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Retirees returning to Jamaica face extreme murder risk, say police

Returnees warned they are seen as soft targets following multiple killings of UK expats

Jamaican expats who retire there after decades in the UK face an extreme risk of murder, a former police chief on the Caribbean island has said, as official figures revealed that at least 85 Britons, Americans and Canadians have been killed in the country since 2012.

Senior police figures told the Guardian that returning residents were seen as soft targets by criminals and needed much more protection following the murders of three British retirees on the island in as many months.

Gayle and Charlie Anderson, aged 71 and 74, had only recently retired to Jamaica when they were fatally stabbed and their bodies burned following a firebomb attack at their dream home in Mount Pleasant, in the islands Portland parish, last Saturday.

The double murder followed the killing in April of 63-year-old Birmingham charity worker, Delroy Walker, incidents that have put renewed focus on the disturbing pattern of elderly returnees being violently targeted by Jamaican criminals.

Percival Latouche, the president of the Jamaica association for the resettlement of returning residents, said he had counted more than 200 British, American and Canadian expats murdered in the country since 2000 and had attended 165 funerals in that time.

It is not known how many of the Britons murdered were of the Windrush generation but a large proportion of those targeted were pensioners, like Charlie Anderson, who left Jamaica as a child and returned to the Caribbean to retire after decades working in the UK.

Gayle
Gayle and Charlie Anderson had recently retired to Jamaica when they were fatally stabbed at their dream home in Jamaica. Photograph: FCO/PA

Mark Shields, Jamaicas former deputy commissioner of police, said returnees were seen as easy pickings by criminals, who see them as wealthy and naive to the countrys security risks. Ive always considered them to be an extreme risk, he said, adding that police chiefs had previously under-appreciated the scale of the crime but that it was becoming a major issue. Theres a significant risk to returning residents for robbery, fraud and the ultimate crime of murder, he said.

Shields, who now runs his own security firm in Jamaica, advised Jamaican expats to think very carefully about immersing themselves in local Jamaican culture in a rural community when they havent been back that much.

Some gangs are known to wait until retirees pensions land before striking, while others tail them in rental cars from Kingston or Montego Bay airports and rob them once they reach their destination. Undercover police officers patrol the two airports on the hunt for corrupt baggage handlers or taxi drivers, who have been known to tip off gangs about new arrivals returning to live in Jamaica.

One such gang was led by a police officer and convicted several years ago of 20 robberies, all involving returning residents, although it was suspected of having committed many more crimes over the course of a decade, said Cornwall Bigga Ford, a former senior superintendent who caught the group before he retired in 2015. Once returning residents come back they need support. They need good support, Ford said. They work so hard, buy these nice houses all over the place and some of the places are remote. They need security, they need to put up alarms, cameras and have dogs.

Both the Andersons and Delroy Walker are believed to have been exploited financially before their murders. Detectives told the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper that the Andersons, from Gorton in Manchester, were victims of a 50,000 credit card fraud which they reported to police before they were killed. One suspect has so far been arrested by police.

Steve Walker, a television technical operator from the Midlands, said his brother was murdered following a dispute about money with a painter who was decorating his retirement home near Tower Isle, on Jamaicas north coast. Delroy Walker died on 19 April after suffering multiple stab wounds. The painter and at least one accomplice have been charged over the murder.

If youre from Britain, the US or Canada, youre seen as having money, Walker told the Guardian. My brother might have agreed one price but they think you can surely afford another – thats what caused the grievance. People need to be aware of their security but there definitely should be a lot more communication with people who are thinking of returning.

Jamaica experiences twice as many murders in an average year than Britain, even though the UK has a population 20 times higher. Last year the country recorded 1,616 murders, the highest in six years and equivalent to 31 a week, as the homicide rate rocketed by 20% in just 12 months. So far in 2018 there have been more than 600 killings, mainly linked to gang activity, yet only 44% of homicides result in arrests.

At least 85 British, American and Canadian nationals have been murdered in Jamaica since 2012, a Guardian analysis of government data has found. Of those, at least 30 were British and eight were murdered in 2017, the highest annual murder toll of Britons on the island in at least five years.

There are thought to be around 30,000 returned residents in Jamaica although the number coming back each year has dropped substantially since the 1990s, a trend that has heightened concerns about the countrys troubled economy. The newly-appointed police commissioner, major general Antony Anderson, has suggested he will make the issue a top priority.

The commissioner knows the optics, he knows reputation, he knows how this can reduce footfall in Jamaica and reduce GDP, said Leroy Logan, a former Scotland Yard superintendent who met Anderson earlier this month and who runs the Jamaica diaspora crime intervention and prevention taskforce in the UK. There needs to be specific protections for returnees from the Jamaica constabulary force, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development while theyre in the UK and once they arrive. I dont think theyre doing a sufficient risk assessment in preparation for their return.

