Erica Courtney tells us about the jewelry industry and how she gets her products on the red carpet.
Erica Courtney tells us about the jewelry industry and how she gets her products on the red carpet.
Cosmetic dentistry has taken over the world. Having perfect teeth shouts success, but where did all begin? Well, Hollywood of course. But one dentist was more influential than any other in creating the movie star smile.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 22 June, 2018) London, Uk – –
The aeronautical company employs 14,000 people at several sites including Bristol, Stevenage and Portsmouth.
Airbus is making plans to leave the UK in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, which could lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
The company employs 14,000 people directly at several sites including Bristol, Stevenage, Portsmouth and north Wales, but 110,000 jobs are also vulnerable at firms supplying the aircraft maker.
In one of the most significant interventions by a major manufacturer since the referendum two years ago, it published a “risk assessment” on its website saying it would “reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country” if Britain left the single market and customs union without a transition agreement.
It also said the current planned transition period to 2020 was too short for businesses to reorganise supply chains.
Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said: “In any scenario, Brexit has severe negative consequences for the UK aerospace industry and Airbus in particular.
“Therefore, immediate mitigation measures would need to be accelerated.
“While Airbus understands that the political process must go on, as a responsible business we require immediate details on the pragmatic steps that should be taken to operate competitively.
“Without these, Airbus believes that the impacts on our UK operations could be significant.
“We have sought to highlight our concerns over the past 12 months, without success.
“Far from ‘project fear', this is a dawning reality for Airbus.
“Put simply, a no-deal scenario directly threatens Airbus's future in the UK.”
The report has drawn swift reaction from politicians, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer tweeting: “If proof was needed that the PM's Brexit red lines need to be abandoned (and fast), this is it.”
If Airbus did leave the UK, production would be moved to the US, China or elsewhere in Europe.
The risk assessment paints a gloomy picture for UK high-tech manufacturing if agreement cannot be reached with the EU.
It says: “A no-deal Brexit must be avoided, as it would force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country, its investments in the UK and at large its dependency on the UK.
“Given the ‘no-deal/hard Brexit' uncertainties, the company's dependence on and investment in the flagship Wing Of Tomorrow programme would also have to be revisited, and corresponding key competencies grown outside the UK.
“This extremely negative outcome for Airbus would be catastrophic.
“It would impair our ability to benefit from highly qualified British resources, it would also severely undermine UK efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry, while developing high-value jobs and competencies.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said the UK had made “significant progress” in negotiations to “to ensure trade remains as free and frictionless as possible, including in the aerospace sector”.
They added: “We're confident of getting a good deal that is mutually beneficial.
“Given the good progress that we are continuing to make in the negotiations we do not expect a no-deal scenario to arise.
“The government is working closely with companies to understand their concerns ahead of leaving the EU and alongside industry will invest almost £4 billion by 2026 to ensure the UK remains a world leader in civil aerospace.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri 22 June 2018) London, Uk – –
Bank will have extra £500bn to provide to economy as Britain prepares for Brexit
The Bank of England will be allowed to provide more than £500bn in lending to the economy without seeking the Treasury’s permission, in a move that reinforces the strength of the UK financial system as Britain prepares to leave the EU.
Announcing the plan at the annual Mansion House dinner for bankers in the City of London on Thursday, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, said the changes would help to improve the resilience of the central bank. It would also help with its “ability to meet its monetary and financial policy objectives in the future”, he said.
Hammond said the government would give the Bank £1.2bn, a sum that would underwrite the £500bn lending pot, but the move would not impact public borrowing because the money would remain in the public sector. The half a trillion pound fund could be accessed by commercial banks for funding, including during credit crunch-style financial crises.
The move also gives Threadneedle Street greater autonomy in lowering interest rates to zero and providing more money to commercial banks during times of stress, without requiring Treasury permission. Despite its independence from the Treasury, the Bank has needed to approach the government in order to expand its support to the economy – including when it announced an emergency funding scheme for banks in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Speaking alongside the chancellor at his penultimate Mansion House dinner before stepping down next year, Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said the additional capital would significantly increase the amount of money the central bank could lend without seeking financial backing from the Treasury. Although at first it will amount to more than half a trillion pounds, it could rise to over three-quarters of a trillion pounds.
He said the changes could also help the government to strike new deals with emerging markets to facilitate the growth of the UK financial sector, which could increase from 10 times the size of the British economy at present to 15 times by 2030.
“We now have a balance sheet fit for a new world order with greater reliance on markets in a wider range of reserve currencies,” he said.
As part of the changes, the Bank of England will see the emergency funding programme launched straight after the Brexit vote, known as the term funding scheme – which provides banks with cheap finance during times of stress – become part of the Bank of England’s balance sheet rather than the Treasury’s.
