Showing posts with label forensics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forensics. Show all posts

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 25, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: The New Yorker blogs on Claim that Mother of Suspect Burned Stolen Paintings from the Triton Foundation

Now on blog of The New Yorker writer Betsy Morais has weighed in today with "How to Catch an Art Thief When the Evidence Has Been Torched" by quoting a chemist on the type of "screening process" likely to be used to analyzed the charred remains of what may turn out to be the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.
Upon arrival at a crime scene, if investigators were to find nothing more than black ash, analyzing any of it would be impossible. “But fortunately, that’s never really the case,” Tague said. “If things are charred, then you can typically identify which artist would have generated the art.” 
It’s a delicate process. The eye can only see something as small as seventy-five microns, or about the width of a strand of hair. “You’re looking for particles much smaller than that,” Tague said. “So it’s tedious, really tedious. And you don’t want to disturb a crime scene. So it could take weeks or months just to recover the particles.” Even just two or three microns of dust could be the key to identifying the signature of Picasso.
Ms. Morais reported that the director of Romania's Natural History Museum, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, 'told me by email that they also found "fragments of paintings with imprints of the canvas".'

July 13, 2012

"Appendix on Forensics of Forgery Investigation" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Noah Charney writes on the "Appendix on Forensics of Forgery Investigation" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. The text was used as wall copy in the exhibition "Faux Real," on the career of art forger Mark Landis, held at the museum of the University of Cincinnati, which opened 1, 20012, and is curated by Aaron Cowan. This text is a preview of Charney's forthcoming book, The Book of Forgery, to be published by Phaidon in 2013.
The world of forensics is both fascinating and potentially confusing to non-scientists. Since Martin de Wiild first used forensic examination to authenticate van Gogh paintings in the first decades of the 20th century, science has been one of the key means of distinguishing fakes from originals in the art world. The complexity of the science employed by conservators and specialists means that non-scientists are confronted with processes and terms about which they know very little. While a true understanding of these techniques and terms requires intensive study, the following glossary offers a quick-reference for those who would like to know more about the forensic techniques used in the study of art.
Glossary terms include Dendrochronology; Ultraviolet light; X-radiography; Infrared Radiation; Ultraviolet Fluorescence & Polarized Light Microscopy; Scanning Electron Microscope; Energy Dispersive X-ray; X-ray Diffraction; Raman Microscopy; Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy; Chromatography & Mass Spectrometer; High Performance Liquid Chromatography; Radiocarbon Dating; X-ray Fluorescence Analysis; and Fingerprint & DNA Analysis.

Noah Charney is the Founder and President of ARCA and the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime. Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, he currently is a professor at the American University of Rome and Brown University. He is the editor of ARCA’s first book, Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009) and The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting (ARCA Press 2011).

July 3, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring/Summer 2012: John Daab on "Daubertizing the Art Expert"

Fraud expert John Daab writes about the delicate nature of art authentication in his article "Daubertizing the Art Expert" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of the Journal of Art Crime, which can now be electronically downloaded with a subscription.
Abstract: Most industries in the United States are regulated by law. The world of art, although regulated in a general framework, is not regulated when it comes to selling that which is authentic (Mccullough, 2012). Million dollar allegedly authentic works of fine and decorative art are vetted and sold by art “experts” with little or unrelated education, questionable training, non-mentored or no specific expert work experience, hyped commendations, bloated resumes and unreferenced mass media professional status. With the help of the mass media, such individuals achieve expert status without satisfying the standards of that which the law or scholarship requires (Briefel, 2006). In the recent Wolfgang Beltracchi forgery case, 47 million dollars of paintings from the “hand of various artists” were authenticated with the note made by the experts that “...using science was a waste of time” (Wright, 2012). Science entered with the result that the material make-up of the works precluded that they were created during the period of artist involvement. Out of 44 paintings, not one survived the scalpel of scientific analysis. This article addresses the conditions associated with the proliferation of wrong calls by so-called art experts and examines how scholarship, Daubert rulings, and Federal Rules of Evidence standards may assist in reducing the bad calls and consequentially art scamming, forgery and fraud.
John Daab was formerly a NYCTP Police Officer and NYU Professor. John is currently a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and a Certified Forensics Consultant (CFC), Accredited Forensic Counselor (AFC) and a Certified Criminal Investigator, specializing in art forensics research with the American College of Forensic Examiners International (ABFEI). John holds Diplomate (DABFE) status and is a board member of the American Board of Forensic Examiners (ABFE), Criminal Investigator division. John is a Certified Homeland Security 1, (CHS1) and a Certified Intelligence Analyst (IAC) member of the American Board of Certification in Homeland Security (ABCHS). John has won awards for teaching management and service to NYU. John has published over 70 articles and recently authored, “The Art Fraud Protection Handbook.” John is currently completing studies in Art Appraisal at NYU, beginning a docent program at Princeton, and has completed a second book, "Forensic Applications in Detecting Fine, Decorative, and Collectible Art Fakes".

January 28, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor John Daab on Art Fraud

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Journal of Art Crime’s fourth issue dated Fall 2010 includes an academic article, “Art Fraud: Deflecting Prosecutorial Intervention Away from the Defective Art Product,” by John Daab, a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research. Mr. Daab writes in the article’s abstract:
“Historically, art crime consisted of looting, stealing, and burglarizing museums and creating art forgeries, to name a few. Scholars have recently broken down the category into street and white-collar art crime types. For example, the common museum burglaries fall under the street type while art forgery and art fraud are found in the white-collar realm. The notoriety of the break in is hyped by the mass media in their various presentations. Art crimes of this sort are definite, often leaving a trail. Ultimately, the culprits are captured by tips or forensic examination such as fingerprints, burglar tool matching, and so on. In the case of art fraud or forgery, which Starnes has characterized as the “invisible crime,” such definitiveness or clarity of criminal act is often missing (2002). Such indivisibility combined with factors hindering prosecution allows the art criminal to push the envelope to the point that this form of white-collar crime becomes a non-crime. The study below offers an identification of the factors and the consequences surrounding white-collar art crime, leading to a suggestion that art fraud is a gold mine for the white-collar criminal.”
Dr. John Daab is a Certified Fraud Examiner specializing in art and forgery research with Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and a Certified Forensics Consultant, Accredited Forensic Counselor and a Registered Investigator with the American College of Forensic Examiners International. John holds Diplomate status (DABFE) with the American Board of Forensic Examiners and holds Certified Homeland Security I (CHS-1) and Certified Intelligence Analyst (IAC) member status with the American Board of Certification in Homeland Security.

An academic with various undergraduate and graduate degrees from philosophy to business with a focus on art authentication, John is a sculptor who works can be seen on the Fine Art Registry (his works can be seen in his FAR online portfolio). He has published more than 80 articles and recently authored, "The Art Fraud Protection Handbook" (Kindle Edition). He is currently completing studies in Art Appraisal at New York University, completing a docent program at Princeton, and has completed a second book, "Forensic Application in Detecting Fine, Decorative, and Collectible Art Fakes" (Kindle Edition). He is developing a third book on the "Business of Art."

ARCA blog: John, in your article, you study the way Ely Sakhai processed his frauds and comment: “Over the 13-year period it is alleged that 12 million dollars in forgeries were sold with many still in the hands of the unwary.” He was charged in federal court with wire and mail fraud and received four years in jail. Were you surprised?
Dr. Daab: I was surprised that Sakai was prosecuted. White collar crime is rarely prosecuted. I was not surprised how the prosecution was processed. Most art fraud prosecution usually ends up under the wire and mail fraud statutes. Fraud statute violations are difficult to prosecute because of the conditions of intentionality, gain to the fraudster, and loss to the victim usually found as the requirements in the statute. Intentionality is difficult to prove since there are many levels to the processing of the crime. Sifting through all the parties involved takes time and may lead to a total dead end. Prosecuting via the wire and mail fraud statutes is a more efficient method of prosecuting resulting in a higher probability of conviction.
ARCA blog: In your second case study, you describe the art fraud paradigm of selling art of questionable authenticity and value at galleries selling art at sea. No government intervention has taken place according to your article. What do you think it will take to close these dubious practices?
Dr. Daab: I think that selling at sea represents a significant problem for US prosecutorial and probably international agencies since there is an undefined area where the crime takes place, and a difficulty in establishing the conditions for the violation. Lacking this defined area prevents pulling in that prosecutorial agency responsible to charge the alleged criminal, and since consumer protection laws are not operable at sea the conditions supporting the violation are ineffective. Some even argue that the consumers purchasing the art should know better. Supposedly the US policing agencies have cooperative undertakings with foreign governments for crimes at sea, but based on the fact that very few prosecutions have taken place for murder, rape, theft and assaults on board it would be unlikely that any activity will close down the selling of fake art. If the US policing agencies do not go after violent criminals at sea they will certainly not go after art fraudsters.
ARCA blog: Is the term “defective product manufacturer” sufficient to describe what is going on in the art market? How can a buyer feel safe?
Dr. Daab: The art market is an unregulated, uncontrolled and non-transparent market. There is more control over selling used cars than art costing millions of dollars. While there are some organizations like Fine Art Registry focused on vetting fakes, most art is turned over with the assumption that it is genuine. Scholarly investigations have found that art found in some prestigious museums is only 60% authentic. Given that 40% of museum art is of questionable authenticity and surrounded by the foremost art historians and curators, it would be difficult to argue that the art market selling the works of collectible artists lacking this pedigree would hold works of a higher probability of authenticity. I would argue that buyers of art have no safety net in the present art market except to assume that there is a 40% chance that the collectible art one is considering is bogus, and as such maybe one should just walk away from the purchase.
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