Fine Art/Picasso authentication
As you know, there is a tv art auction, finearttreasures, that sells among other things, Picasso lithographs. I purchased one ("Girls With a Boat", original painting 1937) that they said was authenticated by David Smith of Manchester England in association with OJazz Fine Art(it came with COA paperwork); they said that it was forensically examined by this third party and determined to be hand signed in pencil by Picasso; that it is from a (unnumbered) Paris edition copyrighted in France 1946 and that they were found/acquired in Germany and France and subsequently examined by this David Smith before they acquired them for the show. I have looked closely at the object and both the age/quality of the paper and the lack of a dot matrix under 20x suggest it is indeed old and an actual lithograph. You can see under 20x the different intermixing of color layers but not the typical organized dot matrix of say a poster/ reproduction/ book print/ off-set litho., etc. So, I feel reasonably confident about it being a lithograph and of some considerable age.
What I don't know is, were several "after" lithographs of Picasso works created and catalogued in France around 1946, with or without his involvement? There are a dozen or more different after works that finearttreasures sell under this same description. The COA does not say who the publisher was.
Is this David Smith a legitimate authenticator? I have not been able to find any information on him. Based on examinations of works with Picasso's pencil signature in Museums on-line (which by the way seems to vary all over the place, but with some key distinctions) these pieces seem to have a reasonable signature. I have seen some not reasonable signatures that are obviously way out to lunch on Ebay sales. I realize you can't tell me for sure if the signature is truely Picasso's, but at least knowing that the information on the COA is accurate as well as the stature of this David Smith would be a step in the right direction...
I think that finearttreasures sells some stuff that is legit and clearly other stuff that is questionable, as has been documented in your columns (notably the "crayon signed Chagall's" that clearly he did not sign, the Chagall Institute in France has told me that he never, ever signed directly on a reprint, only on lithos and in the margin); Additionally they are selling a different group of Picasso's not authenticated by David Smith for which they do not directly comment on during the auction as to who authenticated them. They sold these as recently as 8/12/06; these so-called numbered and signed pieces appear to be facimiles, some of which which can be found and bought at the site newyorkgalleria.com for only $400; they appear to have a machine printed signature, identically reproduced on each print with a distinct pattern. When specifically asked, finearttreasures will tell you the COA is from New York Galleria. Your readers should be wary of any of these "signed and numbered Picasso's" that have a COA from New York Galleria.
Van--since I know the company has sold giclees as original Picasso's for 5+ times their value, I would not bother to buy anything from such people. Also, I have not heard of Mr. Smith. I am sure the signatures you refer to are facsimiles, and buyers should proceed with extreme caution, as you indicate. Thanks for writing. Alan.
Check out Alan's latest book, ART COLLECTING 101, at www.booklocker.com.