Thursday, October 6, 2016
A fake painting that sold for £8.4 million signals a highly skilled forger in the arts market
A painting sold by auction house Sotheby's for £8.4 million ($10.6 million) has been assessed as fake, raising fears that more multimillion pound forgeries are on the market, according to a report in the Financial Times.
The work, by Dutch artist Frans Hals, was sold to an anonymous US buyer in 2011.
However, it was taken back by Sotheby's after the auction house discovered its connection to another alleged fake.
The scandal goes back to earlier this year. It started in March, when a painting by German painter Lucas Cranach was seized by the French authorities at an exhibition in the south of France.
That painting, called 'Venus,' dated from 1531. It sold in London for £6 million, but is now under assessment at the Louvre, and is believed to be fake.
When Sotheby's linked the £8.4 million Hals painting to the same source as the French fake, it was sent back to the auction house, whose experts used pigmentation tests to determine that it was "undoubtedly" a fake.
A spokesperson from Sotheby's told Business Insider: "With the consent of the seller, we informed the buyer of a possible issue with the authenticity of the painting.
"We then worked together to commission an in-depth technical analysis which established that the work was undoubtedly a forgery, after which we rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full.
"Clients transact with us because they know Sotheby's will keep its promises when problems arise, and we were very pleased to do that in this case."
In an interview with the Daily Mail, art dealer Bob Haboldt described the episode as "the biggest art scandal in a century."
He described the person behind the fakes as the 'Moriarty of the Old Master', in a reference to the mastermind villain in the Sherlock Holmes books. An Old Master is any painter from Europe who painted before 1800.
There are now concerns that the market has up to 25 other fakes in it. The Daily Mail reports that the scandal could cost art investors £200 million.
It also says that Sotheby's are threatening legal action against the art dealer who sold supplied the Hals painting.