Forging Science: The Story Of How Famed Painting Authenticator Likely Duped The Art World

from the fingerprint-this dept

A couple years ago, on a whim, knowing nothing at all about the movie, I rented the documentary Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?. It’s a really amazing documentary. Compelling, well-done and really entertaining. The reviewers loved it too. It tells the story of a truck driver woman, who bought a painting for $5 at a garage sale, and is convinced that it’s actually done by Jackson Pollock. The movie has numerous amusing scenes with famed art experts staring at the painting and dismissing it in the most… condescending of tones. Eventually, the “hero” of the film is a guy named Peter Paul Biro, who matches a fingerprint on the back of the painting to one he found in Pollock’s (still preserved) studio. The movie ends and you’re absolutely convinced that the painting is really by Pollock — even if the art world won’t recognize it. At the end of the film, the truck driver who bought the painting has turned down a $2 million and a $9 million offer for the painting, holding out for the $50 million she’s sure it’s worth. I highly recommend watching it (though, oddly, I can’t seem to find any video clips of it online — not even a trailer for the flick).

Remembering that, I was fascinated to see that The New Yorker recently did a long feature piece on Peter Paul Biro and dove in to read it. The first half of the article covers Biro’s rise to fame. How a few of these “fingerprinting” authentications had made him quite famous, with that documentary ratcheting up his fame level even higher. The key point that everyone keeps noting is that, rather than the traditional form of authentication — the condescending art experts in the documentary who are ripe for mocking and use what often feel like extremely subjective techniques — this involved science. After all, if the fingerprints matched, how can you question that?

But, then, the article takes a turn. There are a few cracks in the story, and someone who knows Biro well suggests that the reporter, David Grann, look a bit more deeply into Biro’s (and his family’s) history. It turns out that they were involved in several lawsuits years earlier involving selling what were later found to be forged artwork. Of course, painting forgeries are nothing new, but as Grann dug deeper and deeper he kept coming across evidence that Biro’s “authentications,” may have involved questionable practices — including planting faked fingerprints on some of the paintings he was supposed to be authenticating. It’s an amazing and gripping article — and totally calls into question pretty much all of Biro’s work. At the end of it, I was just as convinced that the truck driver’s “Pollock” painting is not by Pollock, as I was that it was by Pollock at the end of the documentary!

But I found most interesting of all was the reasons why so many people were convinced that Biro’s authentications were real. It wasn’t just the use of “science.” And it wasn’t just that people had this natural inclination to believe that so-called “art experts” don’t know what they’re talking about, but that Biro appears (and, for what it’s worth, Biro denies the allegations in the article) to have used what are effectively social engineering tricks to make this work. There’s a certain brilliance in realizing that rather than forging paintings, there may be money to be made in authenticating works by effectively forging fingerprints on top of other works — which then gives it the air of legitimacy-via-science. Honestly, the whole idea that someone would go in and forge fingerprints on top of a piece of art work just doesn’t seem in the realm of possibility, and so most people didn’t even consider it.

I had started reading the article last week (as mentioned, it’s pretty long), but ended up finishing it up now, because I was thinking some more about the recent story of those glass negatives that have been “authenticated” as being from Ansel Adams — which Ansel Adams’ estate is vehemently denying are Adams’ work. After reading The New Yorker piece, it’s difficult not to be increasingly skeptical of the claims of these new negatives, even with all of the “scientific” evidence that has been mentioned by the team involved in the authentication.

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Comments on “Forging Science: The Story Of How Famed Painting Authenticator Likely Duped The Art World”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s because what he says is taken at face value.

That’s the nature of con-artists and scammers. They say something in the right way, with the right words, that you don’t bother questioning them. The really good ones will get you to question the WRONG things, and come away convincing yourself that its authentic.

Thomas W. Wilson, Jr. says:

Re: David Grann A Fraud

David Grann, the drunkard, has violated the ethics of fair reporting. This article is a sad yet brazen attempt to create controversy where there is no controversy. He is another subpar journalist looking for a book deal, rehashing old news, plagiarising and conniving. He blends fiction and fantasy into his reporting much how the shunned Oliver Stone twists history and truth to formulate and perverse readers and viewers. David Grann will never again be trusted by the people he interviews. A backstabber, a liar and a poor example of journalistic responsibility. He has time and again hurt people and damaged their careers without remorse. What he has done borders on sociopathic behavior. Look what the press did to Richard Jewell, Shirley Sherrod and countless others. I can’t wait for the story to be published: David Grann, The Man Who Sucks the Blood of Legends, Heroes, Pioneers and Famous Scientists. Mr. Grann, you will NEVER be the Anderson Cooper you aspire to be. Remember that “little” crime you committed back in college but got away with? Well, your fingerprints are on the wineglasses my friend. And you, Mr. Grann, are in a heap of trouble. Wait til you see what it’s like to be on the bad side of the pen. Karma’s a drag isn’t it?

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

…it’s difficult not to be increasingly skeptical of the claims of these new negatives, even with all of the “scientific” evidence that has been mentioned by the team involved in the authentication.