Latouche, a 77-year-old former London gas station operator who now runs the islands biggest returning residents group, said his warnings about the pattern had for years fallen on deaf ears. He met the Andersons four years ago in Manchester and was devastated by news of their murder. This country is anarchic, theres no law here, he said. Its going to have a devastating impact on the economy.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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How to spot a perfect fake: the worlds top art forgery detective

The long read: Forgeries have got so good and so costly that Sothebys has brought in its own in-house fraud-busting expert

The unravelling of a string of shocking old master forgeries began in the winter of 2015, when French police appeared at a gallery in Aix-en-Provence and seized a painting from display. Venus, by the German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder, to describe the work more fully: oil on oak, 38cm by 25cm, and dated to 1531. Purchased in 2013 by the Prince of Liechtenstein for about 6m, Venus was the inescapable star of the exhibition of works from his collection; she glowed on the cover of the catalogue. But an anonymous tip to the police suggested she was, in fact, a modern fake so they scooped her up and took her away.

The painting had been placed in the market by Giuliano Ruffini, a French collector, and its seizure hoisted the first flag of concern about a wave of impeccable fakes. Ruffini has sold at least 25 works, their sale values totalling about 179m, and doubts now shadow every one of these paintings. The authenticity of four, in particular, including the Cranach, has been contested; the art historian Bendor Grosvenor said they may turn out to be the best old master fakes the world has ever seen. Ruffini, who remains the subject of a French police investigation, has denied presenting these paintings as old masters at all. To the Art Newspaper, he protested: I am a collector, not an expert.

The quality of these paintings their faithful duplicity jolted the market. The sums of money at stake in art, never paltry to begin with, have grown monstrous. Thirty years ago, the highest auction price for a painting was $10.4m, paid by the J Paul Getty Museum for Andrea Mantegnas Adoration of the Magi in 1985. In contrast, while the $450m paid for Leonardo da Vincis Salvator Mundi in 2017 counts as an outlier, abstract expressionists and impressionists frequently come, in auctions or private deals, with nine-figure price tags.

In lockstep, the incentive to be a proficient forger has soared; a single, expertly executed old master knockoff can finance a long, comfortable retirement. The technologies available to abet the aspiring forger have also improved. Naturally, then, the frauds are getting better, touching off a crisis of authentication for the institutions of the art world: the museums and galleries and auction houses and experts who are expected to know the real thing from its imitation.

What was most unnerving about the alleged fakes sold by Ruffini was how many people they fooled. The National Gallery in London displayed a small oil painting thought to be by the 16th-century artist Orazio Gentileschi a battle-weary David, painted on an electric-blue slice of lapis lazuli; the work is now suspect. A portrait of a nobleman against a muddy background was sold by Sothebys in 2011, to a private collector, as a Frans Hals; the buyer paid 8.5m. Sothebys also sold an oil named Saint Jerome, attributed to the 16th-century artist Parmigianino, in a 2012 auction, for $842,500. With care, the catalogue only ventured that the work was from the circle of Parmigianino an idiom to convey that it was painted by an artist influenced by, and perhaps a pupil of, Parmigianino. But the entry also cited several experts who believed it was by Parmigianino himself.

The works were full of striking, scrupulous detail. On Jeromes arm, for example, dozens of faint horizontal cracks have appeared; every so often, a clean, vertical split intersects them. In French canvases from the 18th century, cracks in paint tend to develop like spider webs; in Flemish panels, like tree bark. In Italian paintings of the Renaissance, the patterns resemble rows of untidy brickwork. On the Saint Jerome, the cracks match perfectly. Prof David Ekserdjian, one of the few art historians who doubted that the painting was a Parmigianino, said he just didnt feel the prickle of recognition that scholars claim as their gift: the intimacy with an artist that they liken to our ability to spot a friend in a crowd. But I have to be frank, I didnt look at it and say: Oh, thats a forgery.

When Sothebys sells an artwork, it offers a five-year guarantee of refund if the object proves to be a counterfeit a modern forgery intended to deceive, as its terms specify. In 2016, after uncertainty crackled over the Hals and the Parmigianino, the auction-house sent them to Orion Analytical, a conservation science lab in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Orion was run, and staffed almost solely by, James Martin, who has loaned his forensic skills to the FBI for many art forgery investigations. Within days, Martin had an answer for Sothebys: both the Hals and the Parmigianino were fakes.

The Hals contained synthetic pigments that the artist, in the 17th century, could not have used. In Saint Jerome, similarly, Martin found phthalocyanine green, a pigment first synthesised four centuries after Parmigianino died. It showed up consistently across 21 paint samples from various parts of the painting a bit like taking the pulse of a corpse 21 times, Martin told the New York Times last year. Sothebys refunded both buyers, and filed suits against the sellers, demanding they return their proceeds from the sales.

In December 2016, in a signal of how attribution scandals have spooked the market, Sothebys took the unprecedented step of buying Orion Analytical, becoming the first auctioneer to have an in-house conservation and analysis unit. The company had seen enough disputes over attribution to mar its bottom line, its CEO, Tad Smith, said: If you looked at earnings reports from a year or two ago, youd see little blips here and there. These were expenses coming from settlements not a slew, the number was small and statistically insignificant, but theyre expensive. The cost of insurance that covers such settlements was also rising. With Martin in the building, the pictures and other objects moving through Sothebys now have a much higher chance of being checked, Smith said. Last year, Martin analysed more than $100m worth of artworks before they went under the hammer or into private sales. Sothebys employs him, in part, as a conservator, so he ministers to the health of the paintings and sculptures that pass through. But over the past two decades, Martin has also become the art worlds foremost forensic art detective. He has worked so many forgery cases with such success that he also serves Sothebys as a line of fortification against the swells of duff art lapping into the market.


