On this page, a look will be taken at how the sales of alleged forgeries by Cor van L. were able to take place and the role that the professional parties should have played in it’s prevention.
Auction Houses & Galleries
The Van L. couple could have been identified as the alleged sellers of the forgeries much sooner if auction houses did a simple identity check. The couple used aliases to sell their works through the various auction houses, and as a result, it was unclear that these alleged forgeries were coming from one and the same couple. Only when Renée Smithuis identified the aliases as being the couple Van L. did the auction houses file criminal complaints. If the auction houses had performed an identity check, the sale of the forged works could most likely have been prevented.
A point on which both the auction houses and the galleries have been found wanting is the research on the authenticity of sold The Plough works. Even now – after the two Altink Affairs – this research is absent or minimal. The most poignant example of this is a gallery that offered an Altink for sale in its display window accompanied by the text:
“ If this J. Altink is false, then it will be removed straightaway!”
The responsibility concerning authenticity, in this case, is put on a potential buyer, or an expert that would happen to see the work in the window. The actual responsibility, however, should lie with the selling party (the auction house or the gallery). A large number of The Plough works have been sold without any proper research being done on their authenticity, even though arranging a standard check for the provenance of a work and a consultation from an expert is relatively easy. Instead, the selling parties were preoccupied with selling The Plough works, disregarding the verification of the authenticity of the works. If the provenance of the works sold by Van L. had been checked in combination with a possible expert opinion, many of the alleged forgeries would have never made it to the market. The most bizarre aspect of it all is that even today, after all the negative press of the Altink Affairs, galleries and auction houses still sell The Plough works without any form of authenticity research.
The absence of a catalogue raisonné represents a big problem when it comes to the authenticity of the Plough oeuvre. As stated on the Catalogue Raisonné Page, a catalogue could have greatly reduced the number of forgeries appearing on the market. Institutes such as the Groninger Museum, The Plough Foundation, and the Johan Dijkstra Foundation all have the common goal to preserve the oeuvre of The Plough. They would be the most suitable parties to create this catalogue raissoné, especially seeing these parties have access to several relevant The Plough archives.
In addition, there has been virtually no active involvement from experts in the combatting of the Plough forgeries, with the exception of Smithuis and Hofsteenge, who during the Altink I Affair tried to have Van L. prosecuted. A most remarkable aspect is that no scientific articles on the great number of forgeries have been published. Worse even is the fact that the forgeries aren’t even mentioned in any scientific articles on The Plough, even though the forgeries make up a significant part of the scientific debate, as it is impossible to draw art-historical conclusions about The Plough’s oeuvre without running the risk of the conclusions being based on forgeries.
The most poignant lack of initiative can be seen in the lack of research on the forgeries. Although several were called upon as experts in the civil case, no expert before 2010 had done any in-depth research into the disputed works. The technical research done by Atelier voor Restauratie & Research van Schilderijen (A.R.R.S.) was the first that – both on technical and art-historical grounds – proved that the disputed works were fakes, and possibly created by Van L. (See Authenticity Research). The research shows that there is a clear connection between the disputed works and works by Van L., while there is no connection between the disputed works and authentic works of The Plough. If a thorough research had been undertaken much earlier, there would probably have been significantly less alleged Van L. forgeries on the market.
Mixing Authentic and Forgeries
During the raid at Van L.’s house (when he was arrested) hundreds of artworks were found. A large number of these works were alleged forgeries, but amongst them were also authentic The Plough works.  This information points towards the conclusion that Van L. mixed the sale of his alleged forgeries with the sale of authentic works. In doing so, Van L. tries to mask the alleged forgeries. If questions should arise with regards to a sale, he can refer to the authentic works he mixed in with the alleged forgeries. Most likely Van L. procured these authentic works by trading them for his alleged forgeries with collectors.
The mixing of forgeries and authentic works is a common forger’s trick. It is therefore of the utmost importance that, when buying an artwork, this verification is performed with each work, and not just a limited number of works. The due diligence needs to be consistently applied throughout. If the verification is incomplete, the forger can still commit fraud by mixing authentic works with forgeries.
It seems that instead of acknowledging the forgeries and preventing further damages from being done, the art world has decided to ignore them in the hope that the problems will go away. It is precisely this lackluster attitude that enabled the forgeries in the first place.
*Where able translations of the news articles are given by Google Translate. Please note that these are automated translations and therefor may contain mistakes. For the original text please consult the Dutch version of this page.
DISCLAIMER: All rights reserved. All content (texts, trademarks, illustrations, photos, graphics, files etc.) on this website are protected by copyright and other protective laws. The contents of this website are to be used only in accordance with Internet regulations. Without the explicit written permission of the website’s controller it is prohibited to integrate in whole, or in part, any of the protected contents published on these websites into other programs or other web sites or to use them by any other means. This website can contain elements that are protected by copyright and by other laws that are subject to the copyright or other rights of third parties and that are correspondingly protected for these third parties.
The website’s controller has carefully compiled the contents of this website in accordance with their current state of knowledge. Access to and use of this website, as well as web sites related or connected to this by links, are at the user’s own risk and responsibility. Damage and warranty claims arising from missing or incorrect data are excluded. The website’s controller bears no responsibility or liability for damage of any kind, also for indirect or consequential damages resulting from access to or use of this website or websites related or connected to this by links. The website can contain links (cross references) to websites that are run by third parties. The website’s controller takes no responsibility for the content of these other websites.