Although professional parties – The Plough experts and auction houses in particular – failed to fulfil their duties (see Professional Parties), the deceived collectors also neglected certain responsibilities. This page will focus on the responsibilities of art collectors in general, but will also look specifically at the role of Johan Meijering.
When purchasing art, one must realize that a certain responsibility lies with the buyer (Caveat Emptor). This responsibility entails that the buyer should research an artwork before purchasing it, especially when the selling party has failed or neglected to do so. This is due to the fact that the origin of art has not been unequivocally established. The origin and condition play a crucial part in determining the value of an artwork. A work of art gets its value because it was created by this or that artist (not a forger or copyist). In other words: because it’s an authentic work from the hand of the artist in question.
To verify the authenticity of a work of art, the buyer must determine its status. This is done through art historical research, as well as research into the material properties and used painting techniques. In many cases the buyer won’t be trained in assessing and researching the artwork and accompanying evidence. The buyer will therefore have to consult an expert This consultation is the minimum required due diligence for a buyer wanting to purchase a work of art.
In the subpoena of Cor van L. by Meijering, it came to light that it wasn’t until 2001, at the request of a third party, that an expert was consulted. It also became clear that Meijering had hardly done any research at the time of – or prior to – the purchase of the paintings in question. This is particularly wry since Meijering had to carry out extensive research into the works for the civil procedure. Below an overview can be found of the actions that Meijering failed to complete. This should not be seen as a personal reprimand, but as an opportunity to draw lessons from his actions. Undisputed is the deliberate fraudulence of the seller, for which judgment has been passed. 
When Meijering decided to do business with Van L. at the end of the 1990s, it was imprudent of him to simply accept Van L.’s statement on the origin of the paintings as true without consulting an expert. During that period it was already known that Van L. was the alleged forger of The Plough. Meijering should have looked into Van L. before doing business for significant amounts. We emphasize, once again, that it is indisputable that Meijering was consciously deceived by the seller and suspected forger Van L.
The unclear origin of the works, in combination with Van L.’s by then public reputation, should have made Meijering more cautious than he was. Meijering, for example, should have considered consulting an expert before deciding to purchase the artworks from Van L. If, at the time, he had consulted one of the experts he called upon as expert witnesses during the legal procedures, the damages and the following procedures could probably have been prevented. Notable in this case is that the ‘self-appointed experts’ were also misled by the defendant (even though alarm bells had been ringing for some time). The fact that – because of an ill-functioning art market – (private) art collectors are left to their own devices, the importance of the buyer’s due diligence only increase.
Meijering’s transactions with Van L. did not stop with the purchase of the suspected forgeries. During this period, Meijering also exchanged works with Van L. and, in his own words, loaned him money. Meijering never received back the borrowed money, instead, as payment for his loans, Van L. gave Meijering even more suspected counterfeit works.
The agreements regarding the loans, sales, and exchanges were never adequately put on paper. There were, in fact, contracts (signed by both Van L. and Meijering), but these contracts were drawn up amateurishly and poorly. With transactions involving significant amounts of money (see ‘Transactions) it is no unnecessary luxury to have them recorded by a lawyer or notary, or at least well-documented. Professionally drawn up contracts could probably have prevented legal proceedings, or at least significantly improved Meijering’s position during the proceedings.
It is widely known in the legal profession that, when it comes to winning or losing a case, the greatest risk is the client. Clients are emotional and as a result unpredictable. They can undermine the case with their desire for justice.
Trying to find evidence to build his case, Meijering has written hundreds of pages’ worth of research. Although the research he has done has been of great importance to the case, many essential pieces of information were lost due to unimportant (personal) opinions, peripheral issues, and other insignificant details. This, plus the confusing legal tactics of Van L., led to the judge no longer being able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and having difficulty properly assessing the (Meijering’s) presented evidence. The law firm representing Meijering is also much to blame in this respect, as they should have intervened. They could have used Meijering’s extensive research to build a coherent and legally sound argument, and/or put it to use as a legally relevant piece of evidence.
Meijering added to his self-sabotage by withdrawing, without substantiation, five paintings from the Court of Appeal proceedings. This led to the Court questioning the reliability of the experts involved in the proceedings (see Appeal). Meijering was likely motivated by dubious art dealers in making this decision. Also, it clearly indicates how forgeries can continue circulating. No one benefits from maintaining such practices.
The (too) close personal involvement of Meijering was also apparent in his role in talking to the press. There are countless interviews of Meijering objecting the injustice that was done to him. These articles, however, rarely even come close to the true issues at hand, and are therefore demoted to being part of a negligible quarrel between between two parties.
If talking to the press had been done in a more purposeful and targeted way, and for example by the experts involved in the proceedings instead of by Meijering, the reporting on the case might have been more clear, and the outside world would have had a better idea of the actual events that were going on.
There are some important lessons to be drawn from the Altink I and II Affaires and Meijering’s actions regarding the affaires.
When purchasing a work of art, an expert must always be consulted, especially when, as with this case, it concerns significant monetary amounts
Involve a lawyer in the transaction. A well-written contract can prevent many problems
In the event that a transaction leads to legal proceedings, keep a professional mindset. Being too personally involved in the legal procedure can damage the case, and can have significant consequences for its duration and outcome
Let professional representatives and parties talk to the press. Here, too, the adage that personal involvement can only harm case holds true
It is not the task of the judges or lawyers to be art experts. They serve to guard and apply the law
The Altink I and II cases and the actions of Meijering are a good example for collectors and other art buyers. With just a few simple precautions, much damage and suffering can be prevented. Whether art represents much or little value, fakes can always be in circulation. The lack of any form of regulation within the art market should be a warning sign for every potential buyer.
 Subpoena Van L. by Meijering to the Assen Court, 2005.
 Court of Appeal Leeuwarden d.d. 24 juli 2012, case number 107.002.669/01.
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