Almost a week after a Dutch newspaper asked whether TEFAF’s famous vetting process was capable of catching any fake, the New York Times decides to re-write the story. But this time, the newspaper turns the question around. Instead of asking whether any of the disputed works were ever sold at TEFAF (they weren’t) or whether the same process of peer review that validated the now-disputed works is used to vet dealers’ booths (it is), the NY Times wonders whether the dealers whose works have been implicated in the recent concerns about the collection of Giuliano Ruffini should have been banned from the fair until the various disputes are resolved.
But that kind of public shaming ignores the fact that not one of the four galleries mentioned by the NY Times has avoided the repercussions of the controversy. Indeed, for everyone involved in the disputes, it is better that galleries be present and expected to stand behind their sales, past and future.
Here, at least, the Times gives TEFAF a little credit:
Johnny van Haeften, a Tefaf board member interviewed by telephone, said that “none of the works that have now been questioned was ever sold at Tefaf” and that the courts have not yet given their verdict in any of the cases involving these works.
“There’s a very strict vetting regulation about letting dealers into the fair in the first place,” he said. “These are dealers of long standing. So I think if, by any chance, these pictures do end up being suspect, you’re dealing with dealers whose integrity and reputation is beyond reproach.”
van Haeften is mostly right there. The one issue in this story, and probably where the NY Times ought to have focused its reporting efforts to provide an accurate story that moves our understanding forward, is the dealer Mark Weiss who is stonewalling Sotheby’s after it determined a work he sold through the auction house was not what it claimed to be:
Mr. Weiss has said in statements that Sotheby’s research may be inconclusive, and he is awaiting additional data before he will respond. The Weiss Gallery did not respond to an interview request from The Times.
Shadow of Old Masters’ Forgeries Hangs Over an Art Fair (The New York Times)