The first major painting sold by Sothebys was also a Hals a real one: Man in Black, a half-length portrait of a hatted gent. Until 1913, Sothebys had dealt in books for a century or thereabouts; art made up only a wan side business. In that year, though, a Sothebys partner found a Hals consigned to the firm, and rather than forwarding it to Christies, as was often the practice, decided to auction it. After a spirited contest of bids, Man in Black sold for 9,000 a 26% rate of return per annum since Christies had last auctioned the work, in 1885, for around 5. It was the first signal, for Sothebys, that there was profit to be mined from paintings. Last year, it sold $5.5bn worth of art, jewellery and real estate.

Frans
The Frans Hals painting, Portrait of a Gentleman, supplied to Sothebys by Mark Weiss. It sold for a reported 8.5m ($10.8m) but was later declared fake. Photograph: Sotheby’s

For Sothebys, the question of authenticity is not merely, or even primarily, academic. There is more at stake than a satisfying answer to the fundamental conundrum of whether authenticity matters at all a debate that has been fought and refought in the history of western art. If a fake is so expert that even after the most thorough and trustworthy examination its authenticity is still open to doubt, the critic Aline Saarinen once wondered, is it or is it not as satisfactory a work of art as if it were unequivocally genuine? Typically, this debate comes to rest at the same place every time. Of course authenticity matters; to study a false Rembrandt as a true one would be to hobble our understanding of Rembrandt as an artist, and of the evolution of art. Now, however, the questions philosophical whimsy has been replaced by financial urgency. At a time when the art market is synonymous with art itself, a lack of regard for attribution would derail a trade that traffics in the scarcity of authentic Rembrandts.

Leaving straight forgeries aside, any discussion about the authenticity of an artwork opens suddenly, like a trapdoor, into the murk of semantics. On the sliding scale of attribution that art historians use painted by; hand of; studio of; circle of; style of; copy of each step takes the artist further from the painting. These variations, often subtle, are compounded by the unease about overpainting; Salvator Mundi had been worked over so many times and so heavily, critics argued, that it was less by Da Vinci than by his restorers. Deliberate fakes, misattributions and poor restorations all encroach into the realm of the authentic. In two decades at the Met in New York, Thomas Hoving, the museums director until 1977, must have examined at least 50,000 objects, he wrote in his book False Impressions. I almost believe that there are as many bogus works as genuine ones.

Like criminals of every stripe, modern forgers have kept easy pace with the techniques that attempt to trap them. The mismatch between the purported age of a painting and the true age of its ingredients is the workhorse of Martins technique. So forgers have grown more rigorous in their harvesting of materials, taking the trouble, for instance, to source wooden panels from furniture they know is dateable to the year of the fake they are creating. (The trick isnt wholly new; Terenzio da Urbino, a 17th-century conman, scrabbled around for filthy old canvases and frames, cleaned them up, and turned them into Raphaels.) Forgers also test their own fakes to ensure theyll pass. Wolfgang Beltracchi, a German artist who served three years in prison for forging paintings worth $45m, surveyed the chemical elements in his works by running them under X-ray fluorescence guns the same handheld devices, resembling Star Trek phasers, that many art fairs now train upon their exhibits.

Georgina Adam, who wrote Dark Side of the Boom, a book about the art markets excesses, told me that many forgers are sensibly choosing to falsify 20th-century painters, who used paints and canvases that can still be obtained, and whose abstractions are easier to imitate. The technical skill needed to forge a Leonardo is colossal, but with someone like Modigliani, it isnt, she said. Now, scholars will say its easy to distinguish, but the fact is that its just not that easy at all. In January, in a celebrated Modigliani exhibition in Genoa, 20 out of 21 paintings were revealed to be counterfeits.

As the tide of money in the market has risen, making decisions about authenticity has turned into a fraught venture. Collectors, realising how much they stand to lose, are now happy to take scholars and connoisseurs traditionally the final authorities on the authenticity of a work to court for their mistakes. Realising that their reputations, as well as their bank balances, may wilt under the heat,these experts have begun to subtract themselves from the game entirely.

The estates of several 20th-century artists had once taken on the duty of resolving doubts over attribution, setting up authentication committees, consisting of experts or the artists former colleagues or friends people expected to know the work best. In 2007, a collector named Joe Simon-Whelan sued the Andy Warhol estates authentication committee, claiming it had twice rejected a Warhol silkscreen he owned because it wanted to maintain scarcity in the Warhol market. Four years later, after spending $7m in legal fees, the estate dissolved the committee. The authentication boards of other modern artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder have followed. Individual connoisseurs as the art world calls its experts wont always challenge popular identifications, wrote the critic Jerry Saltz in a scorching essay on the vertiginous price of Salvator Mundi. They are reluctant to rock the already splintering institutional boat. As in the wider world, where people sit by for fear of losing position, its no wonder that many old master experts are keeping quiet, not saying much of anything.

