While the auction house Sotheby’s has established a record for the most expensive art work sale in the year 2012 with Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’ which was auctioned for $120m, its great rival Chrisite’s London has added a bad feather in its cap for being held liable for selling a fake painting worth £1.7 million to Viktor Vekselberg’s, a Russian oligarch back in 2005.
Viktor Vekselberg’s, the owner and president of Renova Group, is one of the world’s richest people with a net worth of $12.4 billion. The Russian conglomerate has won a £3 million High Court battle against Christie’s after they sold him a fake painting called ‘Odalisque’ beleived to be of the prominent Russian artist Boris Kustodiev.
Viktor Vekselberg’s arts fund called Avrora Fine Arts bought the artwork in 2005 after the auction house’s experts authenticated the painting as an original Kustodiev (1878 - 1927). But, a careful analysis of the Cyrillic signature 'B. Kustodiev-1919-' on the lower left of the artwork turned out to be forged and applied to the oil canvas in the late 1940’s while Kustodiev died in 1927.
Another forgery argument was the use of an aluminium-based pigment on the canvas, which is believed to be used by artists until after Kustodiev's death.
Andy Kerman, Senior Partner of Kerman and Co which represented Avrora in the ruling, said that Avrora was forced to sue Christie’s in the High Court after the auction house failed to make any progress once the concerns about the painting were notified to them in November 2006, within the five year guarantee period on the authenticity of art work. The court ruled that Christie’s must pay Mr Vekselberg’s company the full cost of the painting plus an estimated £1.4 million costs of the trial lasting 19 days.
This isn’t a one-off incident where a fake work of art has been sold for millions. Fake signature, debatable provenance has been dreading the auction houses like the counterfeit luxury products to the luxury brands, though to a much smaller extent. Earlier the court has ruled Sotheby's for selling forged painting to shipping tycoon, Diamantis Diamantides.
Sotheby's was found guilty of selling a fake painting by Greek artist Constantin Parthenis. The ruling stated that the work titled "Virgin and Child" was an alleged forgery for which Sotheby's and its specialist had to pay Diamantides $1.16 million.
A significant fake painting sale worth $11.25 million by Beijing Jiuge International Auction Company highlighted the forgery art dealing of an oil painting hailed to be a work of Chinese artist Xu Beihong (1895-1953) turned out to be a fake after a group of graduates from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) claimed the work was inked by a classmate of theirs in 1983.
The entire saga raises concern over the weaknesses of the art auction system.
Also, check out the Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow,” the most expensive contemporary art sold at a record $87 million by Chrisite's in 2012.