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  • Van Weyenbergh Fine Art

Art authentication is not a rigorous science!

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

Many scandals in the art world have caused lots of damage not only to the auction houses but also to the reputation of galleries, museums and art collections.


In 2010, “The Independent” exposed that “at least 20% of the paintings held by [Britain’s] major museums, some up on the walls, many others in the vaults, will no longer be attributed to the same painter 100 years from now.” The newspaper published that information apropos a National Gallery exhibition that showed how many times the museum has been duped with fake paintings over the years. Sometimes a restoration or a curator-led investigation reveals that a painting isn’t the work of the attributed artist, as was the case of Goya’s Colossus–-which was actually the work of one of his apprentices. Other times, museums get truly conned by falsified art–like a recent Modigliani exhibit at Genoa’s Ducal Palace in which all the 21 paintings were revealed as fake. Seen in

Must read the articles, they show that the art world is not snow white domain! :

In the National Gallery UK :

Prince Frank and 1600 fakes in Los Angeles..

Knoedler Gallery NY , the oldest American art gallery

Foundations Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder, Keith Haring, Lichtenstein, Pollock and Andy Warhol have stopped to give art authentications because collectors were suing them if they give a negative opinion about the authentication of a painting submitted to them.

This created of course an immense trouble in the art world, increasing sometimes with then fold the value of a painting by Warhol if the artwork came with a certificate of authentication from the Warhol Foundation.

And other works that collectors did not think they needed to have the certificate of the foundation are maybe not worthless, because like in life it can change rapidly… but are impossible to sell in auctions.

Science comes to help the art authentication business. The chemical pigments analysis is helpful to detect an eventual forgery.

Provenance on its own is not enough, because it is easy to fabricate a provenance. If not enough to provide an authentication based on chemical analysis and history of a painting, the expertise of an expert will be the determinant factor in receiving an authentication.

With the time, the reputation of an expert may be contested as well, especially after he passed!

Usually when a new “ sole universal recognized authenticator “ replaces a late expert, his first act is to deny works his late colleague recognized as authentic.

I certainly will come back to this section

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