ArtAuthentication

Fake or Fortune: is this a genuine Lucian Freud?

In 1997, Jon Lys Turner was given a Lucian Freud painting by his friends and mentors, the artists Richard “Dickie” Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller. Turner had just entered one of the British art world’s bitterest feuds. 

Beginning in a Suffolk art school in 1939, and rumbling on past Freud’s death at the age of 88 in 2011, it would involve the painter’s family, art experts and auction houses. At its heart was a single question – was the portrait of a man in a black cravat painted by Lucian Freud? 

For Turner this is more than an abstract debate about provenance. Chopping was a highly regarded illustrator responsible for the original James Bond book covers. Wirth-Miller was a brilliant tutor, but his career as an artist had not been dazzling. Acolytes of Francis Bacon, the two men were life partners and, like Freud, had both studied at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Hadleigh in Suffolk in the early 1940s. Somehow in this creative wartime milieu, Chopping and Wirth-Miller came by the picture. Turner still can’t pinpoint a specific incident that led to the enmity between Freud and Wirth-Miller, but its fierceness is beyond doubt. 

As late as 2003, Wirth-Miller – who also died in 2011 – was writing lists of “reasons I hate Lucian Freud”. Freud was one of the most distinctive portraitists of the 20th century, and this early work hints at what lies ahead. 

Could it really be that his hatred for Wirth-Miller was so strong that he would deny his own work? Or was the painting actually a fake? For more than 20 years, auction houses and experts have told him he owns a genuine Freud, only for them all to change their minds. 

Now, thanks to Fake or Fortune?’s line-up of art experts and scientists, the matter can finally be settled. Turner admits he has grown to like the mystery of owning a painting that might or might not be by Lucian Freud. If it is genuine, will he sell it? “I think so. Then I’d have fulfilled my pledge. It wasn’t about the money for Dickie and Denis. It was a matter of honour. For them, it was about the feud.”

Freud’s famously fleshy nude, Benefits Supervisor Resting, sold for £35.4 million in New York last year – the highest price that has ever been paid for a painting by a British artist. 

Gallery operator indicted for counterfeiting Lee Ufan's works

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Prosecutors have indicted a 66-year-old gallery operator on charges of forging artworks made by renowned South Korean artist Lee Ufan. The suspect, identified only by his surname, Hyeon, is accused of receiving some US$1.1 million in 2012 for producing and selling three fake art works.

Hyeon allegedly received an offer from an unidentified antique dealer to fabricate Lee’s works in 2011, in return for 50% of the profits.

The investigation is still under way as the suspect testified that he created some 50 forgeries together with another accomplice, whose identity was withheld.

'Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake'

Last October Richard Polsky, the San Francisco art dealer who wrote I Bought Andy Warhol, started an authentication service for the artist’s works, driven by the dissolution of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ authentication committee four years earlier. Now, Polsky has announced that he is taking on authentication of works by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Prado opens landmark Bosch exhibition amid attribution controversy

Bosch fever is now moving on to Madrid, where the most comprehensive exhibition ever held on the Dutch master opens today (31 May). Twenty-four works by Hieronymus Bosch are on display—seven more than were at the Noordbrabants Museum in s’Hertogenbosch earlier this year. Probably never again will so many of his paintings be brought together.

However, part of the difference between the Bosch numbers at the Noordbrabants and the Prado is because of attributional questions. Dutch researchers demoted four works, all Spanish-owned pictures. The Noordbrabants team numbered the Spanish works as 24 (of which they got 17). The Prado specialists regard the total of fully-attributed works as 27 (of which they got 24). 

Art fakes, a genuine menace!

Every week, Akbar and Bhanu Padamsee receive images from collectors and auction houses for them to look at and confirm authenticity. On most occasions, they turn out to be forgeries. “Most of the works which have been brought to us in the recent past, have not been painted by Akbar,” says Bhanu.

The wife of the master painter made the alarming disclosure to ETPanache while attending a celebration at Priyasri Art Gallery in south Mumbai, to mark the artist’s 88th birthday. However, adds Bhanu, the proliferating racket of fakes is not confined to the octogenarian’s works alone, but confronts all other leading artists too.

Bird in $2.5m 'Brett Whiteley' painting looked like 'wet rag', expert tells court

A bird painted on a fake Brett Whiteley painting which sold for $2.5 million looked like a “wet rag”, a court has heard.

Professor Robyn Sloggett, the director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, is a key Crown witness in the fraud case against art dealer Peter Gant and art conservator Mohamed Aman Siddique.

Mr. Gant and Mr. Siddique are accused of taking part in a joint criminal enterprise to create and sell fake Whiteley paintings.

The rise of fakes and false attributions in the art world

Pablo Picasso famously once said, “We all know that art is not the truth.”

With the recent conclusion of the first lawsuit filed against the now defunct, Knoedler Gallery of New York, for selling forgeries, the art world has been abuzz with stories of high-end fakes and the grave issue of false attributions. However, it is a universally established fact that forgeries are not a recent phenomenon but in fact have only grown in prevelance over the last four centuries.

Currently, the FBI estimates that art theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines are a “looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.”

The so-called Caravaggio in the attic looks like a fake to me

I am sorry but it is all too good to be true. The owners of an old house near Toulouse ventured into their attic and found a large dusty painting. When a local antiques dealer gave it a gentle clean, he recognised it as a painting by – or closely associated with – none other than the great Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Family may have found $136M Renaissance painting in its attic

A family had a stroke of luck when they discovered a dusty old painting in their attic — it could be worth US$136 million.

