Authentication in Art 2012 & Minutes
The Authentication in Art Foundation was founded early 2012 by Rudi Ekkart and Milko den Leeuw. The AiA Foundation board was formed consisting of Ingeborg de Jongh, Willem Russel and Nico Schrijver
During a meeting on May 25th 2012 a number of representative peers from the fields of art history, painting conservation, material sciences, the art market and the academic field of art and law came together in The Hague to discuss and review authentication developments and to sense the feasibility of a new congress. It was decided unanimously that a congress on the topic would be an absolute necessity, which would become the first AiA congress held in 2014
The former Mayor of the City of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen and the first peer group of ‘Authentication in Art’ during the meeting of May 25th 2012
Meeting 2012 Members
Vivian Endicott Barnett – member of the Société Kandinsky in Paris and consultant at the Guggenheim and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich
Karoline Beltinger – head of Art Technology at the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA)
Prof em Dr Rudi Ekkart – art historian and former director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), The Hague, professor Methodological Aspects of Art Historical Documentation, Utrecht University
Prof Dr Gunnar Heydenreich – full professor for Conservation of Modern and Contemporary Art at Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences / University of Applied Sciences (CICS)
Drs Ingeborg de Jongh – art-historian and painting conservator, co-founder of Atelier for Restoration & Research of Paintings (ARRS) The Hague, outside restorer for Christie’s Amsterdam
Prof em Dr Martin Kemp – emeritus professor in the history of art and world-renowned authority on Leonardo da Vinci
Prof Dr Christoph Krekel – chairman Archaeometry and Conservation Science at the Academy of Fine Art and Design in Stuttgart
Milko den Leeuw – painting conservator, specialized in the technical and scientific investigation of paintings, director and co-founder of Atelier for Restoration & Research of Paintings (ARRS) The Hague
Dr Nancy Mowll Mathews – president of the Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association, former Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator of 19th and 20th Century Art at the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown
Dr Jilleen Nadolny – technical art historian and senior research associate working with Art Access and Research Ltd. (AA&R), London
James Roundell – chairman of The Society of London Art Dealers (SLAD), vice chairman Pictura at the Tefaf Maastricht Fair and head of the Modern Art Vetting Committee at Maastricht.
Iris Schaefer – head of the Department of Technology and Conservation at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud in Cologne
Dr Eddy Schavemakers – appraiser, researcher, copy writer, mediator and advisor at Art History Services, Noortman Master Paintings, Amsterdam
Prof Dr Nico Schrijver – chairman of Public International Law at Leiden University, and academic director at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University
Dr Jane Sharp – associate professor of art history and research curator of the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University
Dr Henk Tromp – cultural anthropologist and senior research consultant at Leiden University
Prof Dr Jørgen Wadum – keeper of conservation at the National Gallery of Denmark and director of the Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation (CATS)
Randall Willette – managing director of Fine Art Wealth Management
Meeting 2012 Minutes
During the AiA meeting on May 25 – 2012 a number of representative peers from the fields of art history, painting conservation, material sciences, the art market and the academic field of art and law came together in The Hague to discuss and review authentication developments and to sense the feasibility of a new congress. It was decided unanimously that a congress on the topic would be an absolute necessity. Further evaluation proved that the best time frame for organising such a congress would be May 2014
Minutes (anonymous) of the meeting held on May 25 in The Hague
Vivian Endicott Barnett, Karoline Beltinger, Dr Nicholas Eastaugh, Prof em Dr Rudi Ekkart, Dr Gunnar Heydenreich, Drs Ingeborg de Jongh, Prof em Dr Martin Kemp, Prof Dr Christoph Krekel, Milko den Leeuw, Dr Nancy Mowll Mathews, Dr Jilleen Nadolny, James Roundell, Iris Schaefer, Dr Eddy Schavemakers, Prof Dr Nico Schrijver, Dr Jane Sharp, Dr Henk Tromp, Dr Jørgen Wadum, Randall Willette
The Host opens the meeting by addressing a warm welcome to all the Participants. As an introduction to the topic of the day “Authentication in Art”, he refers to a famous case of falsification which 90 years ago shook the entire art world. There was a serious discussion about the authenticity of a panel titled “The laughing Cavalier” that was attributed to Frans Hals by Hofstede de Groot. A lawsuit followed and a chemical analysis showed that the pigments could never have been used in the seventeenth century. However in a detailed brochure “Echt of onecht”, Hofstede de Groot defended himself by arguing that the eye of an art historian (meaning himself) was the only reliable authority when tracing the authenticity of an artwork. No chemical report could deny that.
