07 November, 2018

When Rivals Work Together

The size of the art market in 2017 was $63.7bn. However, inside that vast market are fake artworks. With modern technology, artworks previously thought to be original have been found to be a fake. It's not the just paintings that sell for millions but also towards the lower end of the scale.

This presents huge problems for sellers such as auction houses because reputation is everything.

A while ago, there was an article on an artwork called 'Portrait of a Gentlemen' thought to be by Frans Hals was actually a fake.

This rocked the art world because of the quality. The buyer was refunded and now a landmark court case is on the horizon as Sotheby's seek to recover their losses. 

To strengthen their case, they have asked Christie's to assist them but why?  

The Artwork in Question

So, 'Portrait of a Gentleman' is a seventeenth-century painting by Frans Hals.

Sotheby's thought they sold this painting in 2011, for £8.5m, to U.S. real estate investor, Richard Hedreen. However, testing found the presence of materials and pigments that would not have been available back then but 4 centuries later!

They are now suing the owners of the gallery, Mark Weiss LTD, to recoup their losses.

What made the forgery so remarkable is the fact that it's not a copy but an original painted in the style of Hals. 

The artwork was in the possession of French art collector Giuliano Ruffini who also had other paintings taken by the French police in 2016.

To help Sotheby's case, the court allowed them to ask specialists from Christie's to provide evidence from their findings. 

How the Partnership Will Work

Christie's will provide evidence in a French court to explain how their initial research into the painting doubted its authenticity. This evidence will then be used in UK court.

Why France? Well, Ruffin bought the painting from a Spanish dealer but was told it might not be by Hals but a student. So, in 2008, Ruffin brought the painting to Christie's French arm and asked them to investigate.

Christie's initially said it was real, so the French authorities turned their attention to other artworks which they believe are fake and still in circulation. They are thought to be hanging on the walls of royalty and the rich or famous.

It's believed that one of the specialists told French authorities about the 'doubts' they had about the artwork.

Final Words

The case is expected next year and it's gearing up to be one of the biggest art fraud cases in recent history. 

Mark Weiss is claiming that Sotheby's had no obligation to refund the buyer if the artwork was, at the time, considered authentic.  

Sotheby's will be awaiting the evidence from Christie's as they look to strengthen their case. By combining their research, it will mark a rare time a cooperation like this is publicly stated.

If you want to see some tips for spotting fake art then check out our guide here: 5 Top Tips for Spotting Fake Art - 2018.

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Rivals Sotheby's and Christie's Team Up For £8m Fraud Case
Rivals Sotheby's and Christie's Team Up For £8m Fraud Case