I think one important diference in these two cases is that it’s the “art experts” who are saying the negatives are Adams instead of the one lone con man. It’s the opposite of the Pollock “work.”

Also you say that Biro found “a” fingerprint on the supposed Pollock painting, meaning one. Now I haven’t seen the documentary and don’t know much about it, but isn’t finding only one intact fingerprint a bit odd in and of itself?

J. Golfis (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: False Story

According to reports, David Grann jumped on this story as a result of Theresa Franks, an art dealer and CEO of Fine Art Registry, who had a supposed Pollock painting, sent it to Biro only to find that no prints, as she hoped, were on the painting. She paid Biro thousands of dollars for his professional services via a third party named Anthony Cooke. When the painting came back to Theresa Franks as inconclusive, she chose to go on a tirade against Biro on a ruthless and carefully calculated smear campaign. Mr. Biro was also physically threatened according to Canadian police reports.

Theresa Franks hired a fingerprint examiner named Pat Wertheim who has made a career out of challenging law enforcement’s latent fingerprint examinations. In 2006, Pat Wertheim accused Danny Greathouse, the former Section Chief in the Latent Fingerprint Section of the FBI of falsifying evidence. These accusations were later found false and Mr. Greathouse is now with the Division of Homeland Security.

In 2007, Pat Wertheim was PAID by Ms. Franks to fabricate a fingerprint by use of a rubber stamp. Then, he claimed Biro may have put it there. However, Pat Wertheim later admitted that he in fact forged the fingerprint but said it was for research purposes. Biro was never charged with anything.

According to at least one law enforcement official and several art experts, Theresa Franks, CEO of Fine Art Registry currently has fake Pollocks for sale on her site. Pollock

Of course, David Grann chose to ignore this in his article. But then again, as mentioned in previous posts, the New Yorker is known for churning out such false, libelous “news”. They are the Mad Magazine of journalism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No, it can be pretty common to only find one fingerprint. I have seen this “fingerprint” that he is talking about. It is a finger mark for sure, but it is just the smear left from a finger.

What makes a fingerprint unique is the pattern and placement of the tiny ridges on the surface. The “print” on the Pollock is just a swipe through paint with not visible detail at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

“people had this natural inclination to believe that so-called “art experts” don’t know what they’re talking about”

I was one of those people until i saw a number of pollocks works. Whilst in art books and on tv they just look like scribbled messes but in real life, at full size, you instantly get an idea of the movements made to draw them, and it isnt surprising that they can be identified (in a similiar way to handwriting). Of course once you change the size of the works to fit them in a book they become meaningless scribbles again(to my eyes at least).

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Who Says Fingerprints Are “Science”?

Interesting to compare fingerprint identification with DNA identification; the former came about before the development of rigorous statistical techniques for determining the validity of a match, while the latter came after.

As a result, fingerprint evidence is still presented in the traditional black-and-white form of either “match” or “no match”, rather than saying (as with DNA) something like “the probability of a match is 1 in x million”. Which is, scientifically, how it should be presented.

Carol Maginn says:

Another thought

I read the article in the New York Magazine as well and I have to say that I have never seen such a long article dedicated to make an art Authenticator look like a fraud. My gosh how many pages does it take to write an article anyway? It almost seems to me like someone might have been trying really hard to discredit a very well known forensic art authenticator. Perhaps for revenge. It certainly wouldn’t be the the first time this magazine has done this! Read this article for example in which one of their reporters slandered someone and ruined their reputation as well. How come no one writes about a magazine using its reputation for revenge? I find that an interesting story don’t you?

Anyone who would be looking at such a painting wouldn’t take the word of just one Authenticator -they would hire their own as well to ensure that that work done was accurate. This is called doing your “due diligence”. Its done when buying companies to so that everyone is sure that they are getting a company that is all that its says it is.

I have to ask – who authenticated the article in the New Yorker Magazine slandering Paul Biro to find out if the facts were real? Articles are written in magazines all the time to slander or ruin people’s reputation. Why don’t we question the magazine stories I have to wonder?

poolhall says:

Re: Another thought

It is funny how you’re calling for the “due diligence” in authenticating an art work by several experts, and at the same time you neglect to mention that Biro himself would not allow re-authentication of his own expert work.

Your last point is rather silly. No one “authenticates” articles, it’s not a scientific work! Write your own article and base it on facts you research!

Anonymous Coward says:

Fingerprint forensics is NOT science

For something to be considered science, it must be objective. In particular it must be testable and repeatable. Fingerprinting is none of these things.

Crime scene technicians are NOT scientists.

Even if these fingerprints were real, they prove (with proof being a special word for scientists) absolutely nothing.

Carol Maginn says:

Re: Fingerprint forensics is NOT science

When we try people as criminals it is the compilation of evidence that determines the outcome. If you have fingerprints, and a number of other factors – then the truth is proven.

Fingerprints have been determined to assist in the identification of many truths and that is a fact.

And it is also true that major magazines have for years used their reputations to slander all kinds of people from politicians to art authenticators.