Today many things have changed but the problem of authentication remains vivid, the more that cooperation between all parties involved in a process of authentication is often far from being ideal. The aim of the meeting is not to come to conclusions about the subject itself, but to set out an agenda for the congress in 2014 and to identify professionals who could contribute to the topic. An academic approach has been chosen for this meeting by inviting experts of different fields. However, although no legal specialist is attending the meeting of today, the Host still emphasizes the importance of the legal dimension of the subject. The Host, Participant 6 and Participant 10 met last year and unanimously agreed to set up an interdisciplinary conference on the subject.
The Chair welcomes everyone and suggests that each Participant introduces him/herself shortly.
The goal of the meeting is to create a list of questions and ideas regarding the themes for discussion during the different sessions of the 2014 congress.
The Chair gives the floor to three attendees specialized in law and social studies so as to present their views on the future directions of authentication research.
Participant 10 refers to a “hot case” in which he was involved as an expert: the painting Odalisque, made by Boris Kustodiev in 1919 and twice sold at auctions in1989 and 2005. Soon after the sale in 2005 a dispute broke out as several Russian experts claimed it to be a fake, arguing that the signature of the artist was added later. A technical report also claimed that the canvas preparation and the lack of a pencil under-drawing made the painting a fake.
The case was brought to the attention of Participant 10 in 2010 when commissioned by the auction house to technically examine the artwork. He stresses that he was not acting for the auction house but only retained by them; his duty was to court.
The pigments, technique, inscription examination looked fine at first. Yet, the lack of pencil under-drawing was obvious. Although the period of painting was not contested, the signature was dated much later, in the 1940’s. A second examination and various battle reports followed. The court case started four weeks ago and was concluded last week. The outcome is expected in the next eight weeks. The judge only (no jury) will be deciding whether the painting is authentic and evaluate both connoisseurs and technical opinions. Last but not least: the painting was sold for 2 million pounds, the legal costs are rumoured to exceed this amount. Different issues are at stake:
- The diversity of the connoisseurs’ opinion that was shifting and expressed by an unclear dialogue
- The lack of full critical operators that leads to categorical statements leaving no space for solid progressive arguments
- Clear differences of academic traditions and disciplines
- The huge variety of scientific reports with bold statements with little or no evidence for what was advanced
- Rigid demarcation between science and connoisseurship
- Poor use of historical documentary sources, poor understanding of how to handle historical documentary sources on technology
- The lack of standards
- The lack of reference material
Participant 10 finally mentions that he had access to two other paintings by Kustodiev. As an expert he is obligated to provide guidance to the court but information may be very limited.
Participant 17 bases his lecture on his latest book “A real van Gogh. How the art world struggles with truth” (published in English in 2010 and a sequel to his publication with André J.F. Köbben “Unwelcome tidings or how the freedom of science is being threatened“ in 1999). The publication deals with all kind of scientists as the bringers of unwelcome tidings. In this context Participant 17 wants to raise two issues:
- What happens when a researcher is bringing unwelcome news?
- How to foster integrity research?
He refers to the famous trial of Galileo Galilei in 1633 when Galilei had to retract his finding that the earth travelled around the sun because if he would have maintained that view he would have been burned at the stake. While examining the general course of unwelcome tidings within different scientific sectors, Participant 17 realized that in this context no attention was paid to the art world, although his attention was regularly caught by incidents about fake paintings in the newspapers. In “A real van Gogh” he has analysed different kind of reactions, ranging from rejection, to acceptance and attempts to hush up research findings. He also noticed that as long as the issue was limited to a difference of opinion on a publication or study, nothing was wrong from a scientific point of view. Yet, if criticism was directed to the researcher or the artist as a person, the urge for self-defence increased as the object of contest became afraid of being accused of not being honest. That leads Participant 17 to another finding: the use or misuse of rhetoric in articles and discussions as a strong weapon to undermine one’s credibility with the aim of silencing the researcher; the more if the researcher is part of an organization that wants to keep up its name and reputation.
