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The Mark of a Masterpiece

I think you’ll really enjoy this article from the New Yorker. It has all the hallmarks of a great read: Art, large sums of money, science, pseudo-science, Sherlock Holmes, imitators and forgers, a Canadian con man, social norms, science vs. brains, and so much more.

… in January, 2009, Kemp turned to a Canadian forensic art expert named Peter Paul Biro, who, during the past several years, has pioneered a radical new approach to authenticating pictures. He does not merely try to detect the artist’s invisible hand; he scours a painting for the artist’s fingerprints, impressed in the paint or on the canvas. Treating each painting as a crime scene, in which an artist has left behind traces of evidence, Biro has tried to render objective what has historically been subjective. In the process, he has shaken the priesthood of connoisseurship, raising questions about the nature of art, about the commodification of aesthetic beauty, and about the very legitimacy of the art world. Biro’s research seems to confirm what many people have long suspected: that the system of authenticating art works can be arbitrary and, at times, even a fraud.