By Richard Partington
(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 21 June 2018) London, Uk – –
Instagram's rapid growth is showing no signs of slowing, as it revealed it has hit 1 billion monthly users, and unveiled plans to expand into long-form videos.
The photo-sharing app, which is owned by Facebook, last revealed the number of users on its platform in September, when there were 800 million people using the app. It has added around 200 million users each year for the past two years.
The user update shows Instagram moving further ahead of Snapchat, which lags behind with around 100 million monthly active users.
Facebook has positioned Instagram against Snapchat, both competing for a similar audience and coming after Snap reportedly spurned a takeover approach from Mark Zuckerberg in 2012.
Recent updates to Instagram have prompted Snap chief executive Evan Spiegel to accuse Mr Zuckerberg of copying its most popular features, such as filters and short videos, but while Instagram's updates have been largely welcomed by users, Snapchat has struggled with unpopular redesigns.
The backlash against its January revamp caused Snap's user growth to come in at its slowest pace ever recorded in the first three months of the year.
However, Instagram's announcement that it was launching a longer-form video service appeared to suggest it was now looking to challenge the dominance of YouTube.
Instagram said the new IGTV app would be a place where “people can watch long-form (up to an hour), vertical video from their favourite Instagram creators and celebs, allowing them to connect around the interests and passions that matter the most to them”.
It added that celebrities including Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian West had already started to add videos to their IGTV channels.
“Teens are now watching 40 percent less TV than they did five years ago,” Instagram Chief Executive Kevin Systrom said at an event to announce the launch in San Francisco. “It's time for video to move forward and evolve.”
Courting stars to post videos is part of their strategies. Instagram said it has signed up personalities such as Lele Pons, who has 25 million Instagram followers, for IGTV.
Pons said she did not plan to choose sides between two of Silicon Valley's largest companies. “I'm still going to be posting on YouTube as well as on Instagram,” she told reporters.
News of the move comes amid a wider trend among the internet giants to broaden their reach, with YouTube earlier this week having announced plans to launch a music streaming service.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 21 June 2018) London, Uk – –
Public sector borrowing fell to £5bn in May, down £2bn from a year earlier, official figures show.
The fall was bigger than expected and brings borrowing for the financial year to date to £11.8bn, £4.1bn less than in the same period in 2017.
At the same time, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revised down its figure for government borrowing in 2017-18 to £39.5bn.
The total was the lowest annual level of borrowing in 11 years.
The figures come as Chancellor Philip Hammond prepares to reaffirm his promise to reduce public debt, despite Prime Minister Theresa May's promise of increased spending on the NHS.
In a speech later on Thursday, Mr Hammond will say that taxes must rise, although increases will be implemented in a “fair and balanced way”.
Public sector net debt, excluding public sector banks, was £1,781.4bn at the end of last month, equivalent to 85% of GDP, the ONS said.
That is £44.7bn higher than a year earlier, but 0.4 percentage points lower as a percentage of GDP.
“May's public finances figures not only confirmed that the new fiscal year got off to a good start, but revealed that borrowing in 2017-18 was also a little lower than previously thought,” said Andrew Wishart, UK economist at Capital Economics.
“It's early days yet, but if this is sustained, borrowing would undershoot the [Office for Budget Responsibility's] 2018-19 forecast by £9bn or so over the year as a whole.
“What's more, if the economy holds up as we expect, borrowing is likely to undershoot the OBR's forecast by a more significant margin in subsequent years.
“This would allow the chancellor to deliver the recently promised £15bn increase in health spending over the next five years while still meeting his fiscal target.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Wed, 20 June 2018) London, Uk – –
Volkswagen (VW) and Ford are mulling a strategic alliance to jointly develop a new range of commercial cars.
The car companies said there were investigating several joint projects that would strengthen their competitiveness while serving the “evolving needs” of consumers.
VW and Ford said any strategic alliance would not involve equity arrangements, including cross ownership stakes.
Jim Farley, president of global markets at Ford, said: “Ford is committed to improving our fitness as a business and leveraging adaptive business models – which include working with partners to improve our effectiveness and efficiency. This potential alliance with the Volkswagen group is another example of how we can become more fit as a business, while creating a winning global product portfolio and extending our capabilities.
Read more: Uber rival ride-hailing app Gett raises $80m from VW, hits $1.4bn valuation
“We look forward to exploring with the Volkswagen team in the days ahead how we might work together to better serve the evolving needs of commercial vehicle customers – and much more.”
This latest potential strategic alliance suggests further consolidation in the car industry amid tough market conditions, such as the rise of electric vehicles and declining car registrations.
Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi also signed a memorandum of understanding to integrate the three brands through its 2022 alliance, which aims to double the “annualised synergies” – or how much the companies can save by working together – to more than €10bn (£8.9bn) by the end of 2022.
Thomas Sedran, head of Volkswagen group strategy said,: “Markets and customer demand are changing at an incredible speed. Both companies have strong and complementary positions in different commercial vehicle segments already. To adapt to the challenging environment, it is of utmost importance to gain flexibility through alliances. This is a core element of our Volkswagen group strategy 2025. The potential industrial cooperation with Ford is seen as an opportunity to improve competitiveness of both companies globally.”
By Alexandra Rogers
(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 20 June 2018) London, Uk – –
Microsoft staff have demanded the company end its contract with the US’s border patrol agency, adding to pressure on the company after controversy over the separation of migrant parents and their children at the border with Mexico.
In an open letter posted to Microsoft’s internal message board, more than 100 employees protested the company’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The contract includes providing software processing and artificial intelligence for ICE, and Microsoft has insisted it has nothing to do with implementing a recent policy that has seen around 2,000 children being removed from their migrant parents.
The letter, addressed to Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella, states: “We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits.
“As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit.”
“We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.”
Satya Nadella responded to his staff demands on Wednesday with an email saying it is an “incredibly important topic and one I care deeply about”.
He said: “Like many of you, I am appalled at the abhorrent policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the southern border of the US As both a parent and an immigrant, this issue touches me personally.
Despite deeming the new policy as “simply cruel and abusive”, the Microsoft boss did not hint that the business would be ending its contract with the agency. He added that Microsoft was not working with the federal government on any projects to separate families, and the contract focuses on is supporting the agency's legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.
The employee’s letter is part of a wave of recent protests from the tech industry against President Trump’s new “zero tolerance” border policy, that prosecutes all immigrants arrested crossing the border without permission.
Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, tweeted that he was a “top donor” to the American Civil Liberties Union and said that “if there is some way for me to help these kids I will do so.”
Sundar Pichai of Google, Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber and Chuck Robbins of Cisco also tweeted their opposition to the policy.
Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, in an interview with The Irish Times, called the immigration policy “heartbreaking.”
Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said he found the policy “gut-wrenching” and urged the government to find a “better, more humane way that is reflective of our values as a nation”.
By Joseph Archer
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 19 June, 2018) London, Uk – –
Retailer seeks to reduce costs as chief executive warns of ‘exceptionally difficult times’
Department stores group Debenhams has issued its third profits warning this year, with its chief executive, Sergio Bucher, saying he sees no improvement in the “exceptionally difficult times” on the UK high street.
The company first warned on profits in January, after a disappointing Christmas, and says trading in May and early June also fell short of expectations. The group has been hit by the general weakness in the retail market and increased discounting from rivals.
The latest blow to high street retailers comes after department store rival House of Fraser announced it was shutting more than half its UK branches, including its flagship store on London’s Oxford Street, putting 11,000 jobs at risk. It is one of a string of retailers that are using a company voluntary arrangement, a form of insolvency, to close outlets.
Others, such as Toys R Us and Maplin, have collapsed into administration in recent months, hurt by weak consumer spending and a shift towards online shopping.
Bucher said Debenhams was seeking to negotiate rent reductions with landlords on 25 stores that are up for lease renewal in the next five years. He reiterated plans to close up to 10 loss-making stores and to cut the size of 30 outlets, by handing over space to restaurants and other food businesses. The chain has 241 stores, 165 of them in the UK.
Debenhams expects pretax profits for the year to be between £35m and £40m, well below City forecasts of £50.3m.
Its shares plunged nearly 20% in early trading, and were later down 14% at 16.9p. They have lost more than half their value since the start of the year, when they were changing hands at 35.16p.
Like-for-like sales grew by 1.7% in the 15 weeks to 16 June, while digital sales were 16% ahead. Clothing sales have struggled while beauty declined, due to lower makeup sales even though skincare did better.
In April, Debenhams announced that first-half profits had slumped 85% to £13.5m.
Bucher said: “It is well documented that these are exceptionally difficult times in UK retail, and our trading performance in this quarter reflects that. We don’t see these conditions changing in the near future and, because it is our priority to maintain a robust balance sheet, we are making very careful choices about how we deploy capital.”
He noted that some rivals had been discounting for 10 out of the past 15 weeks and that some fashion chains were offering 50%-60% price cuts. Debenhams has also cut prices, but to a lesser extent.
The former Amazon executive, who took the reins at Debenhams two years ago, vowed to push cost savings further and to focus on digital sales, in particular mobile. Debenhams appointed a new head of digital last month and online growth picked up in the last quarter following improvements to the retailer’s website.
