Capital Punishment

My initial intention was to send this to the Chagall Committee but I have been unable to find a mailing address for it. So, I have sent it to Fake or Fortune at the BBC.

I just watched the Fake or Fortune episode on Chagall. I’m disappointed that any government would give an organisation the right to destroy property, authentic or otherwise. The painting is property and was paid for by the buyer so the destruction is tantamount to theft. I’m against capital punishment and it seems to me that this decision to destroy the painting amounts to the same thing. I know it’s difficult to equate taking a life to the destruction of a piece of property but in this case, it feels appropriate.

Let’s say the Chagall is a forgery. It was sold by the forger and bought by the owner in good faith. If the present owner now wants to sell it then the organisation is welcome to say they don’t accept it and consider it a forgery. So, the artwork isn’t worth as much as it would be if it were deemed authentic. But if the organisation destroys it then whatever the owner paid for it should be reimbursed by the organisation; if they don’t pay then it’s theft.

If the organisation destroys the art then there is no chance to retest the art to ensure that a mistake has not been made. I believe that the destruction is simply a ruse by the organisation to ensure that a mistake never comes to light and the organisation is never found libel for the cost of the art. It’s a little insurance, and to say that they are doing it for the artist, art in general or art lovers is disingenuous. This is reprehensible behavior and far worse than any forgery.

As an artist I paint what I want in the way that I want. Should anyone decide to forge my work I would consider it flattering. Not necessarily by the forger but rather by the individual who might buy it. I might feel I had to do something about it if it were taking money out of my pocket, but in the case of the Chagall work he is long dead and would not receive any benefit or harm. I paint because I enjoy painting, I will never receive any benefit from future sales and I can’t see any reason why someone would consider destroying any work, fake or otherwise, that purported to be by me.

I understand that the art market is monetarily huge but none of that money goes to the artist or their families. These organisations that decide on the validity of art and fabricate the right to destroy that art, are themselves thieves. I don’t begrudge their decision to act as experts but I take great umbrage at their deciding that they have a right to destroy any work that they consider fake. What if they are wrong?

What gives anyone the right to believe they can destroy the art of others? Just because the work is believed to be, or even proven to be fake, it is still valued and by destroying the work they insult and devalue every other artist’s work. It takes talent and expertise to create great works of art but it also takes great talent and expertise to copy that work. I would like to think it is the talent and expertise that is valued.

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