Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"In the long run, permitting scholars to freely publish their opinions about works of art without getting entangled in complicated, expensive and often gratuitous lawsuits will benefit history and art history."

Dedalus Foundation president Jack Flam in the Wall Street Journal today:

"Since the exclusion of a work can greatly affect its market value, a good deal of pressure is sometimes exerted by owners of questionable works to have them included in the catalog. As a result, the scholarly authors of catalogues raisonnés have increasingly had to worry about potential lawsuits from collectors or dealers unhappy about the exclusion of works they own. ... As a result of this growth in litigation, many experts have been discouraged from giving opinions about authentication not only to the public but even to scholars studying other artists. Some artist-created foundations have entirely sidestepped giving opinions about authenticity by delaying the creation of catalogues raisonnés, or by declining to undertake supplements to already published catalogs. So far as I know, all such lawsuits have been unsuccessful, but they can nonetheless inflict an enormous loss of time and money on the foundations involved. ... There are laws, such as the anti-Slapp (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statutes, that protect free speech for the public good. Since a substantial part of the U.S. art market is based in New York, the art community should work with that state's legislature to find a way to strengthen such laws so scholars can express their opinions without being intimidated or even silenced by the threat of litigation."