It has modernised some stores and hopes designer collaborations will help turn sales around, such as Preen – a brand worn by the Duchess of Cambridge – and Richard Quinn.
Debenhams said it would sell non-core assets, namely its Magasin du Nord chain of six department stores in Denmark and a small printing business in the UK.
Nicholas Hyett, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “In 2013 Debenhams was posting pretax profits of more than £150m a year, but half a decade of falling sales and heavy discounting has trashed margins and left the group struggling to make ends meet.
“Bucher’s recovery plan seems like the right idea. A background at Amazon means online sales are taking centre stage, and growth here has been strong. Playing to the group’s strengths in cosmetics and concessions also makes sense. Unfortunately it all feels like Debenhams is playing catch-up with an industry that’s left it behind.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 19 June, 2018) London, Uk – –
Stock markets react to the latest threats following last week's tit-for-tat imposition of tariffs between the two countries.
Investors are reacting nervously to a potential escalation in President Trump's trade war with China, with stock markets falling sharply in Asia.
China's Shanghai Composite lost up to 5% of its value at one stage after the US president asked officials to identify $200bn of Chinese goods to be subject to a 10% tariff.
It prompted Beijing to accuse Washington of “blackmail” – warning it would respond to any such measures.
That followed last Friday's decision to impose 25% tariffs on $50bn of Chinese products.
Then, Beijing immediately retaliated by matching the US levy, which prompted Mr Trump to up the ante once more in what he regards as an unfair balance in trade between the two superpowers.
In a statement he said: “This latest action by China clearly indicates its determination to keep the United States at a permanent and unfair disadvantage, which is reflected in our massive $376bn trade imbalance in goods. This is unacceptable.
“Further action must be taken to encourage China to change its unfair practices, open its market to United States goods, and accept a more balanced trade relationship with the United States.
“Therefore, today, I directed the United States Trade Representative to identify $200bn worth of Chinese goods for additional tariffs at a rate of 10%.
“After the legal process is complete, these tariffs will go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced.
“If China increases its tariffs yet again, we will meet that action by pursuing additional tariffs on another $200bn of goods. The trade relationship between the United States and China must be much more equitable.”
The increasingly bitter trading relationship between the US and China comes less than a fortnight after a fractious G7 summit where Mr Trump's use of tariffs, both against China and on steel and aluminium imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico, was roundly criticised.
The latest escalation was reflected in the value of shares in both Asia and Europe.
The Shanghai Composite closed almost 4% down while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 3%.
All major European markets were also trading lower – the FTSE 100 faring better than most with just a 1% decline in early trading.
Commenting on President Trump's latest threat, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA Stephen Innes, said: “That was quick and sudden, reminding us just how quickly things can get right out of hand.
“Indeed, this is moving beyond ‘tit-for-tat' levels and, predictably, investors are running for cover under the haven umbrellas as global equity indices are crumbling under the weight of an escalating trade war.
“Buckle up as this could get messy,” he concluded.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 18 June 2018) London, Uk – –
The owner of Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank, CYBG, has agreed to buy Virgin Money for £1.7bn.
Under the deal, all the group's retail customers will be moved to Virgin Money over the next three years.
It will be the UK's sixth-largest bank, with about six million customers, but 1,500 jobs are likely to go.
CYBG said it had agreed with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group to license the Virgin Money brand for £12m a year, rising to £15m later.
Virgin Group is Virgin Money's biggest shareholder with a 34.8% stake in the business.
Under the terms of the deal, Virgin Money shareholders will get 1.2125 new CYBG shares for every Virgin Money share they hold, and will end up owning about 38% of the combined business.
CYBG said the combined group would have about 9,500 employees, but it intended to reduce that total by about one-sixth, suggesting about 1,500 jobs would go.
It said some of those job losses would be achieved “via natural attrition”.
Virgin Money, which was founded in 1995, expanded its business in 2011 when it bought the remnants of Northern Rock for about £747m.
By Kevin Peachey, personal finance reporter
Nimbleness and the ability to attract customers through new technology have been seen as challenger banks' main attributes.
That is why the Open Banking scheme – opening traditional accounts to specialist services from smaller players – appeared to be a potential game changer for fintechs and banking upstarts.
But the TSB fiasco may well have damaged consumer confidence in these companies being able to provide more customer-friendly tech than the big banks.
With this deal, the focus shifts to a more traditional form of competition – growing a business to a sufficient size to take on the incumbents at their own game.
2.8 million customers
£2.6bn market capitalisation
3.3 million customers
£1.5bn market capitalisation
Competitor of scale'
CYBG said the takeover would “bring together the complementary strengths of two successful challenger banks to create the UK's first true national competitor to the large incumbent banks”.
