The Laws in Art

Collectors TipAsja Nastasijevic

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  • Art forgery

Art authentication is surrounded by complex issues and a variety of players involved throughout the entire process. Practice shows that it is not a legal system that determines whether an artwork is authentic. It’s the market. Although the courts may have an impact on the work’s market value, it is more often the marketplace itself establishes whether an artwork is worthy of purchase. Nevertheless, art experts, curators, appraisers, authentication committees (the boards that are often established after a prominent artist’s death to protect his or her legacy), and the writers of catalogue raisonné (comprehensive lists of artists’ works) are increasingly closing shop or refraining from offer opinions. What is it about?


Seal of Proof


Orphan Works

Even if the market, and not judges or authentication committees, really determines authenticity, the fear among authenticators that they will be held legally liable for their opinions apparently spreads through the market. The market may be “expert-driven,” but the experts are afraid to speak up, fearing liability. Because of this threat, even authentication boards for artists such as Warhol, Basquiat, Lichtenstein and Haring no longer authenticate works by these artists. Similarly, individual art experts, curators, and the authors of catalogue raisonné have also become fearful of potential legal liability in offering an opinion on authenticity. Nobody wants to be sued. Today’s experts will most likely tell you in confidence whether the work is authentic or fake. This situation leads to a greater occurrence of fakes as well as the so-called “orphan” works in the market and increased litigation on the issue of authentication.

Art forgery

Examining artwork


Limit Liability

The main question is how to encourage experts to give their good-faith opinions? And how can buyers be reassured that they are not buying a fake? Thomas and Charles Danziger, New York–based art lawyers who represent collectors, dealers, banks, auction houses, and others in the art community, believe that the best and most practical solution is simply to limit the liability of authenticators, thus making them more willing to voice their opinions and reassure buyers. This way, authenticators would be protected in rendering independent, good-faith opinions about the authenticity, attribution and authorship of works of fine art. Finally, buyers will have more confidence in buying art.


Ceci nest pas une pipe

Margritte – This is not a Pipe

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