The 17th-century painting, which depicts a bloody biblical beheading, may be a long-lost masterpiece from one of history’s greatest painters, the Italian artist Caravaggio, experts told the media on Tuesday.

Family of Chun Kyung Ja continues deceased artist's fight To have 'fake' painting removed from Seoul Museum

The South Korean painter Chun Kyung Ja was quite clear on how she felt about the version of her painting Beautiful Woman still in the collection in Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA).

“Parents can recognise one’s child,” Chun said, according to a recent Korea Times report. “That is not my painting.”

Before the artist’s death in October at the age of 91, the scandal over Beautiful Woman had mostly faded from the spotlight. But it was her frustration over the alleged forgery of her work that prompted the artist to leave South Korea in favor of the US in 1991 and completely disappear from the public eye, donating 93 paintings to the Seoul Museul of Art and moving to New York, where she lived until her death.

4 shifts in the “unpredictable art market” you should know about

Art-market slowdown, asset class, increasing transparency and authenticity.

It sounds like the start to a bad gallery dinner joke. But at The Armory Show the topic of discussion was serious: How to Optimise the Unpredictable Art Market. In a testament to the topic’s immediacy, moderator and Financial Times columnist Georgina Adam admitted that her panel was originally called The Rising Art Market, until warnings of a slowdown began to proliferate. And joining Adam on stage to discuss were CEO of Athena Art Finance Andrea Danese, New York art lawyer Steve Schindler, and art advisor and curator Jeffrey Deitch. 

Smears, counterclaims and lawsuits — the tangled web surrounding Prince of Liechtenstein’s Cranach

There has been a bizarre new twist in the case of the Prince of Liechtenstein’s painting of Venus, attributed to Cranach, which was seized on 1 March by a French judge. The Art Newspaper has learned that the painting is the subject of a lawsuit that has been ongoing since May 2014. The case was launched in Paris by an art dealer against two middlemen. The French dealer, who cannot currently be named, says he was the owner of the painting and was cheated of the true value of the work after agreeing to a contract of sale in November 2012.

The middlemen in turn claim the French dealer sold the panel to them in January 2013, for €510,000, as a work by an anonymous artist, which was only later authenticated as a Cranach by two scholars. The middlemen claim that disputes arose when they wanted to check the work’s provenance, in case it had been looted during the Second World War, but also after the French dealer learned of the huge sale prices obtained in a matter of months. The French dealer is suing for breach of trust.

'Genetic fingerprints' for art fights fakes

How do you know if what you’re buying is the real deal? 

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Thousands of art forgeries flood the art market every year, but now Tagsmart presents ‪Certify‬, a smart, secure solution for art authentication that will make faking artworks harder. Leading British artists like Gary Hume, Marc Quinn, Mat Collishaw and Idris Khan have already welcomed the technology.

Tagsmart CEO Lawrence Merritt talks about art authentication, fighting art forgery and Certify.

Auction house was about to auction off smuggled goods

Next Tuesday, Christie’s will auction off an impressive collection of Indian art, minus two items: federal agents seized two ancient artifacts from the auction house on Friday, having traced them to notorious smuggler Subhash Kapoor, who’s said to have smuggled over $100 million in rare artifacts.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), special agents in Homeland Security Investigations worked with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, as well as the Indian government and Interpol, to identify and seize the stolen artifacts, which were included in Christie’s catalogue for The Lahiri Collection of ancient and modern Indian and Himalayan art, set to be auctioned off during next week’s Asian Art Week.

Coming soon: Tagsmart Certify

The global art market is set to grow from £62bn today to £95bn in 2020, fuelled by emerging markets and online sales channels. However, the explosion of interest has also been followed by a darker development: a wave of forgeries flooding the market.

Given how easily forgeries have been traded, art collectors are no longer be satisfied with the traditional invoice and galleries’ assurances of authenticity. In fact, according to The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2015, 66% of art collectors are afraid of buying a fake.

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As the number of forgeries keeps growing, the current process of authentication surely needs changes given the art market is notorious for its information asymmetry and lack of transparency, opinions changing over time, and foundations being besieged with requests and threats of lawsuits. Recent forgery scandals also reveal the limitations of the market and how it continues to be unprotected, exemplified by the Beltracchi, Knoedler Gallery and Sheridan Tandy cases. Lastly, global online art sales create another vulnerability point as a level of acceptable documentation is not commonly recognised.

Though the exact degree of fraud in the fine art market may be never known, it is clear that art collectors, sellers and artists are in need of further protection. Preventive measures such as scientific examination and qualified immunity for properly accredited experts could inhibit and discourage forgers, but provide no solace to the victims of forgeries or fully protect the artists’ creative rights.  

Following these needs and challenges, for the past 18 months we at Tagsmart have been developing a way forward from the problems of fakes, forgeries, and authentication lawsuits that have plagued the art market in recent years. 

Our solution provides artists and art collectors forensically verifiable artwork labels, that are irrefutably linked to its creator, the authenticity of the work and the owner. By offering the art market a better, simpler solution to their biggest problems – trust and credibility – our platform validates artwork purchases, assuring art lovers of their origin and the bona fides of the people who sell them.

Tagsmart Certify offers a completely unique approach to artwork security, and is an essential tool for unlocking continued growth in the global market.

Guarantee the authenticity of your art. Register your interest now on tagsmart.com.