DEALERS’ WAR ON THE AVANT-GARDE / 1

Taking part in the creating of a myth, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, hosted a two-day Symposium in the context of their exhibition, Original and Fake, on 6-7 November 2020. Talks on artists and on collections by art historians and museum curators were complemented by presentations on scientific research, and the papers gave a good range of the issues at stake – the various aspects of assessing the authenticity of works of art.

The most unfortunate intrusion into these otherwise professional considerations was that of a minor London art dealer who openly declared, “I am not an art historian but a dealer”,  “I am not academic”. It became obvious. He was a showman, out to sell his ideas by swindling  the audience with gossip and slander and distorted history.

He accused others of the sins of his own kind – scams in the art world. He feigned sympathy for “little old ladies” whom he felt obliged to tell that their paintings were “fake” based on his personal art market criteria, feigned shock that a scholarly book on Natalia Goncharova had been made illegal in Russia because it contained “fakes” – which has never been proven – and clucked that he had put a man in prison because his paintings were “fake” – a case that is currently in the courts so about which it is illegal to comment.

And he decried InCoRM saying its members gave “certificates of authenticity”. THEY DO NOT and never have. And when a message was sent through to the speaker to clarify this, he read it out and shrugged his shoulders with a dismissive and mischievous grin.

These members of InCoRM are art historians whose expertise is vouched for by their publications, knowledge and good reputations, and who express OPINIONS on works of art which are strictly ART HISTORICAL.

So in the section that the Ludwig Museum called, “The mass faking of the Russian Avant-garde”, they got their man, their messenger, their showman. The whole initiative to invite papers on scholarly work to investigate authenticity was discredited because it was tainted with a basic flaw – anti-scholarly proclamations from a member of the art market claiming authority which he does not have. This was an insult to the scholars who became but a disguise to grace the outlandish presentations of a dealer’s market strategies, and they should object for having been so ignobly exploited, their work arrogantly disdained.

Significantly, there was no proof of the “mass faking of the Russian Avant-Garde”. The speakers from the Wiesbaden case had had to admit defeat because the court had returned around 1,800 works which the Prosecutor had been unable to prove to be fakes. The only noticeable fakes was the fake news propagated by the minor London dealer, the story of “mass faking” but a fable bundled up as fake news.

Dr. Patricia Railing

President of InCoRM

12 November 2020

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