As we reported back in February, the State Assembly and Senate are considering parallel versions of an amendment to the New York Arts & Cultural Affairs Law that would enhance protections for art authenticators by raising the burden of proof and providing for prevailing-party attorneys’ fees. Our view was, and remains, that the law would be an improvement on the status quo because it would protect the player that often has the least upside in an authentication but who may find herself the target of the disappointed party’s wrath.
With the benefit of a few months’ consideration, discussion about the law has taken shape and some important voices are not so convinced of its effect. In an article for the New York Observer, writer Daniel Grant surveyed several experts and foundations heads (and also me). The pending legislation was introduced by Republican State Senator Betty Little and Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. Little’s bill was approved by committee and is awaiting consideration by the Senate, while Rosenthal’s version is still in committee.
First, it is important to consider how big an impact the law will have (which is separate from whether it is a good idea). Tracy Zwick at Art in America wonders whether the law is already favorable enough to authenticators (who, apart from the costs, have been overwhelmingly successful in defending themselves, but that caveat may fall into the “other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” category). As for the bottom link, Zwick quotes Donn Zaretsky summing things up thusly “Authentication is still risky, and the economic stakes are very high.”