Its chief executive, David Duffy, told the BBC's Today programme: “We're going to become a competitor of scale.”
He added that “technology and agility” were the factors that would decide the future of banking.
“I think we have sufficient scale – the brands, the product and the technology,” he said.
“We can be agile enough to deliver a much better deal for the customer.”
Mr Duffy will retain his current position in the combined group, as will CYBG chairman Jim Pettigrew.
Virgin Money chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia has agreed in principle to stay on as a consultant for a limited time after the deal goes through.
Wikimedia/ Mayor of London Sidiq Khan
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Mon, 18 June 2018) London, UK —
LONDON (Reuters) – London Mayor Sadiq Khan and other city leaders from across Britain said on Monday a government plan to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars should be brought forward by 10 years to 2030, in the latest push to improve air quality.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government said last year it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 although it is unclear whether that includes hybrid vehicles, which have both an electric and combustion engine.
The government is due to detail the proposals in a “Road to Zero” plan shortly, but on Monday, Khan joined mayors and city leaders from Manchester, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield and Bristol to call for the measures to be implemented quicker.
“Banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, providing support to deliver Clean Air Zones in cities and introducing a national vehicle renewal scheme will dramatically improve our air quality and our health,” said Khan, who is from the opposition Labour Party.
Cities and nations around the world are introducing restrictions or bans on the use of vehicles
powered by combustion engines in the years ahead to cut high levels of pollution.
Carmakers have argued that cleaner diesel models play a part in bringing down overall carbon dioxide emissions but demand for the segment has nosedived in much of Europe for over a year as many authorities plan clampdowns and tax hikes.
Housing space in London is at a premium, so those that can afford it are expanding their homes by building huge “iceberg basements” underground.
The University of Alberta has a lot going for it. It’s pretty. And it’s home to many an eccentric and clever inventor, like Kory Mathewson. Kory is an A.I researcher who comes with a side-kick, a robot that does improv comedy.
Luxury trains are special trains designed specifically to offer an elegant train ride, and evoke a strong sense of association as in history, heritage and decadence of a leisurely ride. Luxury trains operate in several countries and offer a luxurious and comfortable traveling option to luxury travelers. Whereas some luxury trains like the Orient Express promote tourism in major destinations of an entire continent other trains take guests on a long leisure ride, cutting across state borders but limited to one specific country.
Nowadays there is an increase in the trend of luxury train travel around the world. Luxury train travel proponents assert that it has several advantages over travel on airplanes. Whereas during air travel the monotony of the journey is occasionally broken by the view of clouds through the plane's window, a winding luxury ride on board the trains provides ample opportunity to the guests to witness the local environment, social and economic conditions, and myriad colours of the places they are traveling to. There are a number of reasons for the growing popularity of the luxury trains over air travel, which includes ample space, restaurants and bars, spacious and comfortable sleeping and seating area and even wash/bath rooms. Since the time of introduction of Pioneer in 1864 by American industrialist George Mortimer Pullman, luxury train travel has come a long way.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Sat, 16 June 2018) London, Uk – –
Forgeries have got so good – and so costly – that Sotheby’s 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 Mantegna’s Adoration of the Magi in 1985. In contrast, while the $450m paid for Leonardo da Vinci’s 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 Sotheby’s in 2011, to a private collector, as a Frans Hals; the buyer paid £8.5m. Sotheby’s 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 Jerome’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t look at it and say: ‘Oh, that’s a forgery.’”
When Sotheby’s 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 Sotheby’s: 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. Sotheby’s 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, Sotheby’s 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, you’d see little blips here and there. These were expenses coming from settlements – not a slew, the number was small and statistically insignificant, but they’re expensive.” The cost of insurance that covers such settlements was also rising. With Martin in the building, “the pictures and other objects moving through Sotheby’s 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. Sotheby’s 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 world’s foremost forensic art detective. He has worked so many forgery cases with such success that he also serves Sotheby’s as a line of fortification against the swells of duff art lapping into the market.
The first major painting sold by Sotheby’s was also a Hals – a real one: Man in Black, a half-length portrait of a hatted gent. Until 1913, Sotheby’s had dealt in books for a century or thereabouts; art made up only a wan side business. In that year, though, a Sotheby’s partner found a Hals consigned to the firm, and rather than forwarding it to Christie’s, 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 Christie’s had last auctioned the work, in 1885, for around £5. It was the first signal, for Sotheby’s, that there was profit to be mined from paintings. Last year, it sold $5.5bn worth of art, jewellery and real estate.
