Edward Enninful Interviews Oprah Winfrey about life as a global powerhouse

 

youtube/vogue

Editor-in-chief Edward Enninful sits down with British Vogue August cover star Oprah Winfrey to discuss what life is really like for the global powerhouse, her proudest achievements and most valuable advice.

 

Kylie Jenner: On track to become a cosmetics Billionaire

 

Youtube/Forbes

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Sat, 14 July 2018) London, Uk – –

Kylie Jenner was just 10 years old when she made her debut on her family's reality television series Keeping up with the Kardashians. A decade on, the show is still going strong and its youngest star is now the famous family's highest earner.

It emerged this week just how vast a chunk of the family's wealth belongs to the 20-year-old. Despite Kim's initial eclipsing fame, Forbes magazine says Kylie is now worth almost three times as much as her sister at an estimated $900m (£680m).

The magazine lauded her for heading towards becoming one of the youngest “self-made” billionaires ever. Given her background, many online scoffed at the title, but the impressiveness of the speed of her business success is harder to mock.

Kylie Cosmetics is by far her biggest earner. It's not sold in stores and does not advertise traditionally, because unlike other competitors it doesn't seem to need it.

After all, Kylie is a social media powerhouse. When she tweeted that she was “sooo over” Snapchat earlier this year, its shares tumbled.

The vast majority of her 110 million-strong Instagram following are young and female, fitting firmly within the brand's target market.

Her success can be viewed squarely within larger trends in the global beauty industry, which has undergone a huge shift as social media influencers and vloggers become more important to a brand's success.

Kylie launched her first set of own-brand lip kits in November 2015. The product choice was not incidental, as the internet had spent much of the previous two years speculating on the teen's noticeably larger lips.

At first the reality star alleged the change was achieved using clever make-up tricks (over-lining the lips and filling in with a natural-looking matte base).

Some mocked and sparked a viral, and painful, challenge to plump their own lips, but beauty bloggers avidly recreated her look. The products she was rumoured to use sold out at MAC outlets across the world.

Kylie and “momager” Kris saw an opportunity to go it alone. She spent months trailing an initial three-shade launch of lip kits – a combination of nude lip liner and matte lip cream combos – on Instagram and Snapchat.

The initial stock launch sold out in less than a minute, crashing the website.

Bloggers offered suggestions of “dupe” options for those not lucky enough to grab their own, and the $29 (£22) dollar sets were bootlegged online for hundreds of dollars.

After launching the debut kits, she relabelled her business Kylie Cosmetics and sales continue to soar, making a reported $19m in one day in late 2016.

In just a couple of years she has amassed a reported $630m (£470m) in sales, diversifying from lip kit duos to other products such as glosses, highlighters and eye-shadows.

The brand has kept people hooked by maintaining the initial FOMO (fear of missing out) exclusivity – using countdowns to reveal products and selling them on limited release, often in collaboration with her famous siblings.

Kylie Cosmetics is not alone; a host of grassroots brands such as Huda beauty and Anastasia Beverley Hills have soared in popularity in recent years. YouTube endorsements in particular have the power to make a product a “must have”.

 

 

A seismic change
Stephanie Saltzman, beauty editor at Fashionista, says it cannot be overstated how significant influencers and online marketing have been.

She describes the recent change as a “democratisation” within an industry that she believed had gone stale in its approach.

“Maybe historically consumers would use what their Mom used, or would go explore a beauty counter in a department store. Now it's in the palm of their hands through social media,” she says.

“It feels more authentic coming from a person and Kylie Jenner is a person as opposed to a blanket, faceless corporation.”

Traditional make-up brands are adjusting, though. Some have collaborated with influencers and beauty vloggers on limited-edition lines or have enlisted to use Generation Z celebrities such as Lily-Rose Depp to be their public face.

Charlotte Libby, a colour cosmetics expert at analyst group Mintel, says young consumers are rejecting traditional advertising, instead being drawn to brand transparency, and especially “personality, belief and ethics”.

“Crowdfunding campaigns and social media have brought down some of the barriers for new brands and levelled the playing field,” she tells the BBC.

“Social media and the success of influencers has proved that personality sells, and partnering with real people, rather than traditional media, offers brand the opportunity to show more personality.”

The Forbes cover profile points out that the overhead size of Kylie's company is exceptionally small.

It has only 12 employees, and only seven are full-time. Most of the company's operations and production needs are outsourced to specialist firms.

“As ultra light start ups go, Jenner's operation is essentially air. And because of those miniscule overhead and marketing costs, the profits are outsize and go right into Jenner's pocket,” journalist Natalie Robehmed writes.