If more people took the time or had the courage to stand up for the truth – these magazines and dishonest reporters wouldn’t get away with their slanderous lies.

Here is just another perfect example that ruined the career of a famous reporter (Dan Rather) once his lies were exposed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fingerprint forensics is NOT science

Although I would argue with you about considering fingerprint examination a science, you are absolutely correct that identified fingerprints prove nothing.

When we identifiy a print, we have absolutely no idea why it is there, or when it was left. All we know is that this print belongs to that person. It doesn’t prove that a crime was commited, just that an item was touched at some point by a certain person.

It is testable and repeatable. Trained examiners will reach the same results in blind tests.

painter says:

Credulity about scientific evidence

The credulity about scientific evidence has led to some of the most serious miscarriages of justice in the UK and in Australia. There was the pathologist who was responsible for many innocent people spending long periods in jail in the UK. The Guildford 7 is a clear example. In Australia, uncritical acceptance of highly questionable forensic evidence resulted in Lindy Chamberlain being jailed for the so called murder of her child, Azaria, despite the fact that the prosecution story was frankly unbelievable. As to art and fraud, these two bedfellows have a very long history and the most common fraud is the attribution of a signature to an art work. Early last century, there was a famous American art historian who had a nice line in reattributing minor renaissance paintings to famous renaissance artists. Pollack strikes me as an odd one to try to forge. Almost all of his major works were produced in a fairly short period of time, often being photographed while he did it, and closely watched by his wife, the painter Lee Krasner. Some artists like Picasso produced works for 50 years of highly variable quality; slipping the odd phoney in amongst them would be fairly easy in comparison to Pollack’s limited output.

Elizabeth says:

Re: Credulity about scientific evidence

Actually Pollock almost always worked alone according to his biography. There’s a famous picture of his wife with him in his studio that was done for Life Magazine. But that was apparently just a posed picture as he was painting and didn’t fairly represent the actual methods and solitude in which Pollock worked: again, media warping the perception of reality to create an interesting perspective. In fact, Pollock hated being documented. He notoriously flipped out on Hans Namuth,the man doing a film documentary on Pollock. He despised journalists.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: National Public Radio Questions David Grann's Ethics

Elizabeth, J. Golfis, Thomas W. Wilson, Jr, do you see the little icons next to your name? See that they’re all the same? That means you’re the same person, or at the very least, posting from the same location. For someone trying soooooo hard to discredit David Grann, without presenting a single shred of evidence (especially against the New Yorker which famously has a top notch fact checking staff, unlike most publications) makes this all quite funny.

Can you explain what your connection to Biro might be?

Elizabeth (user link) says:

David Grann False Reporting / Plagiarism / Fiction as News

No real connection, just watch-dogging the New Yorker, which, according to the AJR, has less than a 70% accuracy rating. Meaning, 30% of their content, including 30% of David Grann’s article and the Jared Diamond article is false.

“A two-page complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court on April 20 seeks $10 million from the New Yorker’s publisher, Advance Publications, claiming Diamond’s story falsely accused Wemp and fellow tribesman Isum Mandigo of “serious criminal activity” and “murder.” “

Speaking of evidence, what proof does David Grann and Jared Diamond have against their subjects? What is the reason why Grann would target someone of Biro’s legendary stature?
Why would Grann dig up an old story from three years ago, rehash it from previous news articles and presumably spend weeks back and forth to Canada? There must be a larger motive here. It surely cannot be to try and solve some crime. Because, let’s face it, he has no proof against Biro. All he has is past articles and a wild, creative imagination.

You see, David Grann’s modus operandi is to get hold of very interesting people: as he says, “people with obsessive passion and curiosity.” These very interesting people become Grann’s targets. He uses them, cojoles them, drinks their wine (yes, lots of alcohol apparently), eats their food, (and in one case allegedly steals an object from a subject’s home) and uses these things against the subject to create a carefully concocted story of mystery and intrigue.

Grann is brilliant. He never once calls Biro a fraud. He merely suggests shady aspects of his personal life and the elder, deceased Biro who cannot defend himself and creates an heir of mystery around he and his family. In the article, he never actually says Biro is a fraud because he HAS NO PROOF. That would be libelous and he knows this….and the editors at the New Yorker sure as hell know it. In Fiction 101 in college, they teach you to “show, don’t tell” in your writing. Problem is, Grann uses his Fiction 101 expertise as devices in his news articles.

It can be argued among Logic and Critical Thinking experts that David Grann has defrauded the public: a “forger” of truth, a “con-artist”, the brilliant writer that dupes the world. What he has done is particularly egregious because his article has the potential to damage the legacy of da Vinci, Pollock and all great artists. It also has the potential to damage human lives.

When he filed this article to his editors, he knew the damage it can possibly cause. But, he also thought about his career as a writer. Afterall, according to his site, his story on Percival Fawcett was optioned for a movie. (It should be noted that Fawcett is long dead and the tribes people Grann interviewed are absent of email, telephones and other modern communication devices therefore almost devoid of any method of effectively challenging Grann’s claims).

