Avoiding Legal Pitfalls with Matt Beasant

Jul 15, 2016

It can be difficult to enjoy a work of art when you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes. In the last few years, the art world has had to deal with some significant forgeries.

Several years ago some of the world’s most reputable collectors were defrauded when they purchased modernist masterpieces that turned out to be fakes. These pieces of art were sold by, what was at the time, New York’s oldest and perhaps most venerable gallery.

Laws vary from place to place. One way to handle this situation is to bring forward a fraud claim. But, as Amelia Brankov of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz says, “a judge might find that the collector did not do their due diligence in a timely manner”. The lesson here is that when it comes to purchasing expensive works you need someone who can see through the wool.

Authentication is what it’s all about. It should be done before even purchasing the work.

According to Nica Gutman Rieppi of Art Analysis & Research, there are three stands for determining authenticity:

The first is connoisseurship; the oldest of the determining factors. It involves engaging the expert eye of someone who has studied the body of work of a particular artist or artists.

The second strand is provenance. This involves the history of the work including its past ownership and documentation.

The third strand is scientific analysis combined with technical art history. The reason being is that the scientific analysis of materials, as well as imaging technology, enables us to see not only the materials that the artist was working with but also the technique in which the materials were applied.

Technical art history adds a layer of context to all of the scientific analysis.

The example Nica uses is the painting Massacre of the Innocents by obscure artist Jan Van den Hoecke. There was a growing suspicion that it was actually painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. After scientific analysis, including x-rays and infrared imaging, all of the materials were understood to be correct for the time period. But thanks to a large reference database of thousands of paintings, Art Analysis & Research undertook a comparative study of the work and determined that the piece was in fact a Rubens.

An appraisal is something that any collector should have. But not all appraisers are equal.

Emily Thompson of Gurr Johns, Inc. offers a shocking statistic to demonstrate this point: there are over two million appraisers in the US but only around two thousand of these appraisers follow a strict set of standards including USPAP, AAA, and ASA. You also want a third party appraiser to avoid any potential conflicts.

To see what I’m talking about and learn other great tips for authenticating your collection, check out the webinar on AVOIDING LEGAL PITFALLS IN ART TRANSACTIONS. Watch Now!


Matt Beasant

Matt Beasant is a self-taught Canadian artist and experienced writer, born and raised in Northwestern Ontario. Represented by established Canadian Galleries, Matt has exhibited at the Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair and the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in 2016. His work is characterized by crisp lines and bold gradients which are applied by hand using many thin layers of paint –...

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