The collapse of these committees feels like a victory of the market over the academy, like a blow to the very cause of trustworthy authentication. (In New York, a small band of lawyers is lobbying for legislation that will protect scholars from being sued merely for expressing their opinion.) In this void of opinion, Martins abilities premised not on the mysterious instincts of connoisseurship, but on the verifiable results of the scientific process have an even higher valence.

Martin, a tall man with lumber-beam shoulders, has a voice that never surpasses a murmur. He is a consummate nerd; find someone who looks at you the way Martin looks at his Fourier-transform infrared microscope. He trained as a conservator of paintings, but now he assays them: picks out their chemical constituents, inspects pigments and binders, peers under their washes of colour. From a paintings materials, he can extract the vital detail of when it could, or could not, have been created.

The field of scientific art conservation is not a crowded one; Martin, who set up the first for-profit art lab in the US, has been consulted in nearly every major fraud case in the past 25 years, often working alongside the FBI or other investigators. When he is described as the premier forensic detective working in art today, the accolade comes not only from people such as John Cahill, a New York lawyer who has managed dozens of art transactions, and who called Martin hands-down the best in the business, but also from those on the other side of the fence, so to speak. Beltracchi, the German forger, told me that, after his arrest, he had seen an assortment of technical studies collected by the police and the prosecution. He remembered Martins well. His reports contained the most accurate results. His reports were factually neutral and without unrealistic guesses. By folding Martin into its staff, Sothebys has given itself a muscular chance to stamp out problems of attribution before they flare into spectacular, expensive affairs. But its hard not to feel, at the same time, that it has cornered a precious resource, at a moment when the art world needs him most.


Martin spent much of last year setting up a new lab in what used to be a photo studio on the fifth floor of the Sothebys headquarters in Manhattan. Soon, he will also have a London facility, in the building where the Beatles once recorded A Taste of Honey for the BBC. The New York lab, one large room, is as white and aseptic as a dentists clinic. Many of the cabinets are still empty, and the desk surfaces often bear nothing apart from one red pack of Martins Dentyne Fire gum. Outside the lab, above the lead-lined double doors, is a warning light; if its on, so to is the giant x-ray fluorescence machine, and no one is allowed in.

One Friday in mid-February, the room held only two items of art. A carved wooden chair sat on a counter; on a stand was a painting that, for reasons of confidentiality, may be described here only as a late-19th century American work. When a painting checks into the lab, it is first submitted to a visual examination in bright, white light; then the lamp is moved to one side, so that the light rakes over the surface at an angle, showing up restored or altered areas. The canvas in Martins lab was at the next stage; it had been photographed under ultraviolet and infrared, and then under x-rays to discover some of the paintings chemical elements.

On a computer, one of Martins two colleagues cycled through the images. Under infrared, the paintings browns and yellows and greens turned into shades of grey, but no spectral underdrawings peered back out. (Not that underdrawings would have suggested anything about authenticity one way or another; theyd merely have been a further nugget of information to consider.) Mapped for lead by the x-ray fluorescence unit, the painting looked faded and streaked with dark rust; the streaks betrayed where restorers had perhaps applied touchups with modern, lead-free paint. Mapped for calcium, the painting showed yellow-green splashes where conservators had made repairs with a calcium carbonate filler.

Not every object needs to move beyond these non-invasive phases. (At Orion, Martin was once able to unmask a fake Modigliani after seeing, under infrared, a faint grid, which had been drawn by a forger who wanted to guide his work.) If Martin has to disturb the painting, he will place it under a stereo microscope and, squinting through the two eyepieces, pick out a grain of paint with a scalpel. He demonstrated with a sample of phthalocyanine blue, a synthetic pigment he picked out of a box that held paint cakes of different colours. Working with the same steady, cautious manner in which he speaks, he teased out a particle smaller than the width of a human hair, flattened it gently, then nudged it on to a slim, small rectangle of metal, where it was held in place between two tiny diamonds.

You dont drink a lot of coffee before you do this, he said, grimacing.

Cracks
Cracks in the surface of a 16th-century painting as seen through Martins microscope. Photograph: Joshua Bright for the Guardian

The metal plate then goes into the Fourier-transform infrared microscope, like a slide. The spectrometer pumps infrared light through the flecks of pigment; a computer analyses the lights behavior and returns a tidy spectrum graph. Martin has looked at so many of these spectra that he recognises on sight the patterns thrown up by different pigments, but even if he didnt, the computer could rifle through databases of the spectrum patterns of other known chemicals, find the nearest match, and tell Martin what, in this case, he already knew: that his sample was phthalocyanine blue.

By a system of triage sorting, for instance, for artists with a high incidence of being faked in the past, or for works accompanied by scientific analysis reports that are suspiciously long only a small percentage of the tens of thousands of objects passing through Sothebys is diverted to the lab. Martin thinks of them as patients showing symptoms. Sometimes, like a doctor doing general checkups, he will tour the galleries at Sothebys just before a sale, reading every work with a handheld infrared camera. In the past year, his lab has stopped several lots from going to market, preventing possible disputes after the sale. In one case, a painting valued at $7m was removed from sale after the lab found that it had been completely and irretrievably overpainted by a restorer. An appraiser wouldve said its worthless, Martin said. So it wasnt sold.

