The question of 'studio'

August 11 2014

Image of The question of 'studio'

Picture: TAN

If an artwork is made, even in part, by an artist's studio assistants, is it a fake? Yes, according to the Dusseldorf District Court in Germany, who agreed with the widow of the German artist Jorg Immendorff, Oda Jaune, after she spotted the above work in an auction catalogue, and said it was a fake. The court said the picture must be destroyed (in a case which has echoes of the fake 'Chagall' we featured on 'Fake or Fortune?').

However, the owners of the work protested (naturlich!) and pointed out that the work had been bought directly from Immendorff's studio, with a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist. It seems that Immendorff was very ill with a neurogenerative disease towards the end of his life, and, noted an appeals court, sanctioned the sale of late works made in his studio by his assistants. The appeals court therefore ruled that the picture, which was a replica of an earlier work by the artist, should not be destroyed. More details of the case here inThe Art Newspaper.

Now the point of all this, of course, is that if the reasoning of the Dusseldorf district court was extended across the contemporary art market, then the vast majority of works by the likes of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons would not only be deemed 'inauthentic', but ripe for destruction. So which court would you be rooting for; the District Court or the appeals court?

Update - a reader writes:

A logical riposte to your final observation is that, in the light of the recent kerfuffle over 'Bombay Mix',  Mr Hirst apparently agrees with the court.

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