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Heritage Auctions Appraisal Services

All About Appraisals: Important Legislation for Authenticators
By Meredith Meuwly

As prominent organizations, such as the Warhol Foundation, the Basquiat Authentication Committee, and the Keith Haring Foundation, have ceased authenticating works due to concerns over lawsuits, there is a strong need for legislation to protect experts from increased liability and allow them to practice their jobs with confidence. The opinions of experts are vital to the establishment of a value for an artwork. These opinions often mean the difference between a sale of tens of millions of dollars and nothing. Many qualified experts have ceased to give their opinions due to the extreme risk of claims of defamation, fraud, or negligence. Although the experts tend to prevail in the end, they do so only at great expense in their defense.

To safeguard experts from frivolous legal action, there is pending legislation in the State of New York that would allow experts to provide statements on authenticity while protecting themselves from "nuisance" lawsuits. The proposed legislation has three main features. First, any lawsuit filed against authenticators would need to be supported by facts . The plaintiff must also demonstrate clear and convincing evidence that the art expert acted in bad faith when rendering an opinion. Both of these points demand a greater burden of proof for the claimant than had previously been in effect. And importantly, the authenticator would be able to recover legal fees if his or her case prevailed.

Currently, the legislation as written has hit a snag with the New York State Trial Attorneys association, but there is confidence on all sides that a deal over minor details will be worked out that will enable the bill to pass. This is great news for appraisers as we rely on the opinions of experts for authentication. Without their willingness to provide expertise openly, we cannot properly do our jobs to value works of art.

For more information about current legislation affecting appraisers, or to discuss your appraisal needs, please contact Meredith Meuwly, Director of Heritage Auctions Appraisal Services, Inc. at MeredithM@HA.com or tel. 214-409-1631.


After five years at Christie's in New York, Meredith Meuwly joined Heritage Auctions in 2007 as Senior Consignment Director in the Fine & Decorative Arts Department and currently manages the Appraisal Services department. In 2009, Meredith participated as an appraiser for the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. She is also a member of the Fine Art committee for the International Society of Appraisers and looks forward to assisting with any formal appraisal needs.