Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

April 8 2019

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

Picture: via TAN

The long-awaited trial at the High Court in London between Sotheby's and the art dealer Mark Weiss (and his former business partner David Kowitz) over an alleged fake Frans Hals has begun. We were expecting a battle royal over the authenticity of the picture, but at the last moment Weiss settled with Sotheby's, agreeing to pay over $4.2m. In a statement, Weiss said he still stands by the attribution to Hals. Sotheby's case against Kowitz and his Fairlight Arts Venture (which owned half the painting) continues. In turn, Weiss is seeking half of his settlement from Kowitz. It'll be interesting to see how ends up with the biggest bill, but at the moment it looks like Weiss has acted shrewdly, in terms of legal tactics. Not that there are any winners in this sad affair. Vincent Noce - the journalist who first broke the story of a string of Old Master fakes - has a full report on the case so far in The Art Newspaper.

The most important question is yet to be answered; who painted this extraordinary picture? Another week of the trial is scheduled, but we've yet to hear of any dramatic revelations, or indeed any hint as to whether the matter might be addressed. Also strangely silent are the museums who exhibited or authenticated suspect pictures from the same source; The Met, the National Gallery, and the Louvre. The museums - and the curators involved - have adopted an ostrich defence, and are hoping the whole question will simply go away. In a way, I think that's the most scandalous aspect of this whole affair. 

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