Researchers react in different ways when bringing unwelcome tidings:
- They can stand up for the truth and face all the consequences or
- They try to find a compromise or
- They use advocacy when serving a particular interest
In Participant 17’s opinion this is a common phenomenon that occurs in the scientific as well as in the artistic world. This does not mean that every researcher’s name and position are jeopardized when bringing unwelcome tidings. However certain actions might harm either the researcher as a person or the scientific world as an entity. Furthermore Participant 17 notes that no research on scientific integrity in art historical research has been carried out so far in The Netherlands. He therefore stresses the importance to foster integrity research among art experts. To this end one can think of policies, codes, standards and training as working tools. Standards of behaviour and training of art- experts and historians would be very excellent topics to deal with at the next 2014 conference.
The Chair thanks Participant 17 for his lecture and gives the floor to Participant 6.
Participant 6 presents the case of a painting from Alexej von Jawlensky. The painting was part of an exhibition and placed on the cover of the exhibition catalogue in 1997 in Cologne. During the exhibition, the chairman of the Jawlensky-archive announced that the painting would have to be removed as it obviously was not genuine: after all, he argued, everyone knows that Jawlensky never had painted a person sitting in a chair! Several other paintings with the same subject, portraits of sitters in a chair, by Jawlensky were known to exist. Thirteen years later the same chairman of the Jawlensky-archive approached the owner and requested to open the case again: Participant 6 was asked to examine the painting in close detail and to do technical material research (documented on a CD). The technical study has not completely revealed whether the artwork is authentic or not. Together with the chairman of the Jawlensky-archive, it was decided to leave the art historical and painting technical issues to the board of the Jawlensky-archive. During the preparation of the research a publication in IIC Studies in Conservation (2009 – nr. 54) was issued on the pigment Early Viridian. The scientists who conducted the research as presented in the IIC Studies have a close relation to the board of the Jawlensky-archive and access to the original material of Jawlensky original paintings. The research involved over 60 samples taken from paintings by Alexej von Jawlensky. Based on the research protocol as published in the IIC Studies analysis was carried out in close collaboration with Participant 10. These findings became even more important because along the Early Viridian another green pigment was found introduced after 1935. Narrowing the making period around 1935-1941. The research project presented in the Studies in Conservation made clear that the used protocol on the dating of the paintings was partly an aim; “Within this project such information was of particular interest for dating paintings by the artist based on the materials used, by comparison with data obtained for paintings of known dates.” During the hand over of the research object to Jawlensky-archive the succession holder of the archive recognized that the catalogue raisonné was not sufficient and that the oeuvre of Jawlensky had to be reordered in the near future.
After months of waiting Participant 6 was informed in a very sort email by the Jawlensky-archive that the painting was not accepted. It was not clear on which research protocol this verdict was based.
Participant 6 turned back to the owner to inform him about the latest developments and asked him what the next steps should be. Due to the lack of openness of the Jawlensky-archive the following situation occurs:
- The owner decided to make preparations to bring the case to court as open discussion with the Jawlensky-archive appeared not to be possible
- As a result of this decision Participant 6 unwillingly became involved to bring colleagues to court, which he personally very much deplores. In his opinion this should not be his role
- In conclusion, the case illustrates that an open and scientific based discussion with all parties could have avoided an endless and detrimental court procedure
The Chair thanks Participant 6 and reminds the audience that the ultimate aim today is to identify pertinent issues to be taken up a by a larger conference in the fall of 2014. The question is: is it feasible to organize such a congress in 2014?
Moving to the next point of the agenda (question 1: methodology) three areas of research have been identified:
- Art historical research
- Painting technical research
- Technical materials research
In all these fields of research the individual plan plays indeed a major role.
The Chair then asked the Participants whether they have any technical questions about the three cases presented by Participant 10, Participant 17 and Participant 6. A summary of the discussion points follows hereunder.
Participant 7 asks what is the article about that Participant 6 mentioned in his presentation.
Participant 6 answers that the article is about Early Viridian.
Participant 10 adds that although the article is of high quality, it raises questions when trying to use the information subsequently. In terms of access, transparency and openness he wonders whether this sort of article is an appropriate way to present historical information that is publicly used. In addition, when one authority holds all the information there is inevitably no independent checking mechanism. In his opinion this is the fundamental problem.
