In the book, Provenance, by Laney Salisbury and Aly Suj, the story is a fascinating account of an elaborate art forgery scheme, compiled from various trial archives and witness interviews. It raises some interesting questions around how much of the art in museums and collections is real or fake. How do experts prove authenticity and appraise art works?
While trial cases of art forgery might be the rare case, we are seeing more coverage of cases concerning the restoration of art to owners from whom it was stolen, particularly during World War II. Claims, trials, and expert testimony have been a consistent segment of the art world.
Fine Arts expert witnesses are not limited to the trial setting. Indeed, their more frequent deployment may be for insurance coverage and insurance claims. Valuable works of art are separately insured, apart from homeowner’s or business premises insurance. Policies above a certain values impose a requirement for an expert evaluation of the art prior to binding coverage.
Where certain highly valuable works of art are concerned, insurance companies work with law enforcement on claims submissions, including employment of independent expert witnesses. Evaluations include everything from the provenance of a particular work to extreme specialization for individual artists during specific periods of their careers. These experts are typically international in their pursuit of their own advanced degrees, papers and presentations, and work for art foundations and museums.
Apart from insurance, estate, and trust issues, another application for the fine art appraisal expert witness is for purposes of valuation during a matrimonial case. The so-called household items are generally distributed by and between the parties, but there are cases wherein either it’s known that the artwork is valuable or the question should at least be explored. The expert witness in fine arts can conduct an in-person evaluation, proper documentation, provenance search, and even authentication.
And if you find all of this intriguing, then grab a second book full of expert witnesses, “The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa,” specifically the sections about those who evaluated the Mona Lisa after she went missing from The Louvre…
By Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney & Policy Analyst