Sotheby’s has made a consistent play behind the scenes over the last year since the acquisition of Art Agency, Partners to present itself as an advocate of transparency in the art market. Today’s announcement of the acquisition of Orion Analytical, the company is pushing hard on his role in the Knoedler forgeries and the firm’s recent use of Orion to determine that Frans Hals painting it sold privately was, in fact, a modern forgery:
Today, Sotheby’s announced that Martin will join the company and establish a Scientific Research Department, with on-site facilities in its flagship New York and London locations. […]
Now that ownership of Orion has passed to Sotheby’s and he has joined the staff, Martin is travelling to the New York and London offices to scout out locations for the equipment he will need to examine objects that Sotheby’s specialists bring to his attention. We caught up with him briefly to pose a few questions about his fascinating career and the value he will bring to Sotheby’s clients.
Sotheby’s Q&A with Orion’s Jamie Martin doesn’t give much away. But from the quote above we can assume a few things.
The first assumption is that this acquisition is as much about Martin being able to increase the scope of his professional service by having access to Sotheby’s two main locations. On his own, Martin would have a very hard time being able to afford to locate offices or a lab in the center of London or New York. Additionally, working within Sotheby’s will give Martin much greater access to Sotheby’s client flow. That means simply that it is easier for a client to engage Martin’s services if their work is already at Sotheby’s or engaging him doesn’t require any additional effort. You can think of this in terms of medical services in the United States. When your doctor adds a new specialist or device to their facility, it is easier to get that scan done or procedure taken care of than having to be referred to another specialist for a separate appointment.
The second assumption is that Sotheby’s is also trying add to its range of advisory services the kind of conservation and research help that is often difficult for all but the most prominent collectors to gain access to. In other words, if you’re on the board of a major museum, you might have access to the kind of speciality knowledge that Martin possesses. Few collectors are on those boards.
The Scientist of the Art World: James Martin Joins Sotheby’s (Sotheby’s)