The arduous process of Martins work divorces art from its aesthetic. It reduces compositions of great prestige or high beauty to their very particles; it frees Martin up to think of art as pure matter. In this way, he comes closer to the artist than anyone has before, often becoming only the second person to think as intensely about the materiality of the object, about the chemical nature of its pigments or the physical properties of its canvas. The art he analyses derives its worth from unique, flashing inspiration. His own talent, if anything, has more in common with the forger. It lies in his capacity to be unflashy but diligent to perform a step time after time without a slackening of attention, to never leave a molecule unturned, to never conclude more about a work than what it tells him about itself.


When Martin turned 13, his father gifted him a microscope, a chemistry kit, and art lessons a splendid piece of foreshadowing. He used them all, but he was particularly attracted to art. The family lived in Baltimore, and whenever they visited Washington DC, Martin spent his time at the National Museum of Natural History, drawing the dioramas, while the others wandered the capital. His father worked in army intelligence. As a child, Im not sure I understood what he did. I do remember being in airports and trying to guess who was a spy, Martin said. He devoured detective stories and loves them still, particularly Patricia Cornwells novels about Kay Scarpetta, the forensic pathologist. We both examine patients that cannot speak their past, he said.

In a universe a twist away from ours, Martin might have become a forger himself. Late in his teens, he joined an art school where students were taught how to grind their own pigments and stretch their own canvases. For practice, he set up an easel in the Baltimore Museum of Art and copied the works he liked; he grew so accomplished that once, as he was leaving with his copy of William Merritt Chases Broken Jug, the museum director spotted him and asked if he was returning the painting to storage.

I was very good technically, Martin said, but like most art forgers, I didnt have my own creative way of doing things. He thought hed become an illustrator of medical textbooks, but then heard about a conservation programme at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The portfolio he submitted included his copy of the Chase, as well as of other painters all at such a high level of craft, said Richard Wolbers, who taught him at Winterthur, that we were blown away. He was such a good copyist, in fact, that he was almost rejected. Later, I heard that the committee worried that if they trained me to be a conservator and taught me all the science, Id be a natural forger.

After Winterthur, Martin was hired by the Clark Art Institute, a museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to conserve paintings. A couple of years later, he set up the museums first conservation lab, filled with equipment that he bought or begged from chemistry departments in nearby universities. At the time, in 1990, the apparatus of analysis the microscopes, the spectroscopes, the infrared cameras was bulky, expensive and difficult to operate. Few museums had their own labs, Martin said. The Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA [Museum of Modern Art], the museums in San Francisco none of them had the facilities.

In getting to know a painting, conservators in these museums relied first on the tactility of their craft listening to the sound of the swab on the canvas, Martin said, or feeling the pull of the swab in the varnish. Most conservation departments owned microscopes, some perhaps even x-ray machines. But if they needed some serious technology Fourier-transform infrared microscopes, say, or scanning electron microscopes they could turn only to the lab in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or to those in universities. Even then, an expert was still needed to interpret the data. Small museums really didnt have any place to go. Some people took paintings to the vet to get them x-rayed.

Martins lab began by assisting conservators who had no equipment of their own. If someone was trying to get a varnish off a painting and didnt want to damage it by using a solvent that was too strong, theyd send me a sample, he said. Id tell them: Its polyurethane. Youre not going to get it off. Or: Its shellac. You need to use alcohol. A conservator wondering if the strange sky in a landscape was overpaint paint applied by later restorers could mail Martin a tiny cross-section tweezed out of the work, so that he could examine it under a microscope. Wed see the layers in the cross-section: varnish, varnish, varnish, then blue sky, then more varnish, then more sky. So wed establish that the topmost layer of blue was overpaint.

In its materials, an artwork holds its biography, so inevitably, Martin became an arbiter of authenticity. Nearly all of the privately owned art labs in Europe and the US have been founded in the past decade not coincidentally, around the time that the worlds multi-millionaires realised how hollow their lives had been without art. But in the 1990s, at Clark, and then again at Orion, which he founded in 2000, Martin was often the sole resource for collectors and merchants.

James
James Martin using his stereo fluorescence microscope in his New York lab. Photograph: Joshua Bright for the Guardian

Some of his stories from these years have the baroque pulpiness of Elmore Leonard plots. Martin narrates these with care; he is alive to the sensational aspects of his work, but by default, he wears an air of studious detachment. There were the two questionable gentlemen from Tel Aviv, who slipped a pair of paintings out of architects tubes, shook them open as if they were rugs, and asked him to confirm that they were Modiglianis. (They werent.) There was the client who sent Martin to test a painting at an auction house, claiming he wished to bid on it, but then also had Martin stop by a warehouse to assess a horrible copy of the same painting. (Martin now thinks the client wanted to know how close the fake was to the genuine work.) There were the two ferocious dogs chained near the front door of a house in Los Angeles, guarding the stolen Chinese sculptures held within. There was the collector who offered to fly Martin to an undisclosed location, have him picked up by a security detail, and bring him in to examine an old Mexican stele, a stone carving supposedly worth $50m. The night before his flight, Martin was unable to sleep, so he Googled the collector and found that he had recently been released from federal prison after serving time on weapons charges.

