Well this is certainly an interesting one… as I am sure many of you know, buying at auction is inherently risky – condition issues may not be disclosed, there may be gaps in provenance which obscure proper ownership, and works may be inauthentic altogether. When those issues arise, there is usually very little recourse for the buyer – most auction houses operate with a “buy at your own risky” policy, where it is up to you to do your due diligence and know what you are buying. That makes it very difficult for some to have full confidence in the auction system; after all, they are supposed to be considered “experts” yet mistakes are still made.
Case in point, Sotheby’s is suing a Florida couple after it was uncovered that they consigned and sold fraudulent works through their auction said to be by artist Diego Giacometti. By no means is the couple innocent – they seemingly knew the works were not authentic and went through quite a bit of trouble to conceal that fact.
Fredric and Bettina Thut, the accused Florida couple, went as far as creating fake provenance records and paperwork; that was seemingly enough to fool one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world. You would think an organization such as Sotheby’s would do a bit of research of their own before selling works for more than $1M, but clearly they have other prioritie$. Nevertheless, it is a bad look so Sotheby’s is now going after the Florida couple for $7M!
When confronted with the fact, it is said their experts reacted in disbelief, pointing to the “strength of the provenance documents.” It doesn’t exactly take an expert to read provenance, so perhaps there should be a higher bar set in an effort to protect the buyers. Just think of how many fraudulent works passed through an auction and were never questioned – many of them still hanging among private collections, unbeknownst to the owner.
It’ll be interesting to see how this one shakes out, as the couple is reportedly refusing to hand over the proceeds. We’ll see what the judge says…