Saturday, November 23, 2013

BBC Documentary Casting Light On the World of Art Appraising

Just saw a very fascinating BBC documentary show last week that detailed the process for authentication of a supposed Monet painting entitled Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil. The owner of this painting had been trying to authenticate this painting for almost two decades.  Art expert Philip Mould attempted to navigate the murky and complex art establishment world and found that - at least in the case of presumed Monet artworks - one authority, in the form of the Parisian-based Wildenstein Institute, has a veritable world monopoly on Monet authentication.

Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil
During the course of the documentary, the filmmakers and art experts researched and pieced together historical records and conducted a barrage of tests to determine this painting's pedigree.  This concrete documentation was formally presented to the Wildenstein Institute in Paris [the institute which had previously denied the painting's authenticity on numerous occasions in the past].  Without reviewing the incontrovertible evidence of authenticity, and without explanation, the Institute again denied that this was a genuine Monet.  In effect, their denial of this work casts a pall of illegitimacy on this painting and locks it out of the art world market.

Since this documentary first aired in the UK in 2011, most world-renowned art experts have reviewed the documentation and have steadfastly affirmed that Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil is an authentic Monet.   The Wildenstein Institute however, is still unmoved.

Some art authorities believe that the Institute is hoping the painting eventually finds its way to the market, where they can pick it up at a low sum and do their own follow-up research, and then miraculously confirm its authenticity.  Others claim that if the Wildenstein Institute reverses its position after so many years of denying the painting's authenticity, this reversal will undermine its own prominence as the dominant authority in the art world.  Whatever the reason, the Institute has opened itself up to criticism and condemnation for what some claim is its pompous and arrogant attitude (what the Institute calls its "connoisseurship").  Yet, this one sole entity still wields supreme power in the art world when it comes to the authenticating the works of Monet. 

This is a fascinating story, and I encourage all who are interested in art to research the internet on the Wildenstein Institute, and the patriarch founder of the Wildenstein dynasty, Daniel Wildenstein. 

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