Next morning, Martin called the collector and turned down the case.

Oh, the collector said. Did you read about the murders?

No, Martin said. What murders? The collector, it turned out, had once been implicated in the killings of two people over a matter of Mexican steles. Martin never got on that plane.

The FBI first came to Martin in 1994. A suspicious number of works ascribed to the 19th-century artist William Aiken Walker, who often painted black sharecroppers in the American south, were emerging in the market. Theyd sell at really small country auctions for $5,000 or $10,000 so low that nobody would pay for analysis, Martin said. From the paintings, Martin sampled a yellow pigment called PY3, which had been manufactured in Germany and was not available to American artists until the late 1940s, decades after Walker died. Walker also used lead white paint, Martin found; the forger used zinc white. A former vitamin salesman named Charles Heller was eventually indicted for a spree of counterfeiting, but he pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served one year in prison.

With even a little study, a con artist would know not to use zinc white; some forgers go on to become diligent researchers, accessing technical journals and case studies to learn what experts search for. Martin recalled a painting once referred to him, around 3.5 sq metres in size and dated to 1932. In a first round of study, he discovered nothing amiss. But the works provenance its documented history of ownership was shaky, so he ran a second pass under a microscope. For most of a day, he scanned the painting in dime-sized increments, until his eyes dried up. Was anything embedded in the paint: dust, or hair, or an insect wing? Did the dirt look as if it had been smeared on deliberately? Finally, embedded in a speckle of blue, he found a slim fibre; with a scalpel, he snipped it off and subjected it to infrared spectroscopy. The fibre turned out to be polypropylene. Perhaps someone had worn a polar fleece while painting the forgery?

For a while, Martin cited this example in a two-day course he taught. Last year, though, he read a translation of Faussaire (or Forger), a French novel written in 2015 and containing a wealth of sound wisdom for forgers. If you want to get hold of antique lead, one character advises another, for instance, then you can just pick up bits of it from the old buildings in Rome. The same character warns of the dangers from microparticles from your clothes You must always work in an old smock. Never nylon or a modern apron. Martin is convinced the detail came from his anecdote; it was one reason he decided to stop teaching his course altogether.

As a crime, art forgery can seem trifling less a sinister outrage than a half-complete Robin Hood jape that merely robs the rich. After Beltracchis arrest in 2010, the Frankfurter Allgemeine called art forgery the most moral way to embezzle 16m; Der Spiegel noted that, unlike crooked bankers, Beltracchi hadnt swindled the common man. But the crime can have real victims, and Martin has met so many of them that he has developed a gentle bedside manner to break bad news. He has seen people who used the money set aside for their childrens education to buy a painting, only to find it to be fake. So we arent just talking rich people. In some situations, its a persons whole life.


The inflation of the art market, and its attendant litigiousness, imposes fierce pressures upon anyone called to judge the authenticity of an artwork. Martins harshest experience of this came during the bitter legal battle over the fate of the Knoedler gallery. The Knoedler, once New Yorks oldest gallery, closed in 2011, days after Martin issued a report concluding that a Jackson Pollock it had sold for $17m was fake.

The bogus Pollock was only the inauguration of a scandal. Over 15 years, Knoedler had sourced and sold 40 paintings ascribed to a range of leading modern artists: Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Motherwell, among others, earning roughly $80m in the process. When the ambiguity of the works provenance raised needles of suspicion, 10 buyers sued Knoedler and its director, Ann Freedman; all but one of these lawsuits have been settled out of court. In 2013, investigators learned that the forgeries had been painted by a Chinese immigrant, who was by then 73 years old, in his garage in Queens, and placed with Knoedler by an art dealer who pleaded guilty. Knoedlers executives claimed they had no knowledge of the fraud, and argued that scholars had verified the works before sale.

In at least four of the lawsuits, which carried on for years, the plaintiffs hired Martin to test the paintings they had purchased. He found them all to be forgeries. A purported Rothko from 1956, which sold for $8.3m, used a ground layer of white paint between the canvas and the oils; through that decade, though, Rothko had used a transparent ground layer. In an apparent Pollock, the artist seemed to have misspelled his own signature as Pollok. Further, in 16 Knoedler paintings he analysed, Martin found the same ground layer of white paint and other anachronistic pigments repeating themselves across the works of several artists, as if Motherwell, De Kooning and Rothko had all travelled forward in time, met in a bar, and swapped tubes of paint.

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A fake Mark Rothko painting is shown to the court during a trial in New York in 2016. Photograph: AP

Eventually, Martin was proved right; when the FBI raided the Queens garage, it even found the tubs of white that had coated the canvas in the fake Rothko. But, until then, the trials were a torrid experience. Knoedler recruited experts to attack Martin in court. They went after him with a vengeance, saying hed soiled the evidence, accidentally or on purpose, said the lawyer John Cahill, who represented some of Martins clients. Knoedlers attorneys served six subpoenas on Martin, to extract more than 8,000 documents and emails related to the case. Instead of being an expert witness, he was forced to defend himself the care and soundness of his methods, his very character in court.