So, with his confidence at an all time high, he submitted the final draft of the Biro article to his editors, knowing quite well the damage it may cause to careers, lives and the legacy of great artists. Thefore, David Grann’s carefully concocted, pre-meditated plan may be considered a form of sociopathic behavior. That said, his WILLFULL INTENT TO HARM should be considered carefully by those in the arena of journalism watchdogs and the legal community.

This is not about David Grann. This is about careless, selfish journalists who prey on the famous (and perhaps the infamous) and concoct articles that are designed to mislead, mis-inform and propagate biased opinions, therefore, violating the ethics and code of conduct of the Society of Professionaly Journalists.

For more information on: please visit

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: David Grann False Reporting / Plagiarism / Fiction as News

No real connection

Sorry “Elizabeth,” but you have no credibility on this, considering your attempt to pretend to be multiple people. Oddly, most people, when caught on this point at least ‘fess up. Why aren’t you?

ccording to the AJR, has less than a 70% accuracy rating. Meaning, 30% of their content, including 30% of David Grann’s article and the Jared Diamond article is false.

Um, take a stats class. That’s not what that means at all. No offense, but you’re not convincing anyone when you make an argument as ridiculous as that one. You’re only making yourself look worse.

If it did have a 70% accuracy rating, that does not mean each article has 30% false.

Glen (profile) says:

Pollock and authentication

First, I think Biro is sketchy. Second, I’m not sure (beyond a possibly fraudelant fingerprint) there is much else that indicates that the Horton painting is a Pollock. As far as the movie is concerned, I think they passed over a very large part of the story, which is very important, and that is the control the foundation wields over such a possible discovery. Without the blessing of the foundation, NO authentication will be recognized, and a foundation can practice a certain passive aggresive approach to this by simply remaining mute and unapproachable: likewise they generally don’t view any comments made by reputable institutions (who happen to hold such artists work) very graciously…so the institutions control is much more far reaching than some might truly understand. The film missed this completely. See

Elizabeth says:

Re: Pollock and authentication

The Pollock Kraner Foundation DOES NOT authenticate paintings. They’re mission, according to their site, “is to aid, internationally, those individuals who have worked as artists over a significant period of time. The Foundation’s dual criteria for grants are recognizable artistic merit and financial need, whether professional, personal or both.”

In fact, there is no recognized source that will authenticate a possible Pollock. That is why people with possibly legitimate but uncatalogued Pollock works are forced to find other methods of authentication, including but not limited to connoisseurship and forensic research. That is why Biro and others like him are in business.

Glen Score (profile) says:

Re: Re: Pollock and authentication

You are correct Elizebeth, that is what the foundations site states. They even make clear that they do not/will not authenticate possible works; they won’t discuss it period. Of course the foundation also legally controls all reproduction rights and permisions for publications of catalogued works, and still retains an inventory of Pollock works represented by two exclusive galleries. So the foundation still has some horses in this here race. And though they will not discuss such a prospect, they do have a knack of becoming very vocal when a painting has any likelyhood of being recognized as a “new” Pollock. So, if you have a Pollock that is recognized by experts such as Biro, and you publish it (for financial gain or advertise it as such) as a Pollock, yet the foundation does not recognize it (or hold any copyrights)…than is it really a Pollock…even if it is a Pollock? And this is what I mean by the foundation playing a passive/aggresive role in such possibilities. Will Biro tell a client “yes, I can authenticate this for you, I can put my signature on some official looking document, but unless it is recognized and acknowledged by the foundation as being a Pollock…well, than you essentially have a 35 dollar painting and a piece of paper with my signature on it”? And…if it is otherwise, please explain.

Glen Score (profile) says:

Re: Re: Pollock and authentication

No it wasn’t Grann’s article that influenced my opinion of Biro as sketchy. My opinion is kind of general in regards to any “experts” who claim they can authenticate a Pollock. Unless they have not ever really confronted such a possibility, perhaps they think they can. I’ll give the naive the benefit of the doubt. But Biro is not naive. I read the Grann article, and believe me my “sketchy” opinion was far less negative than what I gleened from the article; I’m still digesting that. As far as the experts that really matter….they have locked zippers on their mouths and I’m pretty sure the foundation is holding the keys.

Elizabeth (user link) says:

John, Tom and I are three different people posting from the same location, and at times, different locations. We all have slightly different takes on this: one an art expert, the other a journalist watchdog and another an attorney.

Mike, the title of your article which partly states, “Likely Duped The Art World”, is dangerously libelous on the part of Tech Dirt.

FYI, The Daily Beast was recently warned of this type of sensationalistic writing and eventually altered their article to remain truthful and fair. Props to them.

Again, Grann never states in his article that he “likely duped the artworld” as you suggest. This is Grann’s ingenious method of hypnotizing his readers, even you, into thinking a crime was committed. All the while, he never even states these allegations, but merely suggest them with devices drawn from basic fiction. Grann copies a specific type of fictional writing technique and uses previously published journalistic content, bordering on the point of plagiarism, and formulates them into “news” stories. Are you familiar enough with fictional techniques to see how Grann is using them to persuade and mislead his audience, manipulating the “essential truth” that is the contract between the non-fiction writer and his or her audience?

