A Dutch news outlet confronts the change of play in the Old Masters market since the discovery of several exceptionally good forgeries that are roiling the private market. The unexpected twist is that Sotheby’s has stolen a march on the market and now threatens to overshadow the trust in dealers:
“Collectors are being given the impression that it’s safer to buy art at an auction house than at a fair: at least an auction house will pay compensation if it’s a forgery,” says one insider.
Today’s opening of TEFAF in Maastricht, the world’s leading Old Master fair, puts this in sharp relief. It also raises the issue of TEFAF’s vetting and whether the fair’s vetting protects buyers:
Could a number of old masters, bought by French collector Giuliano Ruffini and recently exposed as modern forgeries, have slipped through the screening at Tefaf Maastricht, the most prestigious art fair in the world? Henk van Os, the chairman of the Tefaf vetting committee ponders for a few moments. “Yes, I think they could,” he says finally. The former director of the Rijksmuseum is not the only one who thinks so. Long-time Tefaf dealers like Bob Haboldt and Niels de Boer agree. Haboldt: “Forgeries have got through in the past.” De Boer: “These are the best forgeries ever, shockingly good.” […]
As chairman of the Tefaf vetting committee Henk van Os’s role is limited: he is the referee but the board makes the rules. He has his doubts about the rule which states dealers can only be banned if they have sold forgeries at Tefaf itself. He will, he says, bring this up with the board.