scholarly analysis slowly dematerializing.
Toby Bull, Senior Inspector with the Hong Kong Police Force and Art Risk Security Consultant at TrackArt, wrote:
Good article. As a 20+ year policeman with a CID background, who holds both a Fine Arts degree & an Art Authentication (covering Forensics) qualification, I took up this very same topic when I presented a paper at The World Congress of Forensics back in 2011 titled, "Connoisseurship versus Science or Connoisseurship plus Science -- Methods in Art Authentication". My conclusion was that, generally, there is too much dismissal of the value science can bring and that it should very much be a case of science supporting the experts' eyes -- but that's just a humble copper's point of view.
It's a common-enough problem (the 'snobbery' of the connoisseur & dismissal of what scientific testing can bring to the table) , and was the case here in HK too - certainly 10+ years ago - with regard to tests on Chinese antiquities / ceramics, but slowly the positives of what - and just how easily - science can detect a fake has been gaining ground, with the best dealers now taking this on board. The number of fakes being sold are still legion, with many dealers knowingly putting fakes out there into the local market, exploiting the ignorance of the general one-off buyer. It's still a case of knowing which dealer one can trust (ones who don't knowingly peddle fakes) of whom there are some and yes, ultimately, for the collector: Caveat Emptor. TrackArt can and does operate within this minefield, with its education seminars being just one 'weapon' in its arsenal against the trade in fakes.
Dennis Baltuskonis, Owner of Art Conservation Services, responded to Dr. Daab's question:
The short answer to your question eliminate the mystery etc? Yes. But replace it with what? I propose a scoring system. E.g. Give "science" a score of 50 points. And Connoisseurs 50 points. On any single object let the experts weigh in and "score" said object. Take the average score from each side ADD them together for the final point score. Then let the buyer beware. Obviously a 100 point score "indicates" a general consensus that experts from both sides "agree/concer" and said object is "AUTHENTIC" (as most people accept that word). Like a bottle of wine rated 94 it doesn't necessarily mean that the end user will agree. Such a scoring system also leaves open the possibility that new evidence might arise which would alter the SCORE. Each "side" can create their own guidelines upon which any SCORE by any "expert" is acceptable. An independent panel might be formed to "consider" each score, etc. etc. It is possible to remove the decision from the realm of politics and special interests. This is one idea. What is yours?

July 16, 2013

Sept. 13 deadline for papers for the Authentication in Art in The Hague from May 7-9, 2014

Here's a link to Authentication in Art's call for papers (Sept. 13) for their conference in May 2014 at the to the announcement and call for papers for their conference at the Louwman Museum in The Hague from May 7-9, 2014.
AiA encourages all members of the art market, legal and financial community to attend the 2014 Congress. This will be the primary forum where proponents of standards of best practice in art authentication are able to come together to discuss best practices, share information about trends in the international art world and promote the concept of global standards in art authentication.
Call for Papers: Authentication in Art (AiA) invites submissions of proposals of 500–700 words (up to 3000 characters) for oral presentations, to be given at the conference in The Hague, The Netherlands, 7-9 May, 2014. The deadline for papers is Friday 13th September, 2013. Please go to to learn all about the process and the conditions.
AiA is a not-for-profit organization established in early 2012 for market, legal, and financial professionals interested in developing policies in art authentication. Partners include the Van Gogh Museum, the Frans Hal Museum, Wallraf das Museum, Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association, Deloitte, Art History Services, and Louwman Museum.

The AiA Foundation board consists of Professor Dr. Nico Schrijver, Chair of Public International Law at Leiden University, and Drs. Ingeborg de Jongh, an art-historian and painting conservator. The Advisory Board includes Dr. Chris Stolwijk, director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History; Professor Dr. Rudi Ekkart, art historian; Professor dr. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor in the History of Art at Trinity College, Oxford University; James Roundell, art historian (Cambridge University) and Chairman of The Society of London Art Dealers; and Lawrence M. Shindell, Chairman of ARIS Title Insurance Corporation.

March 18, 2013

ARTNews' George Stolz on "Authenticating Picasso"

Pablo Picasso at 90 Photographed by Ara Güler
 in the South of France in 1972
ARTnews contributing editor George Stolz presents the story on "Authenticating Picasso" in the January issue. What is and what isn't an artwork by Pablo Picasso is being sorted out amidst conflict amongst the artist's heirs, Stolz writes:

"Forty years after Picasso's death, while his paintings are among the most expensive ever sold, the problem of how to authenticate his work remains a challenge. To avoid mistakes, four of his five surviving heirs have clarified the process but have not included his eldest daughter."

