- (Photo: Lee Jaffe)
The methods of authenticating artworks purported to be by heavyweights of post-war American art have come under close scrutiny in the last several months, most recently in the fiasco of the forged Pollocks, Newmans and Rothkos, and before that during a dispute over a possible painting by Brooklyn-born 80s art star Jean-Michel Basquiat on a bodega door in Williamsburg. Crucially, that piece was denied Basquiat status by the authentication committee of the artist’s estate, run by his father Gerard Basquiat, which announced earlier this month that it will disband in September, sparking questions as to how future million-dollar-questions about possible Basquiat works’ authenticity will be settled.
On January 7 the artist’s estate announced:
The Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat announced that it will dissolve in September 2012 and no longer consider applications thereafter. The Authentication Committee has been in existence for eighteen years and has reviewed over 2,000 works of art. It believes that it has fulfilled its goal of providing the public with an opportunity to obtain an opinion as to the authenticity of works purportedly created by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Disputes about bodega door doodles notwithstanding, Basquiat’s oeuvre is relatively well documented, particularly in a catalogue compiled by art dealer Enrico Navarra. Talking to Gallerist about the committee’s disbanding, Upper East Side gallery owner Christophe Van de Weghe, who’s sold several Basquiats, says:
If there is a painting that isn’t in the Navarra catalogue, or a Basquiat that has never been shown, that could be dodgy. [...] It would still be very easy to contact the people who showed a painting originally. The Navarra catalogue is very good. It’s not complete, but it’s almost complete.
Most recently, a lawsuit over a forged Basquiat involving gallerist Tony Shafrazi, auction house Christie’s and collector Guido Orsi was dismissed in November of last year. Though similar cases are less likely to arise with Basquiat than, say, Warhol—who produced so much more work, and whose output has been less comprehensively documented—if you’ve been hanging onto a drawing you salvaged from a Crosby Street rooftop in the mid-80s, you should probably get your application into the Basquiat estate before September.
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