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.

The New York Times recently reported that actor Alec Baldwin contends he was betrayed by a gallery owner and artist, whom he thought had made his dream come true.  Baldwin has long admired a 1996 painting by Ross Bleckner titled “Sea and Mirror.”   He even carried an image of the painting in his wallet.  So when a gallery owner reported that she could deliver the painting to Baldwin, he paid the $190,000 and hung the painting in his Manhattan office.

A few months later, Baldwin discovered there was something off about the painting—the “new” smell, the colors.  Baldwin now contends that the gallery owner sent him a copy of the painting, and tried to pass it off as the original.

Counsel for the gallery owner denies any wrongdoing by his client.  He reported that Baldwin was advised that he was going to receive a different version of “Sea and Mirror” painted by Bleckner.  Baldwin denies ever being told that he was receiving a copy.

Read the full story here.

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The Ross Bleckner “Sea and Mirror” at Alec Baldwin’s Manhattan office.

Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Scottish artist Peter Doig claims he didn’t paint the painting depicted below, and now he is forced to prove it at trial.  The New York Times recently reported on this strange case of art authentication, involving Doig’s disavowal of the painting and alleged mistaken identity.  Read full article here.

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Image: WHITTEN SABBATINI/NYT

The owner of the painting is a former corrections officer who alleges that in 1975 he purchased the painting from Doig, who was incarcerated at a Canadian detention facility at that time.  Doig denies having ever been near the detention facility, or ever being incarcerated. The lawsuit is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

In recent art world news is a story about a treasured 1918 oil painting by Amedeo Modigliani of a seated chocolate merchant in a hat and tie holding a cane (“Seated Man with a Cane”).  Art dealer and billionaire David Nahmad is principal of the Nahmad holding company (International Art Center) that purchased the work at auction in 1996 and has owned it since then.

The grandson of a Jewish antiques dealer, however, claims that the Modigliani painting is the same work that was stolen from his relative’s shop in Paris during the Nazi occupation and sold off over 70 years ago.

For nearly five years, the grandson, Philippe Maestracci, and the Mondex Corporation, a company specializing in the recovery of looted art on behalf of beneficiaries, have pursued a claim in New York state and federal courts for the work, which was once estimated to be valued at around $25 million.

Nahmad, a scion of a family of international art dealers, remains determined that he will not settle the case.  In support of his position, the art dealer relies on an obscure French court document dated 1947 that he asserts raises doubt as to whether his painting is the same Modigliani painting that antiques dealer, Oscar Stettiner, had tried to recover after the Second World War.  The court document, which was filed in connection with Stettiner’s claim in 1946 to recover the painting, describes the work as a “Modigliani self-portrait” and not as a painting of a chocolate merchant.

Conflicting evidence cited by Maestracci includes the provenance listing when Nahmad’s holding company attempted to sell the disputed painting through Sotheby’s in 2008.  The auction house listed Stettiner as a possible previous owner of the painting and indicated that the painting had been sold anonymously between 1940 and 1945.

Nahmad is determined to fight on in the courts, but has said if it is proven that the painting is looted art by the Nazis, he will return it.

For further information on this prolonged dispute since 2011, see Dealer’s Estate Sues Nahmad Gallery Seeking Return of Modigliani Portrait and The Art of Secrecy.