Participant 4 addresses a question to Participant 10 regarding the role of the court. Based on what Participant 10 said, it looks as if courts only do positive things and never have a judgment on someone who is accused of fake and reckless behaviour. If that is so, he strongly wonders whether the court is able to do its work properly.
Participant 10 replies that the authenticity of the painting is the only key point upon which the judge decides.
The Chair stresses that it is a civil law case and not a criminal one which makes clear that the verdict is of another kind.
Participant 3 asks for additional information on the categories of historical research in view of the three cases presented. She wonders whether the principal and payer of a research assignment is of any influence to the result of the research.
Participant 10 answers that they act independently and are therefore seen as reliable.
Participant 4 adds that foundations do have huge interests and position themselves as arbitrary bodies when it comes to authenticity issues. As a result there are very dubious activities going on.
Participant 13 asks for more explanation about the three areas of authentication as stated in the meeting document (point 2). He also wonders why the aspect of condition survey is not included in the list.
Participant 11 answers that point 2 is a broad issue that has been inserted to give a better understanding of what connoisseurship actually means. It appears that there is no widespread understanding of technical connoisseurship, neither is it respected as such by art historians and material scientists.
Participant 1 is interested in the shift between academic traditions to national control and educational tradition and wonders how the conference will be dealing with this issue: the national control differences on the one side and the specific professional expertise on the other side.
It is agreed that the submitted model of the three areas of authentication research is meant to be as flexible as possible and should illustrate the best the different areas of professions. Overlap of fields is hereby inevitable.
The discussion then moves to the integration issue of art historical studies with painting technical research and material analysis.
In Participant 15’s opinion authentication research is biased by definition while on the other hand it aims to be fully fletched academic. That raises the dilemma of research standards.
Participant 16 notices that it is rather terrifying to see that scientific analysis is often made by different laboratories with different statements. He therefore wonders how a judge can decide upon the quality of one science compared to the other. Who is going to establish which bodies are the right ones? Given the fact that science analysis has an important role to play, how will it be applied correctly across the entire art spectrum in practical terms?
Participant 5 stresses that artistic research or connoisseurship research are very difficult to understand. It is not only about fake but also about context analysis. We should stay open minded and flexible in our analysis. He too wonders whether hard-core scientific evidence should be applied to every case because if so, better methods should be found out. Another option is to go into sample objects. He also wonders whether reference materials should be made accessible to everyone. What is ethical?
Participant 3 argues that with access to primary materials there is a better chance to get more information and as a result to reach a reliable judgment, but it is never a guarantee. She also misses another category, that is access and accumulation of a large amount of materials to go into the judgment for a better chronology. With this model of categories everybody could do any object with no expertise in a particular area.
Participant 5 agrees that the issue of training should be addressed: understanding how to interpret the information received by another laboratory. Can any hard-core facts provide total truth and make any contribution at all? Again it remains a question of interpretation.
Participant 10 confirms that the context and the way you look at an object always plays an important role. To what extend can we create approaches to quantify, to create taxonomy and to evaluate sources? There is obviously more involved than initially expected.
Participant 5 asks what happens if a party uses the information from a report, puts it out of its context and uses it for its own interest?
Participant 3 points out that this the reason why scholars of catalogues raisonnées never give an explanation about their opinions because it may be used against them or because lawyers tell them not to.
A discussion follows about the legal system in America. It appears that judges do not decide on the authenticity of works as they do not have the expertise. It finally works against the scholars as a method of silencing them.
The Chair raises the issue of integration of different skills in one profession. What is the ideal expert in this particular field? Can he work in one category only as all the knowledge and experience are so interconnected? As for most of the English speaking countries it appears that art history has become social history of art. In the UK many publications are on writing about writing on art with as a result that nobody reads nor understands them. In addition there is little interest in the physical qualities of a work for instance. In the States art historians working on authenticity issues have to examine other fields of expertise so as to be able to conduct proper research.
That brings the discussion to another level: would it be recommendable to define an ideal expert in this field? In this respect is it wise to formulate specific criteria? Would it have an impact on university education?
