This question was discussed by a top-class panel of experts at the Viennese auction house "Im Kinsky" in March 2021.
The occasion: two prints by Arnulf Rainer had previously been confiscated by the police at the auction house. According to Arnulf Rainer's partner, Hannelore Dietz, they were forgeries.
A preliminary investigation was initiated, which was, however, discontinued by the Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office: An extensive investigation revealed that the suspicion of forgery had been unfounded. The two late Rainer works were returned to the auction house and will soon be put up for auction.
The experts looked beyond these criminal proceedings to the question of whether an artist may revoke his authorship. The panel also asked what the legal consequences might be if an artist wrongly claims that a work of art does not originate from him or her. And finally, there was a discussion about how the uncertainties emanating from the artist about his authorship can affect the art market.
The Viennese art collector Dr. Brigitte Löw-Radeschnig and the editor-in-chief of the art magazine PARNASS, Dr. Silvie Aigner, discussed with the lawyers and art law experts Dr. Ernst Ploil and Univ.-Prof. Dr. Alfred J. Noll moderated by Martin Traxl ORF-TV Head of Cultural Department.
The result of the expert panel was unanimous:
What an artist has produced is "genuine" - the artist may not call it a forgery: Whoever has created a work remains the author, regardless of how he may later stand by his work. The author thus has the duty to stand by the facts of the creation of the work. Although it is up to him whether he signs his work, a lack of signature does not change the authenticity of a work if it was created by him.
The art market is extremely sensitive - uncertainties about the attribution of works, especially when they emanate from the artist himself, quickly lead to falling demand. The market functions on the basis of assured authenticity and unbroken provenance. Untruthful assertions and distancing on the part of the artist / that his works were not created by him / damage the art market as a whole and, at best, force collecto rsand art dealers to take legal action for the resulting damage.