"83% of wealth managers see authenticity, provenance, and attribution issues as the greatest risks to the art market. Art professionals are echoing this statement, with 81% saying these are major risks to the art market."
Deloitte Art & Finance report 2019
Stephen D. Brodie, lawyer at Herrick Feinstein LLP
MARK JONES, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE V&A AND THE NATIONAL MUSEUMS OF SCOTLAND
Forgery is to art what naked short-selling is to securities: a fraudulent practice more widespread than acknowledged. In securities markets, the world’s most highly regulated, naked short-selling has been severely curtailed by the development of sophisticated technology to detect and eliminate inauthentic shares. But in art, the world’s largest, lawful and still unregulated market, forgery is denied, not detected. Art crime, including forgery, is estimated by UNESCO and the US Dept. of Justice to be the third highest-grossing criminal trade of the past 40 years (behind only drugs and weapons).
As great art works command ever-greater economic value, so has the risk-to-reward ratio of forgery. In the recent Pollock scandal, canvasses that cost $9,000 to forge were sold for prices in excess of $1.2 million. Forgers, often art insiders themselves (talented artists and conservators), combine their gifts with the brush to fool connoisseurs with their sophisticated understanding of the laboratory tests employed, in order to fool scientists. A kind of “arms race” has emerged, pitting art emulation against detection. Authenticators are falling far behind forgers. The number of connoisseurs is diminishing, and detection technologies are largely unchanged from where they were two decades ago.
Recognising that a learned eye alone is insufficient to spot a forgery, Hephaestus systematically harnesses the collaboration between curators, researchers and scientists to produce the world’s highest evidentiary standards of authentication. Our mission is to solve the problem of forgery in the art markets, and no problem was ever solved by refusing to mention its name.