Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I was flipping through an art auction catalogue after lunch today and saw a painting that I had remembered seeing advertised in another catalogue two years earlier by a different auction house. There was something very wrong with the painting though. It had been substantially retouched to the point where some sections had been entirely repainted. The estimated value of the work had also increased substantially (between 5-8 times more than the estimated value when it was in 'poorer' condition two years ago)! Is this acceptable practice I wonder? Maybe it's a bit like buying a run down house, doing it up and then reselling at a high price? On the other hand, the work is being represented as an original even though the level of 'retouching' seems to have gone beyond what one might expect for conservation purposes. After tossing up whether I should just mind my own business, I thought the ethical thing to do is to email the auction house to make them aware of it. I hope I did the right thing.