Kylie's self-driven success and huge profits haven't been lost on sister Kim, who has followed suit by launching a new beauty line of her own and a range of new fragrances.

After a social-media-heavy marketing campaign that involved sending elaborately packaged perfumes to celebrities and influencers, Kim's initial fragrance offering sold out rapidly, raking in $10m (£7.5m) before a single paying customer had even smelt the products.

“I think that was definitely a wake-up call for a lot of others in the industry, and the same can be said with Kylie and everything she has accomplished,” says Fashionista editor Saltzman.

“I think they feel threatened and also feel inspired. I interviewed Kim right after that fragrance launch and she was saying some big corporations had come to her for advice.”

In the beauty industry in particular then, it seems that the Kardashians might actually be the ones to keep up with.

By Kelly-Leigh Cooper

 

 

Tesla sales hits 200,000 milestone as it loses US subsidies

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 13th July, 2018) London, Uk – –

Tesla has hit a speed bump that will cut subsidies for customers buying its electric vehicles in the US, after Elon Musk’s carmaker hit a milestone of 200,000 sales.

The US government subsidises purchases of electric cars with tax credits of up to $7,500 (£5,700), which apply to all of Tesla’s cars.

However, under changes to subsidies for electric cars introduced last year, the support is gradually phased out after a company has sold 200,000 vehicles. As of next January, subsidies will be cut in half before being phased out completely a year later.

Tesla is the first car manufacturer to hit the threshold in the US, and the end of subsidies could slow sales as the company ramps up production of the Model 3, its mass-market vehicle.

The company still has a backlog of hundreds of thousands of Model 3 orders, having struggled to hit production targets since the car went on sale a year ago. However, the company losing subsidies will make electric cars from rivals cheaper, at least until they hit the 200,000 mark.

US subsidies for electric cars were introduced in 2009 but limited by the government last year, amid predictions that electric vehicles will become more cost efficient and not need intervention to support.

Tesla has recently boosted production of its Model 3 car, managing to finally hit a target of 5,000 vehicles a week at the end of June.

Bloomberg reported that the company had gone to extreme lengths to hit manufacturing targets, including handing out free Red Bull energy drinks to workers and keeping production going even when raw sewage was spilled on the factory floor.

A Tesla spokesman said that any plumbing issues had been resolved quickly.

By James Titcomb

 

 

Jaguar Land Rover warns of risk to plant closures over Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 5th July 2018) London, Uk – –

Ahead of a critical cabinet meeting, the country's biggest carmaker joins BMW and Airbus in a warning to government over Brexit.

UK plants and at least 40,000 jobs are at risk if the country leaves the European Union without a free trade deal, Britain's biggest carmaker has warned.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has told the government that, while its “heart and soul” are in the UK, a bad Brexit could force a re-think, with a “no-deal” scenario forcing it out of the UK because of an expected £1.2bn surge in tariff costs.

JLR exports 80% of its cars worth £18bn annually.

Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive of JLR, said: “We, and our partners in the supply chain, face an unpredictable future if the Brexit negotiations do not maintain free and frictionless trade with the EU and unrestricted access to the single market.

“We urgently need greater certainty to continue to invest heavily in the UK and safeguard our suppliers, customers and 40,000 British-based employees.”

There are also a further 260,000 jobs connected to the company's supply chain.

Dr Speth added: “A bad Brexit deal would cost Jaguar Land Rover more than £1.2bn profit each year.

“As a result, we would have to drastically adjust our spending profile.

“We have spent around £50bn in the UK in the past five years, with plans for a further £80bn more in the next five.

“This would be in jeopardy should we be faced with the wrong outcome.”

He was more specific on a potential exit from the UK in comments to the Financial Times when he said: “If I'm forced to go out because we don't have the right deal, then we have to close plants here in the UK and it will be very, very sad.

“This is hypothetical, and I hope it's an option we never have to go for.”

His words follow similar warnings from BMW and Airbus.

Airbus said in June that it was 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.

BMW also weighed in – its customs manager Stephan Freismuth warning the company “cannot” manufacture its products in the UK if Brexit means its supply chain is disrupted.

The intervention by big business in the Brexit debate has strained relations with the government ahead of Theresa May's meeting of cabinet ministers at Chequers on Friday to decide a strategy for exiting the EU.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has described, what he sees as, threats from firms as “completely inappropriate” while Boris Johnson, a leading Brexiteer on the top table of government, has not denied saying “f*** business”.

In his response to JLR's latest warning, the business secretary Greg Clark tweeted: “JLR is a great British success story. We are determined to make sure that it can continue to prosper and to invest in Britain.”