As the CEO and a writer of this site, for you to accuse me of “pretending” to be other people is beyond your scope of objectivity and frankly, plain rude. Who ever heard of a “moderator” making personal attacks on well-intentioned contributors to his own site? If you’d like to attract well-informed, highly knowledgable (and perhaps quite famous) contributors to your forum, you should treat them more respectfully. If you’d like us to refrain from posting here, fine.

Our interest is not necessarily in Grann, Biro or Diamond. We’re interested in upholding the integrity of the Code of Ethics in journalistic reporting, especially when human lives and world history are at stake. Thanks for your time.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Mike, the title of your article which partly states, “Likely Duped The Art World”, is dangerously libelous on the part of Tech Dirt.

If you think that is “dangerously libelous” then you better tell your buddy Thomas W. Wilson, Jr. to keep his mouth shut, unless he has some evidence to back up these claims posted here a few days ago:

David Grann, the drunkard, has violated the ethics of fair reporting… He is another subpar journalist looking for a book deal, rehashing old news, plagiarising and conniving… A backstabber, a liar and a poor example of journalistic responsibility. He has time and again hurt people and damaged their careers without remorse. What he has done borders on sociopathic behavior… Remember that “little” crime you committed back in college but got away with? Well, your fingerprints are on the wineglasses my friend. And you, Mr. Grann, are in a heap of trouble. Wait til you see what it’s like to be on the bad side of the pen.

Not to mention that obvious threat at the end there. I think that’s a lot more libelous than Mike pointing out that the three of you are using the same computer to attack Grann.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

John, Tom and I are three different people posting from the same location, and at times, different locations. We all have slightly different takes on this: one an art expert, the other a journalist watchdog and another an attorney.

And might you explain who you are? You mentioned that J. Golfis is actually “John” Golfis. Doing a Google search on that name turns up some interesting results, which don’t exactly add to your credibility status.

Mike, the title of your article which partly states, “Likely Duped The Art World”, is dangerously libelous on the part of Tech Dirt.

I see. And calling the author of the article a drunkard who lied and falsified 30% of his article is not? I’m pretty familiar with libel law. I would bet that my title stands up a lot more than your comments.

As the CEO and a writer of this site, for you to accuse me of “pretending” to be other people is beyond your scope of objectivity and frankly, plain rude.

This is an opinion site. This is not a “reporting” entity, so journalistic objectivity is meaningless (and a false construct anyway). I express my opinion, and if you think it’s rude, well, so be it. I don’t have a problem with that. But I have no obligation to live up to a made up standard.

Who ever heard of a “moderator” making personal attacks on well-intentioned contributors to his own site?

Is this your first day on the internet? It happens. Get used to it. And I see no indication that you are “well-intentioned.” So far, it looks like you have a serious axe to grind, and you have not yet identified your interest in this story. I make no bones about calling people out if I think that they are being less than entirely forthcoming about their interest in a story. I don’t need to be warm and hospitable to folks who have done nothing to deserve it. People show up here all the time and add useful info. You and your “friends” did not. You came with a bunch of totally unsubstantiated, wild claims that are not particularly believable, and did it in a way that suggested you were using multiple names.

We’re interested in upholding the integrity of the Code of Ethics in journalistic reporting

And what code of ethics are you talking about?

Elizabeth says:

Glenn, this is an excellent point you bring up. Like the Pollock/Krasner Foundation, The de Kooning Foundation holds the same position regarding works by Willem de Kooning. They will not render an opinion publicly, mostly for legal reasons. At the same time, it has been alleged that they often negate works in private discussions with dealers and those “in the know”. Same goes for the Warhol Foundation. A major court case, which resulted in the verdict against the Warhol Foundation can be referenced here:

I believe these egregious act warrant further investigation. Your thoughts on this?

PS: Perhaps a journalist could do a major investigative article on this story? And he or she wouldn’t need to instill any fiction either. Now THAT would be an explosive article!

Glen Score (profile) says:

Re: Response

Elizabeth…I agree. I really think everyone has really been missing the point here, and all along. Biro really is only the top of the story and reporters have never dug deep enough. Forget about Biro, a reporter should ask this question “What if I had a real Pollock, what could I do?” Or perhaps a DeKooning or anybody else that has a controlling foundation. One might falsely believe that these people who base their lives, careers, incomes around something they deem so important would jump at the chance to view or acknowledge a possible painting by the artist with which they associate their passions. My conclusion is your better off finding a painting by a longgg dead artist, rather than one who still has a controlling foundation; because truth or reality doesn’t really matter (or science) when it comes to a (controlling) foundation concerning possible treasures; they don’t care about anything but their assets. It’s almost like we’ve been fooled concerning the TRUE meaning of modern art.

Elizabeth says:

Fantastic point Glen!

It has long been suspected and proven, in part, that certain foundations including the de Kooning Foundation, Warhol and the Pollock Authentication Board (disbanded in 1995) have deliberately deemed authentic works as “inauthentic” or “not correct” so to limit competition in the art market.

