The Wall Street Journal has a good summary of the state of authentication in the art market. The story doesn’t contain any news but it does have some interesting tidbits like this quote from the Warhol foundation which closed its authentication board after some very controversial behavior on its part:
“Protecting collectors, it’s not our job,” said Michael Straus, chairman of the Warhol foundation. “I don’t think putting the burden of that due diligence on an artist estate, especially in the absence of sufficient legal protections, is appropriate.”
The Journal closes with this vignette that only seems to make the whole process seem expedient:
Even as many artists’ heirs decline to perform official authentications, some continue to hold considerable influence in the marketplace.
In a recent deposition, Mark Rothko’s son, Christopher Rothko, said he has twice been invited by an auction house to view Rothko paintings discovered since the publication of the Rothko catalogue raisonné. One of those paintings —which was authenticated by David Anfam, the author of the Rothko catalog—sold at Christie’s for $33.7 million, Christie’s said.
In their Artnet News column, the Danziger brothers try to answer the question of what happens in absence of an authentication committee:
Of course, most artists don’t have their own authentication committees; instead, collectors rely on auction houses, catalogues raisonnes and independent experts. No matter what legal theories are raised in authentication cases, in the U.S. —unlike, say, in France, where courts decide authenticity— it is the art market itself, and not the courts, that ultimately decides whose opinion matters in determining what is an authentic work and what is not.
On the Case: Exploring Real World Art Law Issues (Artnet News)