Ann Freedman of the now-defunct Knoedler gallery, formerly one of New York’s most prestigious and pre-eminent galleries, is currently sitting trial for selling a fake Rothko to Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, having fraudulently attested to its authenticity on several occasions.
The De Sole couple had heralded the work a masterpiece, constructing an altar to the painting and revering it as the magnum opus of their extensive collection. “I have never loved a piece so much”, Eleanore stated at court, only to repeal her adulation on discovering that the piece was a counterfeit.
The De Sole couple invoke an interesting debate for Philosophy and History of Art applicants: can the external status of an artwork be extricated from its internal properties? In other words, the De Sole’s enjoyment of the subject matter, brushwork and tonality of their Rothko – that is to say, everything present on the canvas itself – was inextricably bound up with the value imposed on it by the outside world. Rothko, as a brand name, signifies the acme of taste and the pinnacle of abstract expressionism – so can a replica ever have the same value?