For example, it is widely believed by Pollock scholars that Ruth Kligman, former lover of the artist and sole survivor in the Pollock car accident, was given a small painting by Jackson Pollock as a gift during their affair. Yet after his death in 1956, his widow Lee Krasner excluded that gifted painting from the Catalogue Raisonne` which was published in 1978 by art dealer Eugene Thaw and art historian and scholar Francis V. O’Connor.

Convenience would have it that Eugene Thaw, a dealer, would have a major say in which works were being included. While numerous supposed Pollock paintings from the Thaw collection was included in the catalog, Ruth Kligman’s was not.

As for Biro and his comparable fingerprint studies on the newly discovered da Vinci painting, “La Bella Principessa”, it is important to note the most respected da Vinci scholar, Martin Kemp, approved the piece without any doubt. According to Kemp, it was LATER that images of fingerprints which had already been discovered were sent to Biro for comparison. He never had the painting in his physical possession. David Grann failed to clarify that in his article. Therefore, as a journalist, he failed to remain impartial, objective and transparent.

The timing of Grann’s article is also VERY suspect. In October, 2009, the Bella Principessa’s discovery made news.

A lawsuit was later filed by the woman who owned the painting which Christie’s Auction House failed to properly attribute to da Vinci. News of this lawsuit stormed the presses in May 5, 2010.

Art experts, auction houses and dealers began to panic. Afterall, “court papers assert that there is ample evidence that it is a Da Vinci. They mention a faint fingerprint, which matches that on a painting by Da Vinci, and carbon tests indicating dates from 1440 to 1650, not the 19th century. Christie’s is accused of failure to use scientific methods and technology.”

Obviously, this discovery brings problems including embarrassment, lawsuits and chaos to the international art market, especially in New York where Christie’s is based.

Which of course begs the questions:

Who is Grann really working for? What is his motive in attacking a fingerprint expert? Why shape an article to discredit the fingerprint expert who helped prove the painting is by da Vinci? What was David Grann’s motive? Is it no coincidence that David Grann has monetary and family ties to the auction house?

And what about Ruth Kligman?

Well she died this past March, just as David Grann was getting on with his crusade. Very convenient for Mr. Grann, who omitted his interview with Ruth Kligman from the article. Ruth allegedy got to sell her painting with the support of forensic analysis. So why would David Grann omit such information? And what implications does this have on the failure of Foundations to act fairly, properly and legally?

If we can trust neither the Foundations nor the media, than whom is there left?

Glen Score (profile) says:

The big deal

Elizebeth, I am very aware of everything you have stated. And I have been in contact with many of these people. Eugene Thaw, I think is really a pretty good guy. He at least did me the favor of responding a couple times. He was safe in his response as far as neither confirming or dening the possiblity of my painting. But his respnse was generous in that he actually took the time to write a response in the form of an actual letter. Eugene apparently got his start as a young art history student, was sharp and purchased what he believed to be old master’s sketches, and then had his suspicions varyfied and authenticated by senior experts which started him on his way to the success he finally realized. Really a pretty cool story and history. In communicating with Mr. Thaw and sending him the information I had gathered concerning my painting, I did make a personal appeal that he might consider the same favor done for him long ago, and repeat the favor. Well, I am really quite aware of the pressure that would be placed on him if he did choose to help. It is not the same pressure that his seniors of the day (especially concerning old masters) would recieve in their aggreement with his opinion concerning his finds. He has been the President of the Pollack Krasner Foundation, and though I believe he’s a pretty real and straightforward person, unfortunately I understand his hesitants to jump on board such a prospect with a stranger when it could ruin a lifetime reputation of service to the arts. And I’m pretty sure that it would hurt him to acknowledge such a find by (basically) a nobody in the art world. As far as the responses I’ve recieved from other worthy experts (and really there is a crowd of people who’s opinions are “worthy” concerning this subject)they choose to respond in very short, concise responses concerning this painting. And they are rarely of denial, They are rarely “NO” they are generally one sentence responses that basically say “I can not help you with this”. Though this type of response may not seem to say much, it really says quite a bit. It is essentially supreme safe ground; they never told me they thought it was or could be, or it clearly wasn’t a Pollock. This puts them in a position that is safe with the foundation and safe if some renegade expert takes the painting on and pretty much proves that it is…safe ground. Now if I had a painting that was on the wrong stuff, the wrong colors, the wrong images, the wrong signature (and I’m talking style here) I’m very sure they would have absolutely no problem or delay saying “Don’t waist my time, this thing is definately not a Pollock.” Because they do do that…If they “Know” they don’t hesitate, don’t mince their words, their is no liability (carreer or reputation-wise). I know the from the Pollock claims I have seen whic would fall into this “very safe” category. So basically, I’m quite convinced that their are experts (that matter) that truly understand what they are looking at when I send them detailed information and comparisons concerning this painting, but they have carreers, books, their institutions have donated Pollock paintings, they have carreers that literally depend on the continued support of the foundation. One 40 million dollar painting could potentially screw up the market. God forbid some guy in the middle of nowhere has a painting better than the foundation owns, better than anything that will come up for aution in the next ten years that isn’t already owned by an institution (or somebody with a name); this could potentially have an effect on a contrived market. Not tooo may people are out there who will buy a 40 million dollar Pollock. Those are the people that they would prefer to sell their 6 million dollar Pollock’s to. And I’m not talking conspiracy in any way, shape or form here…all I’m suggesting is control. We, as the public, believe what we hear concerning Pollock’s impact (the importance to modern culture REALLY being more than the silly prices people exchange this art for), or a DeKooning, or a Warhol…we’ve been kind of brainwashed to believe that these people are cultural icons; not that they were propped up by some small (very small) avant garde snob culture that was very limited in it’s acceptance of all this really being art…the masses shook their heads (they still shake their heads) but somehow this enttire market was manipulated to eventually become an exclusive (EXCLUSIVE !!!) multimillion dollar industry. We, the people on the outside who actually thing the “art” is the important part, are sooooo mistaken. What’s important is the biographies, the manipulation, the “exclusivity of works that have been catalogued”, The rubbing elbows and donations. exhibits and the list of majors that are really minors go on and on. Somewhere deep inside these foundation suspect but will never say (accept perhaps under CIA torture tactics) that “No, this isn’t about art…AT ALL”. So, Biro, yeah sure he might have a sketchy past…but he’s also got equipment and I guess there’s the possibility that he could prove that Horton has a Pollock (sounds a little like Horton hear’s a Whoo…pretty hard for him to convince others of also)…but the powers that be (and rest assured there truly are “powers that be”) would very likely dispute a proposed Pollock even if there was a picture of him painting it. I challenge Grann to go deeper than Peter Paul…go all the way to the bottom, because if you can write an article where nobody speaks…than you will truly have something.