For Sotheby’s, 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 question’s 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 museum’s 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 Martin’s 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 isn’t 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 they’ll 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 market’s 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 isn’t,” she said. “Now, scholars will say it’s easy to distinguish, but the fact is that it’s 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 artist’s former colleagues or friends – people expected to know the work best. In 2007, a collector named Joe Simon-Whelan sued the Andy Warhol estate’s 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 – won’t 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, it’s 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, Martin’s 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 painting’s 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 Martin’s well. “His reports contained the most accurate results. His reports were factually neutral and without unrealistic guesses.” By folding Martin into its staff, Sotheby’s has given itself a muscular chance to stamp out problems of attribution before they flare into spectacular, expensive affairs. But it’s 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 Sotheby’s 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 dentist’s clinic. Many of the cabinets are still empty, and the desk surfaces often bear nothing apart from one red pack of Martin’s Dentyne Fire gum. Outside the lab, above the lead-lined double doors, is a warning light; if it’s 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 Martin’s lab was at the next stage; it had been photographed under ultraviolet and infrared, and then under x-rays to discover some of the painting’s chemical elements.
On a computer, one of Martin’s two colleagues cycled through the images. Under infrared, the painting’s 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; they’d 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 don’t drink a lot of coffee before you do this,” he said, grimacing.
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 light’s 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 didn’t, 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 Sotheby’s 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 Sotheby’s 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 would’ve said it’s worthless,” Martin said. “So it wasn’t sold.”
The arduous process of Martin’s 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, I’m 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 Cornwell’s 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 Chase’s 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 didn’t have my own creative way of doing things.” He thought he’d 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, I’d 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 museum’s 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 didn’t have any place to go. Some people took paintings to the vet to get them x-rayed.”
Martin’s lab began by assisting conservators who had no equipment of their own. “If someone was trying to get a varnish off a painting and didn’t want to damage it by using a solvent that was too strong, they’d send me a sample,” he said. “I’d tell them: ‘It’s polyurethane. You’re not going to get it off.’ Or: ‘It’s 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. “We’d see the layers in the cross-section: varnish, varnish, varnish, then blue sky, then more varnish, then more sky. So we’d 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 world’s 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.
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 weren’t.) 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. “They’d 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 work’s 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 Beltracchi’s arrest in 2010, the Frankfurter Allgemeine called art forgery “the most moral way to embezzle €16m”; Der Spiegel noted that, unlike crooked bankers, Beltracchi hadn’t 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 children’s education to buy a painting, only to find it to be fake. “So we aren’t just talking rich people. In some situations, it’s a person’s 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. Martin’s harshest experience of this came during the bitter legal battle over the fate of the Knoedler gallery. The Knoedler, once New York’s 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. Knoedler’s 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.
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 he’d soiled the evidence, accidentally or on purpose,” said the lawyer John Cahill, who represented some of Martin’s clients. Knoedler’s 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. “He’s a real boy scout, and his integrity means a lot to him, so he suffered,” Cahill said. It was an attempted impeachment of Martin’s whole career. “His entire power relies on being objective, on not being part of the party,” said Narayan Khandekar, who runs Harvard’s 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 he’s 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; he’d 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 Sotheby’s to buy Orion, Martin was ready to be cocooned within a larger institution. He’d 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 Sotheby’s, 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 couldn’t 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, there’s 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 there’s 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.
By Samanth Subramanian
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 15 June 2018) London, UK —
BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has nearly completed a second list of tariffs on $100 billion (75.44 billion pounds) in Chinese goods, as President Donald Trump prepares to enact an initial round of duties that is expected to trigger an in-kind response from Beijing, several sources said.
The second wave of products has been cued up as Washington prepares to announce on Friday a list of about $50 billion of goods to be targeted. They are part of Trump’s decision to go forward with “pretty significant” tariffs, an administration official said on Thursday.
The $100 billion list will be subject to the same public comment and hearing process as the $50 billion list, so it could take 60 days or more to put into effect, three sources familiar with the Trump administration’s thinking on tariff plans told Reuters.
The list is intended to minimise the impact on U.S. consumers and businesses by selecting goods where there are ample alternative supplies from other countries. Eliminating any impact may be impossible.
“There’s no question, that to get to $100 billion you’re going to hit consumer products coming in from China,” a person briefed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters.
This person also said Ross had said the list would take aim at products for which China supplied 33 percent or less of total U.S. imports in individual product categories, making it easier to shift to other countries’ supplies.
The person, like the other sources familiar with the administration’s thinking, declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
A Reuters analysis of U.S. Census Bureau import data in April showed that there were about 7,600 consumer and industrial goods still available for tariffs with a combined value of $101 billion in which China accounts for 40 percent or less of U.S. imports.
Another person familiar with the administration’s thinking said it could be difficult to reach $100 billion with a 33 percent threshold.
