Tuesday, August 07, 2012

"How can anyone outside of a comic opera expect the authenticity of an old painting to be settled by a lawsuit?"

Patricia Cohen has an interesting article in yesterday's Times on "the divide between the court and the market" when it comes to assessing authenticity claims.

One of the themes that runs through the piece is that what a court says is "meaningless," because whether or not a work will be accepted as authentic is "a function of the marketplace."   That's no doubt true, but that doesn't mean the legal outcome is meaningless.  If a plaintiff prevails against an expert for claiming a work is inauthentic, or a foundation for refusing to authenticate a work, then, although the market is still free to (and likely will) ignore the court's decision, the consequences to the parties to the lawsuit are enormous.  A court can't compel the market to accept that your Picasso is real; but it can award you the millions of dollars you would be entitled to if it could.  That means something.