Glen Score (profile) says:

Re: Re: The big deal

What are you, and English teacher? I know all about paragraphs and how to use them. Thankyou. This happens to be a subject I’m a little passionate about and sometimes (especially in a forum such as this) I kind of let my form slip and seem to think the subject is a little more important than the form. Sorry.

Sometimes I write a bit spontaneously when I’m trying to get a point across. And (I should never start a sentence with an “and”) But ….we are talking POLLOCK here (the guy who flung paint unconventionally onto his canvas) so maybe you could also give me a little lead way on artistic liscense.

OH, I’m also sure a couple words here are probably misspelled: perhaps you could point them out. I’m not a real big fan of perfectionists only because I truly believe people who think they are really are the furthest things from it. And (oops…did it again) there is a reason ASTM invented standards…it’s to keep people moving forward and to produce, it’s called acceptable standards. And for a forum such as this, I think I have met that criteria.

But thanks for telling me about paragraphs. Now go drive somebody else crazy with something that doesn’t really matter.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The big deal

What are you, and English teacher? I know all about paragraphs and how to use them.

Simmer down. I only point that out because almost no one likes to read a whole wall of text. Do you? If so, you’re odd. If not, then you should see my point.

The reasons I made no reference to spelling/punctuation errors is: A)I don’t care about them as long as what you’re trying to say comes across clearly, and B) I didn’t bother to read your single, ridiculously long paragraph so I wouldn’t know if there were any of those types of errors.

I appologize if you thought I was being harsh. Now that I know how sensitive you are, I’ll be more tactful in the future.

P.S. I think you meant, “an English teacher?” 🙂

terisfind (profile) says:

Journalist are like catfish….bottom feeders
I don’t recall who on this blog asked if Grann had a reason for his despicable article on Paul Biro. You bet he does. I spoke with Grann this past fall, right after the Da Vinci authentication was made public.At that time I think Grann intended to write a positive article.Grann told me it would be a short while before he would do the article, he had other commitments.Sometime in June Grann contacted me with the ploy to confirm the previous info I had given him. He kept bringing up an issue I found rather odd…”in an arrangement I have with Biro, how much will he be paid in the event my Pollock ever sells? I told Grann, Paul & I have no arrangement that I will pay him any $$$$. I had told Biro’s wife Joanne I would take her to Rodeo Drive for a shopping spree & perhaps I may give Paul a small gift. A couple weeks before Grann’s article was published, another journalist called me via Grann’s instructions to verify my previous info. He also asked me a couple times….how much will Paul be paid….I gave him the same answer.I now know why the insistent question.
The reason behind Grann’s article:
Everyone is aware of the lawsuit attorney Richard Altham has filed, a complaint for the plaintiff, his client Jeanne Marchig former owner of the now established Da Vinci….
Paul Biro is listed in the complaint [in part]
“according to a Montreal-based forensic art expert named Peter Paul Biro”
Cause of Action…”Misattribution”… damages…$150 million. Someone on this blog mentiond Grann tied at the hip with Christie’s….The New Yorker likewise. Grann took it upon himself or was instructed to….”destroy Paul Biro’s good standing and reputation to prevent him being a reputable witness, for the plaintiff. Christe’s expert looked at the picture for approx. 15 minutes as all self appointed art experts use this mode of authentication. They wait for some mystical feeling to come over them,in my case…”It doesn’t sing like a Pollock,it doesn’t have heart like a Pollock,it has no feeling like a Pollock” This would be Christie’s expert’s mode in his decision of yes or no.
Grann, going back 30 years in Biro’s past of trivial mistakes [ each one of us have a past we would prefer stay past]was not enough to destroy Biro’s reputable status.
SOOoooo, Grann brings in Thresea Franks CEO Fine Art Registry for more ammunition to discredit Biro, right up Frank’s dark sinister alley.Grann utilizes the gobbly goop
Frank’s has paid her henchmen to produce to discredit Biro’s reputation, my Pollock work, and myself….for no other reason than her evil and malicious personality.
Grann’s desperation to prevent Biro from testifying for the plaintiff is based on the following:

