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News WUDPAC alumnus brings scientific analysis to Sotheby's

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​​WUDPAC Class of 1989 alumnus James Martin in his Orion Analytical laboratory.

​​​​​​​Sotheby’s has announced that James Martin will join the company and establish a Scientific Research Department, with on-site facilities in its flagship New York and London locations.​​ 

From the ​Sotheby's December 2, 2016 article by Anthony Calneck about "​​The Scientist of the Art World":

Paintings are usually described in terms of beauty, style, historical importance and value, but sometimes the characteristics that are the most important – their molecular composition – are overlooked. Even the most seasoned collector can be seduced into acquiring a work that seems to have everything they are looking for – a recognizable style that is the signature of a great master, say, or a composition from the most desirable period – only to discover that they have purchased a fake. Consider the sensational case of 40 forged “masterpieces” by Modern artists such as Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock sold to unsuspecting collectors for some $60 million by Knoedler; the 165-year-old New York gallery collapsed five years ago in the wake of the ensuing scandal after the truth about those paintings was revealed. ​ 

​Knoedler trafficked in these forgeries for 15 years, but it only took only a few days for James Martin, the founder of Orion Analytical, to determine that one of the Motherwells that passed through the gallery was not authentic. Analyzing a tiny sample of paint on the edge of the canvas, he determined that the pigment used by the actual artist (a forger working in a Queens garage) wasn’t invented until 10 years after the supposed Motherwell was painted. This was just one example of hundreds of forgeries that Martin has discovered using state-of-the-art techniques like Raman spectroscopy and a storehouse of knowledge built over three decades teaching at The Getty Conservation Institute, the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit, and other institutions. Martin has undertaken more than 1800 scientific investigations for museums, galleries, insurance companies and private collectors in five continents, earning him a reputation as one of the art world’s top scientists, conservators and educators; the fact that he is a talented artist in his own right also helps Martin detect stylistic cues that something isn’t quite right.   

Today, Sotheby’s announced that Martin will join the company and establish a Scientific Research Department, with on-site facilities in its flagship New York and London locations. Martin has consulted with Sotheby’s for decades, most recently helping the company determine that a painting previously thought to be by Dutch master Frans Hals was actually a modern-day forgery; based on Martin’s conclusion, Sotheby’s rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full, fulfilling its central pledge to stand by the authenticity of the objects it sells.    

To read the full article from Sotheby's At Large, click here​.​

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​​Sotheby’s has announced that James Martin will join the company and establish a Scientific Research Department, with on-site facilities in its flagship New York and London locations.

​​Sotheby’s has announced that James Martin will join the company and establish a Scientific Research Department, with on-site facilities in its flagship New York and London locations.

12/17/2016
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