How will the approver perceive a piece that is completely authentic but doesn’t have the approval documents and is presented by an anonymous person, compared to a piece that is being given for approval by a known noble family or a count from somewhere in classic Europe? How will the approver react in each case?
The Approval Roulette in the Art World
Art pieces are valued in millions of dollars in the art world; therefore legal approval from the approver regarding the piece’s authenticity is the most important issue. The responsibility for approval provision is carried by the court that decides on the piece’s cost – whether it will be millions of dollars or less. Courts all over the world work with art specialists from the specific country that approve universally several artists. The number of mistakes made, knowingly or not, stems from the wide range of opinions.
Experts often decide not to decide on the piece’s cost and not to approve it as authentic. Why?
Mostly, the important pieces come with dozens of documents and exhibitions catalogs: where was the piece presented? Who were it former owners? And so on. In this case, there is no problem since the formal approvers base their decisions on the piece’s history, analysis and verification of all data that lead them to a clear conclusion regarding its cost.
What happens when the piece was forgotten in a dark basement throughout history which was filled with plundering wars, and on one knows its origin?
What happens when a piece passes from generation to generation in all sorts of mansions and its owners positively sure that it is completely authentic, but they can’t possibly know that some day when they will expose the piece to the free market, questions will emerge regarding its worth? The same happens when the former approvers are deceased and the new approvers ask questions that no one knows how to answer.
How the approver will perceive a piece that is completely authentic but doesn’t have the approval documents and is presented by an anonymous person, compared to a piece that is being given for approval by a known noble family or a count from somewhere in classic Europe? How will the approver react in each case?
I can count dozens of cases that occurred during my work in the field in which the color of what had happened was quite… shady. There are several experts in the world whose opinions are considered worthy, determined and undoubtedly respected. They know the artist’s work and live the touch of the brush struck. These experts are usually the older in the field and they are highly experienced in dealing with their conflicting peers.
We can’t forget that these days we are witnessing unthinkable amount of fake arts, and some complex decisions are being made in the various levels. The new generation of approvers for the great artists is mostly based on the first generation, and sometimes faithful decisions are made, as well as mistakes.
In my line of work, I came across several cases in which the first generation of approvers was conflicted with the piece owner on some level or another, and the following generation refused to provide approval even when it was well known that the piece is original. In this case, the piece owner was left with nothing but a wait for better days.
What happens in cases in which the piece’s approver can’t be found?
Today, in the art market, I find myself wondering about those who are responsible for the approval of one piece or another as authentic. Not for all pieces an approver can be found who is able to properly take care of it and build an extensive catalog of the artist and its creations. In this kind of cases, there is a possibility, that is not necessarily the right possibility, to turn to the artist’s family, and when that happens, the level of risk for an inaccurate approval increases. The question is: to what extent the family knows the artist’s work and what is the financial condition of the family? This kind of approvals cost a fortune. The decision to provide the document can turn the piece’s owner to a wealthy person overnight. On the other hand, without the family’s agreement the investment in the piece can go down the drain.
Another example I encountered during my work in the field is the following:
An owner of an expensive painting, who inherited it from his art collector father, reached the piece’s approver. The approver examined, asked questions, tried to locate the piece’s history and questioned the legitimacy of this man who came out of nowhere with the piece in his hands.
After several long minutes the approver ruled that this is not the artist’s original piece. This man, who was a very wealthy man, chose to invest about a million dollars in a lab test conducted by other experts. He searched in libraries and museums archives for almost two years, until eventually, in a decision by several approvers, the court determined that the piece is completely authentic! The man sued the former approver in court for refusing to approve the piece and for dismissing him this way, and won high compensation.
The question is: what would have happened if that man didn’t have the financial means to continue the investigation on the piece? The painting probably would have been abandoned and the state wouldn’t have gained a cultural property.
This article gives some food for thought regarding the happenings in this field, however it is important to note that I encounter some professional approvers with exquisite integrity. Indeed, the art world is a constant magic with all its aspects…