A Hirst fake?

July 15 2022

Image of A Hirst fake?

Picture: via The Times

In The Times, David Sanderson has an interesting story about a Damien Hirst spot print said to by its owner to be a fake, and by its vendor - Sotheby's - to be genuine. In 2004, the novelist Ken Follett bought the print at auction for £4,000. He hung it on his wall cheerfully for almost 20 years until he had it reframed, but when the framer contacted Eyestorm, a gallery which produced Hirst's spot prints, it was suggested it might be fake. When Eyestorm then got in touch with Hirst's own company, Science Ltd, to get an official view of authenticity, they said it was indeed a fake. From The Times:

The email from the employee claims: “The design has all of the incorrect spots typically seen in fake editions, and the paper borders and material are not consistent with those originally produced by Eyestorm.“We don’t have this edition recorded in our old system, so I’m inclined to think that Sotheby’s never sent it to us for authentication at the time of sale, which is a shame.”

Not so fast, say Sotheby's, who requested the print back for examination, and then themselves got in touch with Science Ltd:

“Since a query was raised earlier this year Sotheby’s has undertaken appropriate due diligence to verify that this is an authentic piece by the artist and further to these inquiries is satisfied with the 2004 designation.”

All of which sounds unsatisfactory. Who is right? One of the great appeals of contemporary art for collectors is supposed to be that questions of authenticity never arise. But when you get artworks which are produced in such numbers, and with so little direct connection to the hand of the artist, then such confusion is probably inevitable. Add in fakes, because the 'original' is so easy to fake, then the dividing lines become almost impossibly blurred. Perhaps the most concerning thing here is that both parties could be right, or rather, wrong. In other words, nobody can be certain, even now while the artist is still alive and within twenty years of the artwork being sold. I wouldn't be wanting to try and sell these things in 50 years time.

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