Press officials at the U.S. Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative’s office declined to comment on the tariff list plans.
Trump has pledged to enforce fair and reciprocal trading relations with China, with the U.S. bilateral trade in goods deficit having reached $375 billion last year, and amid long-running complaints of what foreign companies see as forced technology transfers and market restrictions.
On Thursday, China reiterated its preference for dialogue to resolve differences, but said it was ready to respond if Trump moved forward with tariffs.
Speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said there were two choices when it came to trade.
“The first choice is cooperation and mutual benefit. The other choice is confrontation and mutual loss. China chooses the first,” Wang told reporters. “We hope the U.S. side can also make the same wise choice. Of course, we have also made preparations to respond to the second kind of choice.”
China has published its own list of threatened tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods, including soybeans, aircraft, and autos, and has said it would hit back if Washington followed up with further measures.
By Michael Martina in BEIJING and David Lawder
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 15 June 2018) London, Uk – –
A packaging firm set up only seven months ago is set to more than double its workforce after McDonald's became its first major customer.
The fast food giant will replace plastic straws with paper ones in all UK and Ireland outlets this autumn.
Transcend Packaging in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, is one of two companies that landed a contract to supply them.
The company currently employs 20 people and said its new contract will lead to an extra 30 jobs.
“I am delighted that McDonald's has taken this visionary step towards reducing the environmental impact of the food industry,” managing director Lorenzo Angelucci said.
Sales director Mark Varney said Transcend, formed in October 2017 and based at Rassau, secured the McDonald's deal because of the contacts of the four board members.
“Although we are a new company, between us the board of directors has more than 250 years in the packaging industry,” he said.
“There wasn't a Dragons' Den style pitch involved, but we got together with McDonald's and talked about how we could supply environmentally friendly products.
“We talked about Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet II series as well – and the big effect that it has had.”
Transcend – which received a Welsh Government grant – is due to start production of the straws in August and it is expected to create an extra 30 jobs for the Blaenau Gwent business.
McDonald's, which uses 1.8 million straws a day in the UK, said the change to paper straws came following “wider public debate”.
Most straws are made from plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene, which unless recycled take hundreds of years to decompose.
Many end up in landfill and the oceans, harming marine wildlife in the process.
The switch does not yet extend to the rest of McDonald's global empire, but trials will begin in selected restaurants in the US, France and Norway.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 14 June, 2018) London, Uk – –
The engineering firm, which has struggled to come to terms with problems with its Trent 1000 engine, hopes to save £400m a year.
Rolls-Royce is to cut 4,600 managerial and support jobs as the jet engine maker introduces its latest restructuring plan.
Most of the jobs will be axed in the UK, where the FTSE 100 company employs 23,000 out of a global workforce of 50,000.
A third of the jobs are expected to go by the end of this year and the rest by the middle of 2020.
Rolls-Royce chief executive Warren East signalled the move in March as the company battled to keep to its financial targets as it struggles to get on top of problems with its Trent 1000 engines.
It has replaced the fan blades on turbines powering Boeing 787 airplanes after cracks and corrosion were found on jets operated by Japan's ANA airline.
Mr East said: “It is never an easy decision to reduce our workforce, but we must create a commercial organisation that is as world-leading as our technologies. To do this we are fundamentally changing how we work.”
“These changes will help us deliver over the mid and longer-term a level of free cash flow well beyond our near-term ambition of around £1bn by around 2020,” he added.
The latest restructuring plan will cost the company £500m and is expected to save it as much as £400m a year by the end of 2020.
Rolls-Royce has already seen around 600 managers leave since 2015 under a previous cost-cutting programme initiated by Mr East. But this is the biggest cull since 2001, when 5,000 jobs were cut, including 1,000 contractors.
Unions said the job losses were likely to hit communities where the firm operates hardest.
Rolls-Royce's UK bases are in Derby, Bristol, Barnoldswick (Lancashire), Ansty (Warwickshire), Hucknall (Nottinghamshire), Inchinnan (Renfrewshire) and Sunderland, as well as London.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This announcement will be deeply unsettling for Rolls-Royce workers and their families and could have a dire economic impact on local communities reliant on Roll-Royce jobs.
“There is a real danger that Rolls-Royce will cut too deep and too fast with these jobs cuts, which could ultimately damage the smooth running of the company and see vital skills and experience lost.
“Over the coming days Unite will be working with Rolls-Royce, relevant agencies and other employers to find people affected alternative employment and to retain skills in the aerospace sector.”
Earlier this week, the company said it had identified more “durability issues” with some engines and it would “incur some additional costs.”