The PM has also insisted firms are being listened to.

The British Retail Consortium became the latest to warn of the consequences of any cliff-edge Brexit in March 2019 by warning that consumers in the UK and EU food producers would lose out if there was no deal to allow the free movement of goods.

Its chairman, Richard Pennycook, said: “Frictionless trade is essential if the industry is to continue to provide the level of choice and value in shops that UK consumers are used to seeing.

“It is now of the utmost importance that the UK Government proposes a workable solution to the backstop that gets the withdrawal agreement over the line and allows for a smooth transition.

“We need the EU to be flexible and creative in negotiation and recognise what is at stake for exports to the UK.”

 

UK services sector reported its fastest rise in activity since October

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 4th July 2018) London, Uk – –

The UK services sector reported its fastest rise in activity since last October, lifting expectations of an imminent interest rate rise.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) from IHS Markit/CIPS showed activity rose to 55.1 in June, up from 54.

IHS chief business economist Chris Williamson said the reading added to signs that “the economy rebounded in the second quarter”.

He said it now “opens the door for an August rate hike”.

IHS Markit estimated that UK gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% in the second quarter between April and June compared with 0.2% in the first three months of the year.

Mr Williamson said: “The sharp rise in business costs, linked to surging oil prices and the need to offer higher wages, suggests inflation will also pick up again from its current rate of 2.4%.”

Activity in the UK services sector makes up nearly 80% of the UK's GDP.

The survey of purchasing managers found that new work increased strongly in June, in particular for business and financial services.

Overall, activity grew at the strongest pace since October 2017.

It follows better than expected growth in the UK construction sector for June, according to IHS Markit/CIPS, and also a modest uptick for manufacturing during the same month.

However, IHS Markit/CIPS said: “Nonetheless, there were again reports that Brexit-related uncertainty had held back business investment, particularly in relation to spending by large corporate clients.”

Economist Howard Archer from the EY Item Club said: “The improved services survey completes an overall stronger set of purchasing managers' surveys pointing to the economy warming up in June.”

 

 

Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask to Learn From Their Mistakes and Wins

 

Carrie Green/Youtube

If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you’ve failed a few times. Whether it be at a launch, a social media growth strategy, an email campaign or creating a course. Thankfully, failing is not necessarily a bad thing.

 

 

Food and Drink Federation Warns on CO2 Shortage Affecting Supermarket Supplies

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 29 June 2018) London, Uk – –

The carbon dioxide shortage will start affecting some supplies to supermarkets this weekend, the Food and Drink Federation has warned.

CO2 is used to stun farm animals, put fizz in carbonated drinks and is used in packaging, but is in short supply.

Federation chief executive Ian Wright said carbon dioxide supplies were not expected to resume until next week.

He said that while stocks would not run out, “choice will be eroded”.

Mr Wright told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “We will see fewer chicken dishes, fewer pork and bacon dishes.

“We'll see probably less carbonated drinks and certainly bakery and other things that benefit from what's called modified atmosphere packaging, which is plastic packaging with a tray underneath and a dish of food in them.”

A number of companies have reported disruption to production because of the shortage.

Warburton's, the UK's biggest producer of crumpets, said it has been forced to halt production at two of its four plants.

The company uses carbon dioxide to give its crumpets a longer shelf life and prevent mould.

The British Retail Consortium said: “We are aware of specific pressures in some areas such as carbonated soft drinks, beer, British chicken and British pork but the majority of food products are unaffected and retailers do not anticipate food shortages.

“However, it is likely that the mix of products available may be affected.”

The Food and Drink Federation's Mr Wright said that even if supplies of CO2 resumed next week, it would take some time before it made its way to food and drink producers.

“Inventories of products have been eroded quite a lot over the last week and not many people keep very large stocks of products because it is not cost-efficient,” he explained.

Scotland's biggest abattoir is closed and other meat producers are considering adapting their products to use less CO2.

Some food and drink firms have asked whether the government could help alleviate the problem.

Mr Wright said ministers could ask suppliers that have stopped production for maintenance to put factories back into production.

What is the problem?
CO2 is widely used in the food processing and drinks industries. It puts the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks, and is used in food packaging to extend the shelf life of salads, fresh meat and poultry.

The gas is also used to stun pigs and chickens before slaughter, and create dry ice to help keep things chilled while in transit.

However, several UK and mainland European producers of carbon dioxide – a by-product from ammonia production that is used in the fertiliser industry – closed for maintenance or scaled down operations.

In the UK, only two of five plants that supply CO2 are operating at the moment.

