People shouldn't face the threat of litigation for voicing their honest professional opinions.
Leading art experts increasingly refuse to give their opinions on whether a work is authentic, according to Patricia Cohen's front page story in the New York Times. Fear of litigation is the culprit. The former chief curator at MoMA, John Elderfield, refused to give an opinion on whether a work attributed to Henri Matisse was real, because he "could be sued if he said the painting was not a real Matisse."
Free speech is supposedly a core value of our culture. But the mere possibility of a lawsuit by a self-interested seller of dubious art apparently has trumped the First Amendment. Not many years ago, Elderfield observed, art experts felt they "had a moral obligation to" give their honest view. Now, organizations dedicated to safeguarding the reputations of artists, including the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Noguchi Museum, "have all stopped authenticating works to avoid litigation."
This is a serious blow to the integrity of art markets. Forgeries will be allowed to stay in circulation, and newly discovered works will have a cloud on their authenticity, even if experts believe them to be real.