Participant 6 distinguishes two main roads:
- The practice of auction houses that quickly train art history students in stating opinions
- The academic approach that creates a certain tension
- And the impact of museum conservators is also mentioned
Participant 17 explains that in the case of The Netherlands experts who are working under the wing of a museum, like the Van Gogh museum, are entirely working on behalf of the museum. It is the museum only who decides whether a Van Gogh painting is genuine or not. Besides, when asking for an authenticity research, the owner of a painting is compelled to sign beforehand a document that ratifies the result of the research. The opinion of the museum is refutable. However the museum does not give any explanation about the criteria of its judgment.
Participant 1 expresses her wish in view of the 2014 conference to establish a set of goals about the disciplines as they become increasingly specialized. There is obviously a wide range of various skills and perhaps some overlap in practice, research, legal issues, but there is none so far in training that increases the separation of disciplines.
Participant 13 points out that in the case of Germany, the influence of photography on artists and universities resulting in a certain disconnection between material aspects and content research. The situation has evolved recently as there are increasingly more publications on technical issues nowadays. That even causes some competition with the other fields of expertise. On the other hand this process seems to lead to more cooperation and dialogue between disciplines. Today the material aspect of the study has even become fashionable.
In the discussion that follows a number of important issues to be addressed during the conference came up:
- The need to talk about the different contexts in which experts function
- The need to bring different disciplines together at the conference
- The need to talk about the stages of science in its own right
- The concept of “having an eye”: scholars should be trained to have an eye for pictures
- The need for connoisseurship training and standards
- The need for a common language, an appropriate terminology for all the disciplines
After the lunch the Chair opens the floor to discuss the following items of the agenda:
2) Structures and problems
3) The implications in the context of art law and the art market
4 ) Future directions
5) The structure and working groups of the meeting.
In addition the organization of the conference should be addressed as well as the contribution of each Participant in the working groups.
The Chair recalls the need to improve existing structures, the idea of an independent quality control panel for authenticity and the option to establish an independent review of expert boards.
He then gives the floor to Participant 10. In his opinion the questions addressed in this agenda chapter are somehow interlinked. He notes that the current approach in authentication is in practice totally disrupted and unsystematic. Saying that, some good working practices could be defined in order to better monitor performance assessments, to insure total independence and to better assure cross checking of conclusions. The key question however remains: is there a will for this and if so what is the practice to set it up? Or are we just satisfied with the existing structures?
The Chair raises the issue of an expert board again.
Participant 14 points out that there are already professional bodies under art investment funds in the States: The Art Investment Council and the Art Investment Association which bring advices when investing in art. These bodies include art traders, research institutions and other professional bodies.
Participant 16 reminds in this respect that the legal aspect is different in each country and should therefore be beard in mind when establishing expert boards.
Participant 12 states that market and experts cannot be controlled. In Germany if you want some funding from the state you have to sign in a moral regulation system for good scientific practice. This moral codex for good practices basically indicates what results are open to the public and how long they have been stalled.
In the discussion that follows it appears that the international art market does not have a moral codex of good practices as mentioned by Participant 12. The question that now arises is: can these national guidelines be internationalized?
Participant 5 stresses how complex the situation is due to the national laws that are different in each country. The art would be to set up uniform rules of description, to provide a set of metadata that explains how the authentication process actually works. He wonders whether a new set of rules may be imposed.
In Participant 4’s opinion the option of a regulatory body, either via the state or the EU, by museum associations or trade associations (like the existing Society of Art Auctioneers) is not satisfying in terms of interests. It remains very difficult to find the right persons and organizations to take on board. In the current situation there are many laboratory researches that are costly and prove nothing. A professional body would be an improvement.
Participant 5 doubts whether providing guidelines for more transparency is the role of the AIA conference to. In his opinion the regulatory work has to be done by institutions in the field. Can such guidelines be formulated outside these institutions or not?
The Chair resumes the last useful findings for the conference:
- no state intervention desirable
- self-regulation within the sector by professional bodies
- learning from national experiences
- guarantee for independence qualification is needed
- all depends on the type of artwork, the period composition, preview
- need of international standards
While brainstorming a number of other suggestions are made, like:
- to create a list of accredited experts
- to set up guidelines that provide more transparency as regards work process and expertise
- to creatively make use of Internet as an open dynamic forum; Internet is already used for e-catalogues and is an excellent medium: its free and one can sign up to contribute.