Poor health of Maya Widmaier-Picasso (b. 1935), Picasso's daughter by his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter (1927-37), and the tension between Maya and her half-brother Claude, Picasso's son with his mistress Françoise Gilot (1943-53) have left the family's authentication business solely to Claude since last September. Stolz explains:
The right to authenticate Picasso's work, however, is considered an inherited moral right, or droit moral. Only individual heirs have this right. When Claude exercises his droit moral to authenticate works by his father, he does so as an individual heir (as does Maya), not in his capacity as the estate administrator. Under French law, an artist's descendants are presumed to have an innate understanding of - or at least a privileged firsthand familiarity with -- the art created by their progenitor, and are thus entitled to issue certificates of authenticity.

June 15, 2012

Reviewing two stolen Corot paintings and updating the catalogue raisonné of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Corot's "The Dreamer"/MMFA
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Theft and authenticity intertwined in the case of the 1972 robbery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  In the years prior to the break-in, museum curators had been examining the collection and questions of authenticity had been left in the archives' files.  A recent article in the June issue of ARTnews about the authenticity of paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) sent me back to my notes on two Corot oil paintings stolen in 1972 from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the largest art theft in Canada.  What kind of research is available to study the provenance of two missing Corot paintings?

Two oil paintings by Corot, "La rêveuse à la fontaine/The Dreamer at the Fountain" and "Jeune fille accoudée sur le bras gauche/Young Woman Resting Her Head in Her Left Hand), had both completed in the 1860s and donated a century later to the Quebec art gallery.

The museum's archives have very little information about the medium-sized paintings removed four decades ago by three thieves who entered the MMFA through a unsecured skylight on Labor Day Weekend and stole 18 paintings and 39 decorative art objects.

"The Dreamer", with its right corner signature of "COROT", was believed to have been painted between 1855-1863.  The museum received the painting from an anonymous donor in memory of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Angus (steel foundry executive).  In a 1969 press release, prepared for the exhibition From Daumier to Roualt, Bill Bantey -- a notorious journalist and the director of public relations for the museum -- noted that the painting 'was virtually unknown as it had been "lost" to scholarly knowledge for over 60 years in a private Montreal collection'.  The other stolen Corot painting, "Young Woman Resting" was a donation in 1963 from the estate of Miss Olive Hosmer, daughter of 'multi-millionaire financier Charles S. Hosmer'.  Miss Hosmer also bequeathed Jean-François Millet's signed portrait of his first wife (Portrait of Madame Millet), also taken on September 4, 1972.

Corot's "Young Woman Resting"
The collection at Montreal's premier art gallery had been built from donations from wealthy Anglo families that had prospered from the construction of Canada's transcontinental railroad and trading from the port of Montreal.  During the late 19th century and early 20th, many art dealers had offered paintings to Montreal collectors before approaching buyers in New York City.  The MMFA published a book by George-Hébert Germain, A City's Museum: A History of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which chronicles the growth of the art gallery founded in 1860.  (Journalist and art historian Cynthia Saltzman tells of how American collectors bought up European masterpieces a century ago in her book, Old Masters, New World).

Laurie Hurwitz, writing for ARTnews, 'If It Doesn't Dance, It's Not Corot', tells of how 'a family steeped in Corot uses connoisseurship and instinct to distinguish the real paintings from copies and fakes'.  Hurwitz's article features the two-decades long work of Corot expert, Martin Dieterle, and his stepdaughter, Claire Lebeau, to create a database of authentic and fake paintings by the Barbizon School painter.  Alfred Robaut's four volume catalogue raisonné of Corot's work published in 1905 (you can read it online through the Getty Research Portal) identified 2,460 paintings.  A supplement published in 1948 added 100 canvases.  According to Dieterle, the notoriously generous artist had gifted numerous canvases to friends -- and those works had little documentation.  Dieterle's connection to Corot goes back to his great-great-grandfather who painted with the artist on the Normandy coast.  Other paintings not inventoried by Robaut had been those sold early on out of Corot's atelier "so it is impossible for Robaut to have known about them," Hurwitz quoted Dieterle.  According to Dieterle, most copies were executed during the artists' lifetime "thus eliminating the need for forensic authentication." Dieterle and Lebeau are preparing the sixth supplement to the artist's catalogue raisonné.

Hurwitz's article is available in the June issue of ARTnews.

July 6, 2011

One Year Later, Peter Paul Biro Takes Offense to David Gann's Profile of Him in The New Yorker

Julia Filip writing for Courthouse News Service reports in "Art Analyst Sues The New Yorker" that Peter Paul Biro of Montreal has complained about the treatment he received by David Gann in The New Yorker last year.  You can read about the lawsuit here and the article in The New Yorker here.  Gann's article is a must-read for anyone curious about fingerprints and authentication.

June 25, 2011

The Business of Art Authentication

After reading the ARCA blog post about the Picasso Foundation's authentication of an electrician's hoard of Picasso art, John Daab, contributor to the Journal of Art Crime, sent a link to a series of his articles, Art Authentication Boards: Another Element of Chaos in the Fine Art Industry.

