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Disputed Greek Art: First Water Diamonds or Forgeries

In March 2011, when the Greek economic situation was emerging as an everyday topic and concern for the European Union, the Art Newspaper reported on a legal case filed in Athens by a Greek collector alleging paintings he purchased from Sotheby’s were fakes. The collector, Diamantis Diamantides, purchased works by Constantin Parthenis in 2006 and 2007, during the boom for the Greek art market.   At the time, Diamantides’ winning bids set records for Parthenis works; the paintings he purchased were consigned by the same party.  

Sotheby’s was able to capitalize on the temporary boom in the art market by selling 15.6 million worth of Greek art in 2007. Reacting to the market trends, Sotheby’s organized its first Greek specialty sale in 2008; and its last in 2011.  Sotheby’s was not the only entity to react to the interest in Greek art.  Rumors of Greek forgeries penetrating the market began in 2008.  Diamntides’ case is considered the first to bring a claim in court. One collector was reported as saying that Greek buyers tend to avoid talking about their mistakes so as not to “highlight their naivete and mistakes.”

In the early 20002, the process of authenticating of works by Greek artists was made difficult by lack of scholars studying Greek artist, shortage of catalogues raisonnes and general inexperience with provenance research.  Even the practice of assessing works for national significance for the purposes of issuing export licenses did not include authentication work.  In light of the current economic conditions, authentication of art works is probably not a priority either, but then again, there are probably fewer Greek collectors looking to invest in art.

Source: Riah Pryor, “Fears grow that Greek art market is riddled with forgeries,” The Art Newspaper, No. 233 (March 2012) 65.