In Participant 13’s opinion Internet has an enormous potential in providing access to a large amount of documents and materials which normally would have to be gained and sorted out from various institutions and organizations, a rather time consuming task indeed. He does not agree with the idea to use Internet for the production of a catalogue raisonné or a catalogue critique now, but eventually in the future. With the use of Internet as an open forum results of research and studies are in constant move as the information is regularly updated with new contribution.
Participant 4 argues that some mechanism in finding people to keep it active is necessary, yet expensive.
Participant 3 adds that issues on authentication are immense. It might also be very delicate a matter to withdraw information on a catalogue raisonné or critique on Internet. Soliciting opinions might provoke outcries from the side of scholars, conservators and owners.
The Chair wonders whether there are established practices for the catalogue critique.
Participant 6 points out that while the catalogue raisonné is a more closed body, the catalogue critique is based on scientific insights that will always change. Changing opinions and new scientific methods can be more easily integrated in a catalogue critique than in a catalogue raisonné.
In the course of the discussion it becomes clear that there are no known cases of catalogue critique that in this respect leaves the question on established practices unanswered.
Furthermore it is said that the information gathered for a catalogue raisonné is gained from files, museums etc. Most of the time there are no funds available and no time to travel around the world to gather it personally.
An option mentioned during the discussion is to ask other people working on the same painter to do the research on the spot, to share the materials and make them available for much information as possible to be later compared with the analysis results.
The Chair proposes a call to have all the information publicly available on Internet but also wants to know if there are limitations to protect intellectual property rights of researchers and institutions.
Participant 13 tells about the increasing problems that occurred in the late nineties on conservation of contemporary artworks and how an international network of conservation of contemporary art, INCA set up a metadata base including information on artists, conservation reports, interviews, analysis etc. This proved to be a way to share material without the risks of abuse that may be run in a public internet domain.
Regarding the required standards of a catalogue raisonné, it appears that heavily damaged paintings are still be published in catalogues raisonnés and amazingly are pictured as brand new…Instead it might be better to make a selection of well-preserved examples of work when producing a catalogue raisonné. Most of the catalogues do include scholarly essays on materials, condition and conservation problems, yet not within each entry so that the reader has to go through the whole book to get the information. While the conditions of work are described in a collection catalogue, the idea to use this information in a catalogue raisonné was brought up: it would initiate cooperation with the museums and provide useful and comparable information on standards and conditions of work. Finally it was agreed that time is changing and that more openness should be provided: not so much with the aim to convince that a painting is in a perfect state without even mentioning the conditions, but to provide full information on the work.
The Chair then moves on to another point of discussion: although the opinions of expert boards are not legally binding, they are the end of the road for paintings. The following questions are raised: is this a credible finding after a series of disputes and does it have any impact on the issue about the feasibility of expert boards?
Participant 1 answers that it very much depends on the legal situation of each country. She explains that it is very difficult to give an opinion as a specialist because in some countries like Russia you might be sued for that. You have to carefully qualify your opinion based on your experience, which reduces your authority. Therefore she very much pleads for a legal panel of discussion during the conference so as to see how statements of opinions can be bridged.
Participant 3 answers that in the US the best defence against being sued is to sign a form submitted by the owner of a work stating that the expert won’t be sued in no way.
In the next discussion some ideas are presented like:
- to establish an international consensus
- to appeal to a sympathetic jurisdiction rather than an aggressive one
- to use professional practices as a point of reference which should be considered as a decent expression of professional opinion, although not legally binding
Concerning the French legally established droits d’auteur, everyone agrees that it is a very unique and defensive system.
Several remarks are made on the issue of fake and the need of fake registers, of which the most important ones:
- there is often a grey area between fake and misattribution. Therefore it would be wise to first define what is meant by fake and which are the criteria applied in that case
- in Germany a national data base of fakes has been initiated. Yet the current data registers are mostly set up by auctions houses. Membership of the auction house is required to have free access to them.
- in Russia fake registers are not open to the public
The Chair moves then to question 3: the implications in the context of art law and the art market. Is the market under pressure?
Participant 16 notes that cases brought on court (in London) mostly end up with very bizarre judgments.
Participant 4 agrees on that and notices that the law finally takes it over from substantial issues.
In the discussion that follows it appears that in most of the cases claims for authentication are made by collectors and art dealers because in case of fake they want their money back.
