Monday, December 04, 2006

Latest on the Matter Matter

The New York Times had an update over the weekend on the so-called "Matter Pollocks":

"In an article published this week in the prestigious science journal Nature, two physicists contend that a method intended to identify complex geometric patterns in the seemingly chaotic drip paintings of Jackson Pollock is flawed and may be useless in the increasingly convoluted world of authenticating Pollock’s work."

The full story (including a color photo of Matter and three of the works) is here. An earlier post on the "fractal" study the Nature article purports to debunk is here.

Not unrelatedly, Carol Vogel's most recent Inside Art column in the New York Times discussed how technology is playing a larger and larger role in the world of Rembrandt authentications.

The tension between science and connoisseurship when it comes to authenticating art plays a role in Malcolm Gladwell's best-selling Blink, where he discusses the case of a supposedly ancient Greek statue that was offered to the Getty for $10 million in 1983. Relying on months of careful study by a geologist (to determine the age of the piece), the museum concluded that it was authentic and went ahead with the purchase. When art historians looked at it, though, they experienced an immediate, "intuitive revulsion"-- and they turned out to be correct: the piece was eventually proven a fake, and the sale rescinded.