Before the latest issues, it had expected a £340m hit for this year to cover the cost of carrying out repairs on existing engines. The company is also compensating airlines for the repairs and leasing replacement aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is the civil aviation watchdog in the United States, warned operators of the 787 to fly within 60 minutes of an airport in case of an emergency.
Shares in Rolls-Royce rose 3.5%, or 27p, to 855p in early trading.
“Reducing costs is typically applauded by shareholders as it tends, in the short-term at least, to boost the profit and cash flow of which they are part owners,” Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said.
“Although it will be little compensation to those affected, it would be inaccurate to describe this as a slash and burn exercise by Rolls-Royce management.”
“Chief executive Warren East has been arguing for some time that there is duplication of roles within the business and the company's cash generation has consistently disappointed.
By Abid Ali
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 14 June 2018) London, UK —
(Reuters) – Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) offered $65 billion on Wednesday to lure Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O) away from a merger with Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), setting up a bidding war between two of the largest U.S. media companies with its 20 percent higher offer.
Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said he was highly confident regulators would allow Comcast to acquire most of Fox’s media assets after AT&T Inc’s (T.N) court victory on Tuesday, which allowed it to buy Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) for $85 billion.
The fight to win Fox’s assets is shaping up to be a summer blockbuster starring well-known media moguls, led by Rupert Murdoch who built Fox into a global media empire. Comcast’s Roberts, who led a failed bid for Disney in 2004, now faces off against Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger, whose own dealmaking has added heroes from Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel comics to the home of Mickey Mouse.
Fox’s board will now have to decide whether Comcast’s offer beats Disney’s. If Fox prefers Comcast, Disney will have five business days to respond.
Comcast may have a tough time winning over Fox’s largest shareholder, the Murdoch family. They own a 17-percent stake and would face a multi-billion dollar capital gains tax bill by accepting an all-cash offer from Comcast, tax experts previously told Reuters.
Fox shareholders will vote July 10 on the Disney transaction but the company could postpone the meeting, Fox said in a statement.
Some analysts see difficulties for Comcast-Fox, which would add Fox’s movie and television studios to Comcast’s NBC Universal, but Roberts said in a letter to Fox that he would offer the same conditions as Disney and promised to fight for the deal in court if necessary.
Comcast is expected to lead a wave of traditional media companies trying to combine distribution and production to compete with Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google. The younger firms produce content, sell it online directly to consumers and often offer lucrative targeted advertising.
A merger between Fox and Comcast would create a company with a stable of well-known media brands and franchises, such as the X-Men superheroes. A combined company would hold the rights to air Fox’s long running TV show “The Simpsons”, the U.S. rights to the Olympics and Premier League Soccer.
Fox’s international assets such as Star India appeal to both Disney and Comcast, which want to expand their global presence.
Major sports and news assets including Fox News, Fox Business Network and Fox Sports would be spun off into a separate company.
Shares of Comcast, Fox and Disney were barely changed in after-hours trade.
Comcast in a statement outlined an offer that was similar to Disney’s, including a commitment to the same divestitures. It said that it would go to court and fight if the Justice Department tried to block the deal.
Comcast offered $35 per Fox share for the media assets, compared with Disney’s stock offer, worth $29.18 per share at the close of trade on Wednesday.
Comcast offered a $2.5 billion reverse termination fee if the deal did not go through, the same as Disney. It also offered to pay Fox’s $1.525 billion breakup fee owed Disney, if Fox went with Comcast.
Comcast said it intended to pursue its $30 billion acquisition of Sky Plc (SKYB.L) in parallel with its Fox bid. Comcast bid for Sky in April, after Fox’s bid for the remainder of European pay-TV group it did not already own was delayed by regulators.
Fox in a statement said it had received the proposal and would review it.
Justice Department lawyers who tried to stop AT&T’s $85 billion deal expect consumers will lose out as bigger companies raise prices, and some lawyers saw that as a concern in a Comcast-Fox deal which would put two movie studios and two major television brands under one roof.
“One cannot ignore the fact that there’s less independent content to go around,” after the AT&T deal, said Henry Su, an antitrust expert with Constantine Cannon LLP.
Still, the AT&T court fight gave Comcast valuable information about how to structure a Fox deal, said David Scharf, a litigation expert with Morrison Cohen.
Disney itself has “surgically” structured a transaction that “might be doable,” avoiding Fox Broadcasting and big Fox sports channels, U.S. antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said last week.
“I don’t think either will have a significant advantage over the other,” given that both Disney and Comcast seem motivated to divest what they need to win a deal with Fox, said Ketan Jhaveri, a former Justice Department attorney who served on the telecommunications task force.
Reporting Carl O'Donnell and Liana B. Baker in New York; Additional reporting by Sheila Dang in New York; Diane Bartz in Washington; and Vibhuti Sharma and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker