In the wake of more WWII/Nazi era stolen art legal battles, the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) has issued a new Provenance Guide, which highlights the importance of archival research, and states that provenance research is “a must” for all art purchasers.  The Provenance Guide includes links to numerous archival websites and databases (including the Getty Research Institute), which will aid in provenance due diligence.  IFAR states that provenance litigation demonstrate that “all available archival materials must be consulted . . . ” because among other things, “documentary evidence may be open to interpretation.”

 

 

 

 

In March 2016, a US auction gallery sold an Old Master oil painting (a sketch of an old woman) for $27,000. The sale price was nearly double the high auction estimate of 15,000.  However, when the same painting was recently sold by Sotheby’s London in a July 2017 sale as an authentic Peter Paul Rubens, it achieved a hammer of £416,750 (close to $550,000 USD), which is nearly 20 times the original purchase price.

It has been reported that the appraisers at Sotheby’s London relied on certain clues to authenticate painting and attribute to Peter Paul Rubens himself. For example, Rubens had painted this old lady before, and there were examples of Rubens work with the old women at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Lichtenstein museum.  Interestingly, the work was consigned to Sotheby’s after it had been properly cleaned and restored. The restoration work revealed that the sketch had been overpainted, and this overpainting is likely the reason why the work was not properly attributed in the first place.   Importantly, this is not the first time an authentic Rubens was late discovered. In 2015, a portrait deaccessed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art was later determined to be an authentic Rubens and fetched $626,500 at auction (over 20 times its original high estimate of $30,000).

As the Washington Post reports, authentic Rubens are valuable – even if they are mere sketches and not final oil portraits. Rubens value has increased. For example, last year a Rubens painting, Lot and his Daughters, set a new record for an Old Masters sale fetching £44.8 million ($58.1 million USD).

Unfortunately, the value and popularity of Rubens make his Old Master works a prime target for forgery. This heightened concern can move an appraiser to conservatively attribute paintings to “school/student/studio of” an Old Master rather than the Old Master himself.  This recent Rubens auction sale demonstrates that sometimes the caveat emptor/buyer beware mantra can benefit the buyer in more ways than one. In this case, taking the extra step to invest in restoration and cleaning paid off exponentially for the original auction buyer.

Richard Polsky writes:

Catalogue rasionnes, which are compendiums of an artist’s entire body of work, are always insightful. The official Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne is one of the best; an amalgam of impressive research and good design. And it’s still ongoing, with more volumes to come in future years. But just like every famous artist’s catalogue raisonne, from Picasso to Pollock, it’s not complete. There are always discoveries of long-lost paintings that never made it in, paintings listed as authentic which turned out to be bogus, and re-evaluations of paintings based on fresh information that comes to light.

As art authenticators who specialize in the work of Andy Warhol (along with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring), the majority of paintings that we are asked to examine turn out to be fakes. But every now and then, we come across a picture where all of the stars align; image, materials, and provenance. Or in some cases, paintings where the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board had a different interpretation of the artist’s intent. Regardless, we decided to compile the Warhols that we’ve authenticated in an online catalogue raisonne addendum, which will be ongoing as we come across more genuine paintings, and available for free on our website. The catalog will be known as the RPAA Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne Addendum.

We want to make it clear to our audience that the Addendum has no connection with the official Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne. We seek to retain our independence. Our objective is to present the art world with a more complete list of genuine Andy Warhol paintings, which will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of his work. The Addendum should prove beneficial to collectors, dealers, auction houses, and scholars.

Perhaps the most important thing that might come of posting the Addendum is that it will help define — once and for all — what constitutes an authentic Andy Warhol painting. For too long, both the academic world and the art market have debated its definition. Our position is simple; it comes down to the artist’s intent.


Richard Polsky has accumulated 40 years of expertise in the contemporary art world as a gallery owner, author of multiple books on the art market, lecturer, and provider of litigation support. Richard Polsky Art Authentication can be viewed at www.RichardPolskyArt.com.

A Jackson Pollock painting possibly worth over $15 Million was found in a garage in Arizona among other knick-knacks and memorabilia. The painting was located because the homeowner was downsizing and moving to a retirement facility. During the move, a friend spotted a signed L.A. Lakers poster believed to be of value, which prompted review of other items in the garage. The sports poster was determined to be only worth $300 (actually not a bad value for a modern-day poster, which generally does not retain value). In contrast to the poster, the Pollack was taken back to the auction gallery for further examination. After feverishly researching the provenance in an effort to determine how the Pollack could end up in Arizona (where regional southwestern art is king), the appraiser/auctioneer involved, Josh Levin of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal, found a link from the Arizona owner to his half-sister, Jenifer Gordon Cosgriff, who was a New York Socialite.  After tireless research, it has been determined that the painting is a missing Pollack gouache. In regard to authentication, the auction gallery indicates that the forensic report states that “no pigments or binding media introduced in the late 1950s and 1960s have been detected.” Reports indicate that since  the painting was removed from storage it has been restored.  The painting will go to the auction block next week in Scottsdale, AZ with a reported starting bid of $5 Million.

Richard Polsky writes:

As the owner of Richard Polsky Art Authentication, I’ve always believed that authenticity is the bedrock of any art transaction, which seems to have been proven out by the constant stream of related articles in the New York Times. During the last six months alone, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of the Knoedler gallery scandal for selling fake canvases by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and others. Then there was the dealer Mary Boone pulling a bait and switch of a Ross Bleckner painting on the actor Alec Baldwin. This was followed by London’s James Mayor Gallery suing the Pace Gallery, over their rejection of 13 Agnes Martin works that they once sold, for inclusion in the catalog raisonne that Pace is in the process of compiling.

Recently, we expanded beyond our core business of exclusively authenticating the work of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring. We now offer a “Preliminary Opinion” service, which will focus on the work of 39 significant Post-War & Contemporary artists — and Georgia O’Keeffe. Rather than an in-depth authentication analysis, our new concept is to offer a client a credible, but affordable opinion, on the probability of a painting being genuine or not.

The logic behind branching out into 40 additional artists is based on the complete abandonment of authentication responsibilities by virtually every major artist’s estate. As followers of the art world know, the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board closed up shop five years ago. Their decision was almost entirely based on incurring millions of dollars in legal fees to defend themselves against lawsuits, brought by disgruntled clients whose works were rejected. Immediately following the Warhol board’s announcement, the authentication committees for Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and others, all followed suit. Each of them cited the same reason; fear of being sued.

In 2015, when I sent out an announcement that I had formed an art authentication company, I was immediately inundated with inquires, all asking the same thing, “How are you going to protect yourself from being sued?” The simple answer was by being completely transparent (though I still have the client sign a disclaimer). When a collector signed a release with the Warhol estate, he agreed to allow them to stamp the back of his painting with the word “Denied,” if they concluded it was a fake. When the collector wanted to know why it was rejected, he was given the unsatisfying answer, “We can’t tell you because we don’t want to aid counterfeiters.” While most owners simply shrugged, a number of people felt they were treated unfairly, and took action. My guess is that if the Warhol people had just leveled with these painting owners, much of the litigation, which led to their ultimate demise, could have been avoided.

Part of my motivation for starting Richard Polsky Art Authentication was the opportunity to be involved with something that was intellectually satisfying. I enjoy using a body of knowledge that I had acquired from many years of studying art. Additionally, I frequently found myself smiling after informing a client that his Warhol was the real deal; having to tell a client his painting was a fake wasn’t a good feeling. Not surprisingly, those who owned authentic pictures never failed to compliment my skill and acumen; those on the other end of the stick thought I was ignorant. But one of the unforeseen pleasures of the art authentication business was that I was now in a position to give something back to the art world. I decided to offer our services to university art museums on a pro bono basis. Recently, we were asked by Oxford University to examine a small Keith Haring sketch that was given to them — and it happily turned out to be genuine.


Richard Polsky has accumulated forty years of expertise in the contemporary art world as a gallery owner, author of multiple books on the art market, lecturer, and provider of litigation support. Richard Polsky Art Authentication can be viewed at www.RichardPolskyart.com.

In recent art world news, a painting recently sold by Sotheby’s for £8.4 million ($10.6 million) has been determined a fake causing concern that more high value forgeries exist in the art market.  In 2011, an anonymous buyer from the United States purchased the painting by Dutch artist Frans Hals.  Sotheby’s took back the painting after it was discovered by the auction house that the work was connected to another alleged fake.

The scandal dates back to this past March when French officials seized a 1531 painting entitled “Venus” by German artist Lucas Cranach at an exhibition in France.  That work sold for £6 million in London, but is being analyzed at the Louvre and is believed to be a fake.

An in-depth technical analysis established that the Hals painting was indeed a forgery.  Sotheby’s experts used pigmentation tests to determine that the work was “undoubtedly” a fake.  Thereafter, Sotheby’s rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full for the purchase of the fake work.

Concerns currently exist throughout the art market that there are up to 25 other fakes in it.  This could cost art investors a staggering £200 million.

 

In recent international art world news, it has been recently reported that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has recently attributed a questioned work, “River Landscape With Figures” (1625-30), among other works, to the highly respected Dutch 17th-century artist, Hercules Segers.  The landscape painting had been attributed for many years to Segers, but it had been discredited in the 1970s by a leading Segers scholar who was uncertain of the authenticity of the work.

New research has led the Dutch national museum to conclude that the work should be attributed to Segers.  Over the past two years, the Rijksmuseum has conducted and examined technical studies on about 100 known and questioned Segers works from around the world.

Henry Pettifer, who is Head of the Old Master Paintings Department at Christie’s in London, has said that the authentication “could add value” to the work, but it is difficult to predict the amount as Seger’s works “so rarely appear at auction, and because there’s so much controversy about attribution.”

Segers is regarded as one of the Dutch Golden Age’s “most experimental and mysterious artists, who was admired by and influenced Rembrandt, among others.”

The museum will be presenting the Segers work among a number of paintings, impressions and prints in a large-scale retrospective entitled “Hercules Segers” running from October 7, 2016 to January 8, 2017.  The exhibition will then move to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where it will open on February 13, 2017 as “The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers.”

In a recent twist of a long running debate that has captured the attention of the art world for many years, a leading Degas expert believes that a long-disputed plaster of celebrated artist Edgar Degas’s “Little Dancer”, which displays the ballerina in a slightly different pose, is indeed an earlier model of Degas’s prominent 1881 sculpture La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans.

The expert is Arthur Beale, the retired Chairman of the Department of Conservation and Collections Management at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Beale now believes the controversial theory  of another art historian, Gregory Hedberg, that the plaster was created during the lifetime of Degas.  Beale’s recent endorsement of Hedberg’s theory is particularly surprising as Beale was once part of a group of other respected art historians who have long contradicted Hedberg’s view of the plaster.  The long-disputed plaster was discovered in the closet of a now defunct foundry outside Paris in 2004.  Hedberg has said that the plaster is Degas’s work or of his studio and was created prior to the artist’s death in 1917.

In general, the Degas experts believe that the plaster is a copy with a number of distinct differences in pose, posture and expression from Degas’s actual “Little Dancer” sculpture.  In parting ways with the other experts, Beale has said that the others “should take a second look” and that “there’s a good deal of evidence, of all natures—art, historical, technical, scientific and so forth—that make this a rather significant, seemingly significant piece.”

For further information on the long-disputed plaster, see “Did Degas Make This Plaster?  An Expert Now Says Yes” as published by the New York Times on September 12, 2016.

UPDATE: In follow up to our posts regarding the Peter Doig lawsuit, last month, a federal court in Illinois declared that the disputed work signed “Peter Doige 76” is not the work of famous Scottish born artist Peter Doig.  Among the many odd facts presented in this case was the glaring issue that “Doig” and “Doige” are two different names. This case demonstrates that authentication, even by the living artist himself, can prove to be a costly endeavor for all parties involved.

There may be some lessons learned from the Doig matter:

In this digital age, creating a definitive catalogue of work may be easier than ever for living artists, and artists that want to maintain control over their body of work should take advantage of innovative technologies that permit them to document their works.  The fact that the Doig matter went to trial demonstrates that the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) is not the panacea for all of the legal issues facing artists. In particular, VARA provides artists rights for disavowing damaged or modified work but does not address when the art is misattributed.

In a recent interview, Doig commented on the time and money wasted on the lawsuit.  It is not clear whether the plaintiff will appeal the court’s decision.

Further to our post below regarding the trial over the authenticity of a painting alleged to have been made by the Scottish painter Peter Doig, some interesting notes regarding the waning days of the trial were captured by artnet.  Among them:

* The lawyers and the Judge differed as to the pronunciation of Doig’s name;

* During cross-examination, the attorney representing the plaintiffs asked whether the work in question was a painted by “Captain Butterknife.”

* The question of whether Doig was incarcerated at Thunder Bay as alleged by the plaintiffs appeared to have been left unanswered.

The final verdict is expected to be given orally in the coming weeks.

Read more here.

By Daniel Schnapp.