Deep Thought Thursday: The Experts

If it takes a team of experts to collectively agree that a certain painting is, for example, by Rembrandt or Pollock, should the fake Rembrandts and Pollocks be less valuable?

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12 comments to Deep Thought Thursday: The Experts

  • I have heard of past and present artists/craftspeople whose work was created by the hands of others but under the artist’s direction. Is that work valid or partially a fake? Just a different twist on the real vs. fake Thursday question.

  • Walater Hawn

    That *is* a deep thought. When it comes to the “The Man With a Golden Helmet,” for example, I’d say it’s every bit as good and valuable a work as any ‘authentic’ Rembrandt. Further, the experts don’t really know. They have waffled on several of ‘his’ works, saying sometimes they are his, sometimes his students’. My guess is, based on both historical reading and my experience in art classes, any work from his studio has at least a brush-stroke or two from his hand. I say. if it is great painting, from the Netherlands, in the style of Rembrandt, of the proper materials of the period, then it’s good enough to fetch a great price. For Pollock, the issue is less clear, since his value rests more on the progression of concepts from work to work than on any single work. The price of an authored work should therefore be higher. I think. OTOH, Warhol deliberately ambiguated his provenance, by leaving a great deal of the labor (even sometimes the design itself) of silkscreening to others, raising the question (as he intended) of whether the idea of authorship has any validity.

  • a recent thought I came across…(paraphrased) if an egotistical artist signs a painting, then the signature is egotistical…if a humble artist signs a painting, then the signature is humble. so, it is not the signature which is under discussion but the intention & ethic of the artist in question… to this subject.then. if an artist creates an original masterpiece with intention toward, for example, merely greed to make money…& another artist creates an homage to an original with intent to honour the past, educate or venerate- then that imitation may not be a fake or fraud but an innocent & noble gesture. (students often do this). So, in these exceptional cases, where originals sell for ridiculously large sums of money, & an honest homage sells for considerably less, the ‘fake’ may have greater intrinsic value for the buck, insofar as you are not being jilted out of your life savings for a painting. (I see most photo prints of originals & giclees as being ‘fakes’ in a manner…) So, for value for the dollar, the copy may give you more…Should a copy cost more than an original ? Only if it is better in some way…usually not. Price is dependent on the market though & if someone wants to pay more for a copy than for an original, the market will bear that…unfortunately.

  • Personally, I value an original Rembrandt or Pollock more than a reproduction. I value the original more than a copy because I appreciate the intangibles such vision, concept, forethought, and the time, effort and personal experiences that underlie a particular composition. The original artwork is not only a finished product, it is evidence of the artist’s life journey. If the buyers that actually plunk down $$ agree with me, they also value original works more than a well-executed copy and pay more. However, I can see that it’s possible for a buyer to find value in a copy – perhaps if it has historical (or other) significance. As an example, if Anne Frank painted a copy of a famous portrait of Hitler, her copy may have more value than the original.

  • If an artist makes an item (such as a shark cut in half or a bunny made out of mylar) strictly so stockbrokers who are getting multi million dollar bonuses can buy the item as an investment, is that art??

  • A painting by Rembrandt or Pollock has an intrinsic value partly from the fact that it is one example of a body of work by a painter who has come to be valued. A painting which is a fake is an example of the greed of an individual who wants to defraud others. Yes – I do think there should be a very great deal of difference in the values. It would be nice to think that the “experts” can tell the difference. Unfortunately it seems that “experts” are not independent of the auction houses that stand to make a lot of money if the piece is credited to the artist nor do they take the trouble to do the proper tests. It’s a fact that some of the auction houses have validated fakes in the past in a way which suggests this was not a genuine mistake. I think the legal cases continue. I’d be fairly confident that given the recent over-inflated boom in the art market there are probably rather a lot of “Madoff” works out there somewhere – works of complete fiction with a view to making a lot of money. I don’t think anybody who has bought artwork from auction houses in the last few years should be absolutely confident that they’ve actually bought “the real thing”.

  • I came with the intent of answering the question and got sidetracked by the comments to another question: is making money on art greed? or just good old capitalism?

  • Rembrandt came up with a new way of applying oil paint – all by himself. He was not only a gifted artist, but a trailblazer. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to copy the works of that trailblazer – so no, I don’t think the copy is worth as much as the original.

  • All good thoughts. But, really, what if no one–not even the experts–can tell them apart? Tammy: There’s another Deep Thought. Maybe next week!

  • It’s not up to the experts really, it’s up to the person who is buying the work…They have to trust their own instincts…Great work is usually great for a reason…I find an “aha” feeling when I look at great work…If it is a forgery, the aha moment isn’t there…& all the experts in the world won’t convince me if my heart isn’t moved…Whatever the work, I think the important thing is to trust yourself…Doesn’t really matter what anyone else says, you are the one paying…

  • I think it’s interesting that most of the responses here are valuing the original idea over the talent/technique. Does this translate to how you value all other art? Sari: Thanks for reminding us who sets the value of art–those who pull out their wallets.

  • I think I was valuing “the real thing” over “the fraud” and suggesting that “fakes” can NEVER be as valuable as the real thing. As the art market repeatedly demonstrates every time a “fake” is uncovered. I’d happily pay up for a very good copy of “the real thing” – when it’s openly acknowledged and absolutely legitimate. Isn’t that we do when buy a fine art print of an old master?