It is most unfortunate if, as reported on the front page of your March edition, “Scholarly debate will be stifled after Knoedler”. The reference is to those experts who were employed in the authentication of the claimed forgeries, which formed the basis of the lawsuits against Knoedler and others.
I say unfortunate for there is not the slightest basis, other than excessive timidity, for a scholar, expert or others to refrain from giving an honest and reasoned opinion as to the genuineness of a work or its appropriateness for inclusion or exclusion from a catalogue raisonné.
Nations which have followed the common law tradition have uniformly valued and encouraged openness in opinion-giving by those with the appropriate commercial or academic background in the subject and either by statute or judicial decision have insulated them from damage claims by disappointed claimants. Knoedler should give rise to no cause for alarm.
Leon Polsky, former judge of the New York Court of Claims and acting justice of the New York Supreme Court; member of the board of the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) and of its law advisory committee
I would like to correct certain statements concerning the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) published in your interview with Ann Freedman last month (“Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence,” The Art Newspaper, April, p6).
As is now known, in October 2003 IFAR issued a report concerning its review of a purported Jackson Pollock sold by the Knoedler Gallery to Jack Levy. The statement that IFAR could not “determine whether the work was authentic or not”, implying that we did not come to an opinion, is not correct.
As the report makes clear, IFAR had serious concerns about the painting’s style, material properties, signature, lack of documentation, and reported provenance, which we concluded was “inconceivable”. We wrote three times within the report, and again in the cover letter, that we could not accept the work as a Pollock. And we were right. If we were writing a catalogue raisonné, it would not have been included.
Also incorrect is the assertion that a “recent history of bad feeling” between IFAR and Knoedler might have affected our report. There has been no bad feeling during my tenure that I know of, nor would any have affected our report. To imply otherwise is offensive. We are a 47-year-old non-profit organisation dedicated to integrity in the visual arts.
Finally, it was disclosed at the outset that the specialists [consulted for the IFAR report] would be anonymous. Only Freedman knows why she didn’t heed its warnings. In any event, the report was not written for her, but for [Jack] Levy, who certainly understood its conclusion when he demanded, and got, a full refund.
Sharon Flescher, executive director of the International Foundation for Art Research