When Martin talks about the Knoedler trials, even the memory of the ordeal draws a look of horror on his face. Hes a real boy scout, and his integrity means a lot to him, so he suffered, Cahill said. It was an attempted impeachment of Martins whole career. His entire power relies on being objective, on not being part of the party, said Narayan Khandekar, who runs Harvards Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. He comes under a lot of pressure, because people have a lot of money at stake on the outcome of his analyses. But hes been very, very brave to stand up and stay stolidly on track with what he does.

Martin had always loved science for its ability to guide him in pursuit of truth, and he felt a deep distress when his objective facts were countered with dirty tricks and personal vilification. In 2016, after his clients settled with Knoedler, Martin found it difficult to return to work. He wanted to never have to provide expert testimony again, and to go away to paint for a while; hed already primed a set of boards.

It was surreal, what happened to me, he said. No scientist should have to go to through this. When, later that year, negotiations began for Sothebys to buy Orion, Martin was ready to be cocooned within a larger institution. Hed rather probe works before they hit the market, he decided, than go through the acrimonious aftermath of a sale even once more. Above his desk in Sothebys, Martin keeps pinned a pair of sketches of himself from his time in the Knoedler courtroom, as if to remind himself of what he has gratefully left behind.


In conversation, Martin uses many homespun metaphors, but his favourite is that of the three-legged stool. Deciding the authorship of artworks, he says, relies on connoisseurship, technical analysis and provenance. He values the opinions of connoisseurs, considers them complementary to his own skills; his tests can definitively reveal if a painting is not by Da Vinci or Modigliani, but they are unable to affirm authorship, except in rare cases.

Science has a habit, though, of showing up the sagacity of scholars. In a 1932 trial in Berlin the first in which a forensic exam was used to scrutinise art two connoisseurs squabbled about the authenticity of a set of 33 canvases, all purportedly by Vincent van Gogh, all sold by an art dealer named Otto Wacker. It took a chemist, Martin de Wild, to trace resins in the paint that Van Gogh had never used, and to prove the paintings fake. Since then, the science has improved, even as human judgment has remained the same, vulnerable to the potential thrill of discovering new work, and to market pressures. During the Knoedler trial, Cahill remembered, one expert admitted that he couldnt tell one Rothko canvas from another, or indeed whether a Rothko had been hung upside-down or right side up.

In any case, however fond he is of the three-legged stool, Martin may have to think soon of a different item of furniture. The humanities are in decline everywhere; in England, the last art history A-level was cut in 2016. The populace of connoisseurs is thinning out. In British art now, for a major artist like George Stubbs, theres no recognised figure that we can all go to and say: Is this by George Stubbs or not? Because various specialists have died recently, and theres no one to replace them, Bendor Grosvenor, the art historian, said. Meanwhile, researchers at Rutgers University have developed an AI system that, in tests, detected forged paintings with 100% accuracy by scanning and comparing individual brushstrokes. One leg is growing longer, another growing shorter, the stool becoming decidedly imbalanced. And so, if the art market wants to beat back the threats posed by sophisticated forgeries if it wants to preserve its financial vigour, rooted as it is so absolutely in the notion of authenticity it will have to turn more and more to the resources of science.

As a thought experiment, it is possible to envision the immaculate forgery the one that defeats scientist and connoisseur alike. Our villain is a talented copyist, well practised in the style and the themes of his chosen artist. He is also a resourceful procurer of materials, able to rustle up every kind of age-appropriate canvas and frame, pigment and binder. He fits his forgery neatly into a chain of provenance giving it the title of a now-lost work, or providing false documents to claim that it had been part of a well known private collection.

In theory, if each of these steps is perfectly performed, there should be no way to expose the painting as fake. It will be a work of art in every way save one. But the world of today, the world in which the forgery is being created, is likely to fix itself in some form within the painting as radioactive dust, perhaps, or as cat hair, or a stray polypropylene fibre. When that happens, only the scientist can hope to nab it.

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The Queen’s corgis are dead: long live the ‘dorgis’

Willows death marks first time the monarch has not owned a corgi since the second world war

The Queens last remaining corgi has died, it has been reported. Willow, who was almost 15, was put down after suffering from cancer, making it the first time the monarch has not owned a corgi since the end of the second world war.

Willow was the 14th generation descended from Susan, a corgi gifted to the then Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday in 1944. The Queen has owned more than 30 dogs of the breed during her reign.

It was reported in 2015 that the Queen had stopped breeding corgis because she did not want to leave any behind after she died.

She still has two dogs, Vulcan and Candy, which are informally known as dorgis a cross-breed between a dachshund and a corgi introduced to the royal household when Princess Margarets dachshund Pipkin mated with one of the Queens dogs.

Vulcan and Candy appeared alongside Willow on the front cover of Vanity Fair in 2016, shot by Annie Leibovitz to celebrate the Queens 90th birthday.

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Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle in May

Palace aides predict a happy church wedding at St Georges Chapel for prince, 33, and American TV star, 36

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are to marry at St Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle next May and will go on their first public walkabout on Friday in Nottingham, the palace has announced.