Federal Evidence Code – Rule 702 amended 12/1/2000 ARTICLE VII. OPINIONS AND EXPERT TESTIMONY Testimony by Experts. If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case. Abstract: Dramatic changes in rules governing admissibility of expert testimony impact all areas of law. Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence impose a requirement that judges admit expert testimony ONLY if it is based on a scientifically sound foundation.

So much for art experts and their visual ?feelings’ of authentication. Exactly how Christies expert made their decision, which is useless in court.

This is the reason for Grann’s attempt to get Biro disqualified as a witness for the plaintiff.

I thank each one who has the common sense to see through Grann’s purpose of the article.

Cheers to all,

terisfind (profile) says:

Biro himself would not allow re-authentication of his own expert work.

This statement is not true by a blogger
It was me who would not allow peer review to examine Biro’s work. I would allow anyone who was a potential buyer, bring in their own scientific expert & check the evidence to their satisfaction. The reason I would not allow others….such as Frank’s Fine art registry….it was none of their damn business.


poolhall says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

People like me? The movie was filmed for people like me. When I watched it, I had no idea about the surrounding events. But after I finished watching the movie, I got interested in getting to know if you eventually sold the painting. This is how I read David Grann’s article and found this discussion, too.

And guess what, personally, I doubt that you ever had those million offers to buy the painting. So this argument “if I had any fear, would I allow…” is not too persuasive to me.

I know you don’t have a damn about it. It’s fine with me too.

also cowardly says:

wilson, biro, pollocks

I too, am curious why Mr. Wilson is on such a rampage against Mr. Grann. Wilson is also sending threatening letters to The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, which did a good job of covering the controversy surrounding the Pollock/Matters exhibition at Boston College a few years back. I believe Mr. Biro was hired by the curators of that exhibition to authenticate “Pollocks”. Has Nr. Wilson, (is he a lawyer?) been retained to defend someone who has an economic stake in fake Pollocks?

Elizabeth says:

Retraction of Article

A full retraction was printed in the August 27 issue of East Hampton magazine, Dan’s Papers, which was based on Grann’s libellous article, according to the editor. The web page version of the article has also been removed from the website. Also, corrections have been made to the Grann article in the New Yorker. Very intereting. See below.


In an article about Jackson Pollock in this newspaper two weeks ago, it was indicated that Art Expert Peter Paul Biro or members of his family had committed fraud or other crimes and had spent time in jail. This is not the case, and we regret the error.” (Dan Rattiner, Editor)

Page Removed:'s+papers,+biro&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Elizabeth says:

Grann Quote / Libel

David Grann defends himself: “the story took months and a lot of money. I had an employer who backed me to the hilt. It just demonstrated an enormous commitment on their part.” (NY Times)

These retractions, apologies and corrections come on the heels of the $100Million lawsuit against Christie’s Auction House, which names Peter Paul Biro as a scientific expert witness for the plaintiff.

The New Yorker, which David Grann is employed, is owned by Si Newhouse, one of the top 200 collectors in the world and major client of Christie’s, according to Art News Magazine.

It is alleged that New Yorker Magazine made an attempt to eliminate Biro as a star witness against their associate, Christie’s Auction House, by assassinating his character in the July 12, 2010 article.

Elizabeth says:


Footnote: In 2009, David Grann won the very prestigious and “highly competetive” George Polk Award for Journalism.
John Darnton was named curator of the George Polk Awards in 2009. John Darnton is David Grann’s father-in-law.

bratwurzt (profile) says:


How many sockpuppet accounts have been created just for this article? Have you ever heard of Streissand effect? Have you read what happened to Lily Allen, Indiana Gregg or Christine Filipak when they tried to erase the internet history/lie their way out of it? No? You should.

Come on “Elizabeth”, I haven’t seen as many shills at a lot more important topics on this site.

Glen Score made comments exclusively on this post. So did terisfind. Do you really want this to go viral?

David says:

Haha really?

OK, so clearly people above are attempting to further cover up the dirty truth on Biro by threatening people will lawsuits, etc. In fact – except maybe for Teri, owner of the supposed Pollock, the people are probably just Biro filling in his work day of ‘forensic authentication’ defending his suspect rep. Clearly a wannabe like his papa.

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