Jack Flam makes a dispassionate case in the Wall Street Journal for stronger laws to protect scholars and artist’s foundations from the intimidation of collectors over forgeries. Of course, the subtext surrounding this piece is the NY Times article concerning the Motherwell foundation’s recent flip-flop on a work’s authenticity.
Flam makes reference to this forgery allowing the inference that the foundation was previously intimidated in some way into authenticating the work. What’s Flam trying to say here?
But since the exclusion of a work can greatly affect its market value, a good deal of pressure is sometimes exerted by owners of questionable works to have them included in the catalog. As a result, the scholarly authors of catalogues raisonnés have increasingly had to worry about potential lawsuits from collectors or dealers unhappy about the exclusion of works they own. The Dedalus Foundation was recently involved in litigation regarding one of Motherwell’s “Spanish Elegy” paintings, which it held to be a forgery. In a settlement reached two months ago, the foundation was allowed to stamp the painting with the words “not an authentic work by Robert Motherwell but a forgery,” and was even reimbursed for legal expenses.
As a result of this growth in litigation, many experts have been discouraged from giving opinions about authentication not only to the public but even to scholars studying other artists. Some artist-created foundations have entirely sidestepped giving opinions about authenticity by delaying the creation of catalogues raisonnés, or by declining to undertake supplements to already published catalogs. So far as I know, all such lawsuits have been unsuccessful, but they can nonetheless inflict an enormous loss of time and money on the foundations involved. The Warhol Foundation cited costly litigation with collectors as the reason it disbanded its authentication board in October.
Defending the Integrity of An Artist’s Life’s Work (Wall Street Journal)