The next question asked by the Chair is what can be done to protect the collector and the scholarship?
Participant 2 has been advised to simply avoid the market and not to get involved in disputes concerning potential sales and purchases. In this respect the perception of conflicts of interest is very important to keep the various roles of the art market apart from those of the scholars and scientists.
According to Participant 14 this might become very difficult as wealthy collectors are building up private collections besides those of museums. They increasingly dominate the art market and do have money to sue.
The danger to be sued when giving your opinion as an expert remains a problem, says Participant 16.
Best practices and professional guidelines are the safest way to protect yourself, answers Participant 3, although it might still cost much money to reach that point.
Participant 1 points out that indeed best practices are crucial and need to be followed. However, it appears that the court does make a difference about the quality of an expert who is taking money for his research and the one who is not doing so.
The Chair then addresses the issue of a code of ethics including a minimum of criteria for scientific objectivity and asks the audience’s opinion about the way to foster it.
Participant 15 thinks that art dealers have a clear responsibility. They build up a relation with clients and have to educate them, meaning that they should turn down offers from clients if their knowledge as a collector appears too poor. Like a collector they should learn to develop an eye. Unfortunately this does not always happen in the art dealers world. The art market is a chaos that is hardly professional. Self-regulation is no option, instead we better try to improve this situation. However the question remains how to achieve that.
Participant 14 acknowledges an increasing professionalism as there are currently more parties involved with more allegations and liabilities as a result. That forces more transparency which in his opinion is a positive development.
Participant 4 thinks that getting paid for research remains a very problematic issue. When writing guidelines for associations he realized that on the one side consultancy fee cannot be forbidden; it is almost impossible to ask not to accept money for research if it is done under agreed terms. On the other side if you don’t take money, you are more likely to be shown things by auction houses and dealers than somebody known as being bendable.
Participant 3 agrees on that but stresses that there should be a firewall between the money you receive and the way you produce an opinion. Both should be taken independently from each other. The best attitude is always not to take money provided you can manage that. In her opinion if you follow (accepted) guidelines and apply them consequently you are much better protected in court. Therefore an international document agreed upon by all the attendees of this meting would be a good instrument of protection in court.
Participant 1 says that while conservators and technical experts are paid for her expertise, the expertise of art historians appears less quantifiable. She wonders how to define these criteria in other disciplines.
Participant 10 emphasizes that in his company there is an extensive code of practice that has been set up strictly stating that no percentage is taken. Experts work on an established fee basis that guarantees independence.
In the discussion that follows it becomes clear that the issue of getting paid or not is very much linked to integrity. On the one hand scholars have a right of living for what they do, taking into account that there are huge costs and investments involved as well. On the other hand it is known that there are people in the market whose opinion is buyable for a favour.
Another aspect is that of scholars who cannot express their opinion personally because the institutions they are working for forbid them to do so. In some cases writers of catalogues raisonnés are not allowed to express their personal opinion.
In conclusion it is agreed that the personal opinion of every individual expert should be given the right of expression.
The Chair then moves to question 4 about future directions. Could a set of acceptable approaches be worked out from the following points? How to define what level of certainty is appropriate in which situations?
In Participant 6’s opinion the future directions are also meant for the conference. Therefore he would first like to discuss what is valuable for the conference and secondly connect question 5 with the findings. As for the conference he wonders whether having a general working group of experts (including art historians, conservators, material scientists) would be a feasible option or should separate discipline groups be formed and be integrated later.
Participant 10 thinks that the conference should not only focus on the current situation but also find ways to train the next generations in these issues and further encourage the development of good practices.
Participant 11 suggests including a document that lays out desiderates to be discussed in the future and that provides more transparency in what we do and don’t approve. The document might be signed by worldwide institutions to put more weight on it.
Participant 1 would like to include the issue of guidelines in the conference: how to define, integrate and work them out into a discussion. To address a mechanism to discuss and evaluate the guidelines.
Participant 4 suggests a minimum of professional guidelines for different fields of expertise (art historical, artistic, conservation…) and having working groups to finally come back with compact developed suggestions.
Participant 10 opts for a plenary session discussing broad issues but also a scope for breaking down in particular areas of subjects and analysis.
Participant 5 wonders whether it would not be better to identify the working groups now so that they can look into these subjects and draft their recommendations before the conference.