Dr. Daab writes in his introduction:
As technology takes many industries to the heights of efficiency, effectiveness and control, the fine art industry seems to be moving to greater levels of disorganization, inefficiency, and chaos. We observe works deteriorating and on the verge of collapse and disintegration being purchased for millions of dollars, families of artists being allowed to create and sign works of the dead, and art authentication boards offering authentication conclusions only to recant their original conclusions after buyers purchase the works. The consequences of the above processes result in law suits unnecessarily costing millions of dollars and rendering such works as specious and of questionable value. This article examines art authentication boards, how they operate, and how they could be made more efficient, and transparent.
Tom Flynn, an ARCA lecturer on the practices in the art market, recently wrote about "The Wildenstein Era will end and the art market will benefit."

June 3, 2011

Friday, June 03, 2011 - , No comments

WSJ Reports on "Artists and Assistants: The Art Assembly Line

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

One of my friends on Facebook posted this article and I would hate for anyone interested in the art market, authenticity, and provenance to miss the article, "Artists and Assistants: The Art Assembly Line" in the Wall Street Journal. From what I understand, big name artists sell artworks based on the talents of lesser known or unknown assistants. One artist said that if customers ask, they will tell them about the assistants. One painter changed galleries when the dealer objected. Fascinating subject -- if I recall correctly, Rembrandt's studio produced art at different levels -- paintings solely by Rembrandt sold at a higher price and those by the Rembrandt workshop sold at a lower price. The change now seems to be that some artists and art dealers see no reason for a price difference.

March 10, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011 - ,, No comments

"Musée Rodin's Communique Respecting Rodin's Moral Right: A Warning to Collectors about the Notion of Authenticity"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor
Rodin's "The Thinker" (Norton Simon Museum)

Today I was distracted from provenance research at the Getty Research Institute by a printed current copy of The Art Newspaper. The Musée Rodin published a half page advertisement on the bottom half of page 52 of the March issue a "warning to collectors about the notion of authenticity." The Musée Rodin, as beneficiary, is the only entity that can issue original editions of the artist's work: "a growing number of bronze 'reproductions' or 'aftercasts'" "which do not bear the mark of 'reproductions' or 'aftercasts' are often accompanied by documents, notably certificated attesting to their alleged 'authenticity.' If you would like to read more, you may find the entire communique, in English, at the museum's website here. For those collectors who would like to have a copy of "The Thinker", a resin reproduction may be purchased at the museum's gift shop for 675 euros. The museum's gift shop can be viewed online here.  For now, I'm happy to be able to walk by the Norton Simon Museum every day where a large "Thinker" overlooks the traffic on Colorado Boulevard.  I wonder what he's thinking...that's he's a long way away from Paris?

February 9, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Essayist Simon Cole on Connoisseurship

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

In one of ARCA’s three scholarly responses to David Grann’s “The Mark of a Masterpiece,” published in The New Yorker in July 2010, Simon A. Cole penned an editorial essay, “Connoisseurship All the Way Down: Art Authentication, Forgery, Fingerprint Identification, Expert Knowledge” in the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime (Fall 2010).

Simon A. Cole is Associate Professor & Chair of the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification (Harvard University Press, 2001) and Truth Machine: The Contentious History of DNA Fingerprinting (University of Chicago Press, 2008, with Michael Lynch, Ruth McNally & Kathleen Jourdan). His work has been published in numerous criminology journals, Art Journal, and Suspect (MIT Press, 2005), the 10th issue of the design award winning series Alphabet City. He is co-editor of the journal Theoretical Criminology.

ARCA blog: Professor Cole, if you were given a Caravaggio painting to authenticate, would you trust an art historian or a forensic art expert? Would your preference for the type of expert change if the painting was a 20th century Van Gogh or a 21st century Jackson Pollock?
Professor Cole: I don’t think the point I was making would change based on the period of the painting. But the point I was making was that we can’t really know whom to trust! Certainly, there is an appeal to thinking “science” is preferable to “I know it when I see it” connoisseurship. But, there’s also an appeal to thinking that only an art historian can evaluate all the evidence in all its complexity. And, much of forensic science turns out to essentially be “I know it when I see it” as well (which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong).
ARCA blog: In your essay, you compare art “connoisseurship” with the art – not the science – of identifying fingerprints. Would you have the same level of doubt about the authenticity of a painting’s creator based on the identification of a fingerprint as you would the guilt or innocent of a murderer identified by a “fingerprint expert”?
Professor Cole: Yes! In both cases, the fingerprint attribution would be a valuable piece of evidence. But one would also have to consider the possibility that the attribution is erroneous, which it could be due to a variety of causes (such as fraud, unintentional error, and the possibility of another individuals with very similar friction ridge detail). One would then have to consider this evidence in conjunction with all the other relevant evidence.
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