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Authentication and Expertise by Curators
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Authentication and Expertise by Curators
December 2013


In this webinar, the prominent art lawyer Ronald Spencer, auction house expert Polly Sartori, and catalogue raisonné author and curator Nancy Mowll Mathews each gave presentations that considered the legal and scholarly challenges of authentication and expertise. Important questions considered were: Should curators authenticate or share their expertise with museum members, colleagues, collectors, the trade, or the general public? Some feel that it is our duty while others fear legal ramifications. What are the actual legal risks? If curators do share their opinions, what is the best form: verbally or in writing? Should certain language be used and/or a disclaimer signed?

Additional Resources

Sample Guidelines
(for scholars considering offering opinions):

Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association:

College Art Association:

Legal Bibliography:
(click here for a pdf download of the articles noted below):


Panelists (listed alphabetically)

Dr. Nancy Mowll Mathews has recently retired as the Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator of 19th and 20th Century Art at the Williams College Museum of Art and is currently working as an independent scholar in her areas of expertise: Mary Cassatt, Maurice and Charles Prendergast, early film history, and issues of art authentication. She is the co-author of two catalogues raisonnés: Mary Cassatt: The Color Prints (1989) and Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné (1990) and was president of the Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association from 1999 to 2013. In this capacity, she organized many programs on the subject of the catalogue raisonné, including the online catalogue raisonné (September 22, 2011) and issues of authentication (March 29, 2012).

Before her retirement, she directed the Prendergast Archive and Study Center, conducting ongoing research and organizing exhibitions and publications on the Prendergasts and their era (1850-1950). For example, Mathews organized the exhibition (with related book) "Prendergast in Italy,” which was mounted in conjunction with the Terra Foundation for American Art and traveled from WCMA to the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice and then to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2009-2010). Her essay for the book, Prendergast in Italy, won the Association of Art Museum Curators’ award for best essay of 2009. Another notable exhibition and book was her groundbreaking "Moving Pictures: American Art and Early Film, 1880-1910,” which toured in 2005-7 and explored the interconnections between the new technology of film and the visual arts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. "Moving Pictures” won the International Art Critics’ award for best exhibition of 2007 in a smaller museum. She recently served as co-curator for the exhibition "Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea" for the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (summer-fall, 2013).

In addition, she is the author of seven books on Mary Cassatt, including the influential biographical study, Mary Cassatt: A Life (1998). A small exhibition, "Mary Cassatt: Friends and Family” (2008-2009) was recently on view at the Shelburne Museum and the National Museum for Women in the Arts. Other publications include the critically acclaimed Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life (2001) and the volume of essays, American Dreams: American Art in the Williams College Museum of Art to 1950 (2001). She was guest curator of the Guggenheim’s Art in America, the first major exhibition of American art in China which opened in Beijing in February, 2007 and traveled to Shanghai, Moscow, and Bilbao through 2009. She is now the host of the television show, "Art World with Nancy Mathews” on Williamstown Community Television (

Mathews received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, N.Y.U., and was at Williams College from 1984 to 2012. She taught in the Williams College Art Department and Graduate Program in the History of Art. Previously she was tenured Associate Professor of Art, chair of the Art Department, and director of the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman's College), Lynchburg, Virginia.

Polly Sartori joined Sotheby’s in June 2000 after 16 years at Christie’s, which included five years as Senior Director of Impressionist and 19th Century Art. At Christie's, she organised sales devoted to 19th century European paintings, including the popular annual auction of Barbizon and Realist paintings. Ms Sartori was a member of the European Paintings department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1977 to 1983.

A frequent guest lecturer, Ms Sartori has spoken at many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh and at New York University.

Ms Sartori’s most recent publication is an essay on the French Realist painter Jean François Raffaëlli in Twenty-First-Century Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century Art: Essays in Honor of Gabriel Weisberg.

Ms Sartori received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Wells College and a Master of Arts degree from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, where she has been accepted as a PhD candidate.

Ronald D. Spencer
specializes in art law and is Chairman of the Art Law Group at the law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP in New York City.

Mr. Spencer is legal counsel to The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the largest American private foundation devoted solely to aiding needy and worthy visual artists. He has also been legal counsel to several committees of art authentication experts, such as The Pollock-Krasner Authentication Board and the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board. He is expert in the legal aspects of art authentication issues, advising, owners, buyers and sellers of art, as well as art scholars and authors of catalogues raisonnés. He has edited and authored a book published in 2004 by Oxford University Press, The Expert Versus Tlte Object: Judging Fakes and False Attributions in the Visual Arts. Mr. Spencer is also the Editor of Spencer's Art Law Journal, published on ARTNET.COM three times a year, dealing with legal issues of practical significance for collectors, dealers, scholars and the art-minded public.

Mr. Spencer is legal counsel to The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, The (Alexander) Archipenko Foundation, the Alex Katz Foundation, the Milton & Sally Avery Foundation and the Larry Rivers Foundation. He has advised artists and their estates, including the estate of the artist, Sam Francis, on art law and estate planning. He advises the Storm King Art Center, and helped several highly regarded contemporary artists to establish private foundations to aid the visual arts. Mr. Spencer is a Trustee of The Lachaise Foundation, concerned with the art of the sculptor, Gaston Lachaise.

Mr. Spencer is founder and Chairman of the Fund for Park A venue which plants tulips, and landscapes the Park Avenue Malls from 53rd Street to 86th Street in Manhattan. He is a member of the Sculpture Committee of the Fund which selects contemporary sculpture for exhibition on these landscaped Park A venue medians.

Dr. Kenneth Wayne (Moderator) is an Independent Curator who is about to launch The Modigliani Project to promote research and scholarship on the artist. He organized the exhibition Modigliani & the Artists of Montparnasse, which traveled from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2002-2003. He wrote the accompanying 224-page catalogue, among many other publications on the artist. Dr. Wayne has lectured extensively on Modigliani at such institutions as the Royal Academy of Art in London, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. He has held various museum positions, including Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at The Noguchi Museum; Chief Curator at the Heckscher Museum of Art; Curator of Modern Art at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Joan Whitney Payson Curator at the Portland Museum of Art, Maine. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Musée Rodin in Paris and has organized dozens of exhibitions on modern and contemporary art. Man Ray and Surrealism remain a major interest. Dr. Wayne was educated at Stanford University (Ph.D.), the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London (M.A.) and the University of California, Berkeley (A.B.).


*This program was organized by AAMC Professional Development committee members Lynne Ambrosini, William Breazeale, Jay Clarke, and Kenneth Wayne.

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