The Host would like to include a working group on terminology to develop a common language during the conference.
Participant 2 thinks that the question of education should be examined and defined as well as it seems to mean different things depending on the perspective from which you look at it.
Participant 14 wants to step outside the academic and raise more practical questions: how can scholarship research be used in the future and by whom (by collectors, art traders…) and how to position yourself in the market?
The Chair then defines the topics for the different working groups and the Participants who want to join them:
- Set of guidelines and scope
- Homework by expert groups
A. Common terminology and understanding
B. Standards for scientific research and technological research
C. Education and training
D. Cataloguing and publishing
E. Dispute settlement
F. Practical use, users
F.3. Art trade
G. Legal implications
Participant 16 would prefer to have more time to “digest” the material discussed in today’s session and first read the minutes before deciding who is doing what. Only then could a document be produced from which working groups might be defined.
Participant 6 agrees that it would be better to work on the minutes first and then to look at this list later.
As regards to the organization of the congress several issues are raised:
- Character of the congress: it should be as much open as possible
- All the groups should very well reflect multiple points of view
- There should be inviting key notes and invited speakers to define the areas of collaboration
- Submitted papers and small working groups
- The conference should last three days. Is the proposed time frame of 2014 a feasible one?
- How will the working groups communicate and work together (options: e-mails, websites, Google docs, Skype, another pre-meeting, a discussion forum on the website only accessible to the present Participants).
- The type of work to be discussed (only paintings?);
- The historical periods to be dealt with (need to focus). Do we include contemporary art in the agenda or not?
- Can other people be introduced? In this respect Participant 4 suggests inviting Michael Frayne (author of Headlong) who is an excellent speaker
- What is the maximum number of congress participants? 2000 participants may attend it. However the audience expresses some doubts about this large number as it would implicate a huge preparation of work and most likely the planning of another preliminary meeting. Additional working groups might also be needed. Limiting the number of participants to 200 à 300 seems a more realistic plan. Also, if inviting too many people a strict selection procedure would have to be applied. Would that be desirable?
Participant 16 has some serious reservations about the practicality of the whole project, based on the fact that there are no auctioneers involved yet in the congress and the possible exclusion of contemporary art as a topic to be addressed. In his opinion contemporary art is an important market and also linked to important legal aspects. The congress would not be taken seriously enough if contemporary art is not addressed. Finally publishing a set of absolutes might provoke some disturbed reactions among buyers.
Participant 11 then engages into a discussion with Participant 16 on whether the issue of contemporary art should be addressed or not during the congress. In her opinion and from a scientific point of view, contemporary art is an underdeveloped field of physical authentication and moreover focuses around the artist as such. As a result several groups of disciplines would have to be excluded.
Participant 2 thinks that the issues concerning contemporary art (Warhol to the present) differ significantly from those of earlier centuries through the mid-twentieth century and should not be included.
The brainstorming session is then interrupted by the arrival of the mayor of The Hague.
The Chair welcomes the mayor warmly and introduces him to the audience. Before being the current mayor of The Hague he was Minister of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs. The Chair then resumes the issues addressed during the meeting and announces the next congress to be held in The Hague in 2014.
The Host emphasizes that the organization of such a large conference needs a good preparation to be started today already.
Participant 10 adds that the idea of this meeting was to include in the discussion as many disciplines as possible so as to encourage the expression of different views on the subject.
Participant 6 thanks the mayor for his hospitality. As a City of Peace and Justice The Hague is a wonderful place to have this conference organized.
The Chair then invites the mayor to say a few words.
The mayor thanks the Host and the Chair for being invited to the last part of the meeting. He is pleased that the conference will be held in The Hague and gladly accepts to host it. The Hague is indeed the City of Peace and Justice with many EU and UN institutions established there. He informs the audience that next year will also be an important year for The Hague as the 200 years existence of the Kingdom of The Netherlands will be celebrated at the end of November 2014.
The Chair points out that if the conference counts 300 people it might be held in the new wing of the Peace Palace; if hosting 2000 participants, the premises of the large congress centre of the city would be an excellent location.
He thanks the mayor and ends the meeting by inviting everyone for a drink and to bring a toast to the conference and the 200 years Kingdom of The Netherlands.
no relationship exists between the participant numbers and their names