The couple are planning to involve members of the public in the proceedings in some form yet to be determined.

It will be a moment of fun and joy that will reflect the character of the bride and groom, said their spokesman.

Markle, 36, who is American, will also become a British citizen and will be baptised and confirmed into the Church of England before the wedding, Kensington Palace announced.

And it said the royal family would pay for the wedding, including the church service, the music, the flowers and the reception.

Wider security costs, policing and public order arrangements will be covered by the public purse, however. The palace declined to comment on whether the brides parents would contribute.

The service is expected to draw a star-studded congregation. Markles friends include the tennis star Serena Williams and the Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh.

The chapel usually holds about 800 guests compared with the 2,000 capacity of Westminster Abbey, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge married in 2011.

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Who is Meghan Markle?

Who is Meghan Markle?

Meghan Markle is an American actor, best known for her role in the hit series Suits. She has described herself as an actress, a writer, the editor-in-chief of my lifestyle brand the Tig, a pretty good cook, and a firm believer in handwritten notes. She has also campaigned for humanitarian causes.

The 36-year-old grew up in Los Angeles. She studied at a girls Roman Catholic college there before attending Northwestern University. Recently she has lived in Toronto. She is the daughter of a clinical therapist and a TV lighting designer. Markle has written about her mixed heritage, describing herself as a strong, confident mixed-race woman. She was married once before, to film producer Trevor Engelson, but the pair were divorced in 2013.

Since news of her relationship with Prince Harry broke in 2016, she has closed her blog and given an interview in which she described the couple as really happy and in love. She said: Nothing about me changed. Ive never defined myself by my relationship. She will become a duchess or princess when the couple wed.

Photograph: Picture Perfect/REX/Shutterstock/Rex Features

The engaged couples spokesman said: Harry and Meghan Markle are extremely grateful for the warm public response following yesterdays announcement of their engagement. In a happy moment in their lives, it means a great deal to them that so many people throughout the UK, the Commonwealth, and around the world are celebrating with them.

The couple of course want the day to be a special, celebratory moment for their friends and family. They also want the day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too and are currently working through ideas for how this might be achieved.

The UK prime minister, Theresa May, while on a flight to Jordan to start of her three-day visit to the Middle East, was asked by reporters whether the nation deserved a bank holiday for the royal wedding.

May did not directly respond, but equally did not talk up the idea. However, she did seem enamoured of the happy couple. You talk about cheering people up, she said. Seeing two young people in love, and thats obvious I didnt see all of the BBC interview, I saw some snatches of it, but I think that was obvious.

Whats also obvious was that theyd given a lot of thought to what it means to be a royal couple in todays age. I wish them great happiness for the future, and I think the country is delighted to see this engagement. And collectively, we wish them all the very best.

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Who is Meghan Markle? video profile

The last royal wedding at the chapel was for Harrys cousin, Peter Phillips the son of the Princess Royal who married the Canadian Autumn Kelly in 2008. Harrys father, the Prince of Wales, and stepmother, the Duchess of Cornwall, had their televised religious blessing there in 2005, after their civil ceremony down the road in the town hall.

Harry was christened in the chapel in December 1984 when he was three months old, which, according to Church of England rules, means he can also marry there.

After the wedding Markle will also become the fourth patron of the Royal Foundation, the main charitable arm of the Kensington Palace royals the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It has so far launched initiatives such as the Invictus Games and the Heads Together mental health campaign.

Markles belongings are currently being shipped from Canada to Kensington Palace and she plans to travel back to North America to see friends and family in the months before the wedding.

The palace confirmed that she was leaving behind one of her dogs, Bogart, who is staying with friends in North America. Guy the Beagle is now at Kensington Palace, they announced.

Asked about how she had decided between them, their spokesman said: I cant speculate. Miss Markle is very fond of her dogs and any decision about moving a dog over the ocean will have lots of complexity to it.

Markle divorced her first husband, Trevor Engelson, a film producer, in 2013. Her parents are Thomas Markle, an award-winning TV lighting designer, and Doria Ragland, a yoga instructor who lives in Los Angeles.

Markle was educated at a Catholic school, but her father is reported to be a member of the Episcopal Church of the United States, which is part of the Anglican communion. Her mother is reported to be of the Protestant faith.

In a TV interview on Monday Markle described the engagement as a transition out of my career, but into the role. She said she wanted to focus more energy on the causes that she had already championed. Markle has been an ambassador for UN Women and a global ambassador for World Vision, including driving a clean water campaign in Rwanda. She will withdraw from those roles.

She wants to start a clean slate getting to know this country and travelling round the Commonwealth, their spokesman said.

Once you have access or a voice that people are going to listen to, with that comes a lot of responsibility, which I take seriously, she said. I think in these beginning few months and now being boots on the ground in the UK, Im excited to just really get to know more about the different communities here, smaller organisations who are working on the same causes that Ive always been passionate about.

On their visit to Nottingham they will visit the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery for the Terrence Higgins Trust World Aids Day charity fair, where they will meet people including those living with HIV. Markles first taste of the day job of a royal will also include a visit to the Nottingham academy to meet schoolchildren and youngsters who attend a Friday night youth club.

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