Charles Hope’s review in the New York Review of Books of several new books about art forgery takes on a controversial subject. How trustworthy are the so-called experts we often rely upon to police the art market and protect buyers from forgeries and fakes:
Many connoisseurs, understandably, charged for expressing their views, and some may still do so today. Some, such as Bernard Berenson, had a financial interest in many works for which they provided an opinion, an arrangement that Berenson chose to keep private. In the nature of things, too, dealers would tend to consult those connoisseurs who were not unduly cautious or restrictive in their attributions. Although the reasons are not immediately obvious, in some countries art historians gain considerable prestige by attributing hitherto neglected works of art to major artists, but little or none for downgrading attributions.
All this means is that, in the nature of things, connoisseurship is not a disinterested pursuit of truth, based exclusively on careful and objective consideration of the evidence, whether visual or documentary. Although some who practice it are conscientious and skeptical, the chances of a competent forgery being detected are not as strong as one might suppose.
The Art of the Phony (New York Review of Books)