According to the authors of “Art Conservation and Art Fraud: Dissecting the Thin Blue Line,” science cannot provide proof of authenticity in terms of absolute truth; it can only provide evidence for experts to employ towards “developing theories of ‘best fit’” with results of technical analysis placed on an interpretive continuum (Galbally 74). Our discussion of technical studies last week led most of the class to agree that “objective scientific truth” is a practically unattainable goal. Scientific facts are still dependent upon their reading and interpretation. Working with a pre-established methodology during authentication studies should help guard conservators from unintentionally blending fact with opinion.
Powerhouse Mechanic by Lewis Hine, early 1920's
The emergence of the so-called Matter Pollocks and the Rosenblum Hines into the art market illustrates the fact that even works with seemingly impeccable provenance and authentication by respected connoisseurs can fall short of certainty. Can buyers no longer rely on the connoisseur’s legendary “eye” to judge authenticity? Whose responsibility is it to authenticate artwork? What happens to the work when the connoisseur and conservation scientist disagree? Does such controversy forever taint the work’s aesthetic value? Its historical value?