What are the pubs saying?
Earlier in the week, the Wetherspoon and Ei Group pub chains reported they had temporarily run out, or were short of, brands including John Smith's, Strongbow, Amstel and Birra Moretti.

However, on Thursday, Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said brewers were “working their socks off around the clock to ensure there is still plenty of beer to go around”.

What about the meat industry?
Meat processors are considering shortening “sell by” dates because packaging will contain lower levels of CO2, and there have been concerns about animal welfare if animals don't go to slaughter at their usual rate.

The British Poultry Council said its members continued to live “day-to-day” as they tried to stretch out their dwindling supplies of the gas.

What does the government say?
The meat industry has become increasingly frustrated by a lack of information coming from CO2 firms and the UK government in particular over when supplies might return to normal.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department of Business have both said they are monitoring the situation.

They said: “We have been assured CO2 producers are working as fast as they can to get plants up and running again, with CO2 production set to start very shortly.”

When can the industry expect more supplies?
The industry trade journal Gas World, which first reported the news that CO2 was running short, said that two tankers full of liquid CO2 from mainland Europe have been delivered to ports in the UK in the past couple of days.

A number of European plants are beginning to increase supplies, while another factory that had closed because of technical issues rather than maintenance, is due to come back online in mid-July.

 

 

H&M latest quarterly profit decline push fashion retailer to cut prices to shift stock

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 28th June 2018) London, UK —

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Fashion retailer H&M (HMb.ST) will have to cut prices further to help shift growing piles of unsold merchandise over the summer after another decline in quarterly profit, it said on Thursday.

The Swedish company, which has seen profit fall in the past two years as fewer customers shop in its main H&M brand stores, said it would now be tougher to reach its target of a “somewhat better” group result for the year.

Pretax profit in the three months to the end of May shrank 22 percent from a year ago to 6.01 billion crowns (511.80 million pounds), slightly below the average forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

“The first half of the year has been somewhat more challenging than we initially thought, but we believe that there is a gradual improvement and that we will see a stronger second half,” Chief Executive Karl-Johan Persson said on Thursday.

H&M shares fell 4 percent at the opening but turned positive to trade 0.3 percent higher by 0758 GMT.

After decades of rapid expansion growing to more than 4,700 stores, the world’s second-largest clothes retailer behind Zara owner Inditex (ITX.MC) has seen sales growth stall as it has struggled to adapt to the shift online and fend off increased competition from other budget brands.

It has also been less successful than Inditex, which sources production close to its headquarters in Galicia, northern Spain, in responding to fast-changing fashions.

H&M said earlier in June that sales in the March-May quarter were unchanged, after shrinking in the previous two quarters.

The group’s inventories and markdowns have been gradually increasing in the past couple of years. As expected by analysts, they grew again in the second quarter to the end of May — inventories by 13 percent and markdowns by 1 percent.

In comparison, Inditex has reported healthy local-currency sales growth for its February-April quarter as well as for the following six weeks.

Analyst Richard Chamberlain of RBC Capital Markets noted the pressure on margins from sluggish sales.

“We are also concerned that H&M is over-distributing and may be forced to cut its dividend this year or next if sales trends remain sluggish,” Chamberlain, who has an “Underperform” rating on the stock, said in a note.

H&M shares have lost nearly two thirds of their value since record highs in 2015, underperforming Inditex which have performed better helped by a more flexible supply chain and earlier integration of online and stores with services such as click-and-collect.

The stock has in recent months gyrated amid large stock purchases by the founding Persson family, rumours of buyout plans prompted by the purchases, and a subsequent dismissal this month of the rumours by Chairman Stefan Persson.

H&M said work to speed up its logistics systems had resulted in temporary interruptions in the quarter, hitting sales in some major markets such as Germany and the United States.

The company has earlier guided for lower comparable-store sales in 2018 than in 2017, with a gradual improvement throughout the year.

By Anna Ringstrom

Additional reporting by Helena Soderpalm; Writing by Keith Weir

John Lewis reports first-half year profit well be “close to zero”

Wikimedia

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 27 June, 2018) London, Uk – –

John Lewis has warned that profits in the first half of the year will be “close to zero”.

Last year John Lewis made £26.6m in the first half, and blamed heavy investment for this year's expected fall.

The well-known High Street name also warned over full-year profits, saying they could be “substantially lower” than last year, when it made £290m.

The retailer said its Waitrose chain would close four convenience shops and one small supermarket.

Two of the Little Waitrose closures will be in Manchester, one in Birmingham and one in central London. It will also shut its supermarket in Camden in London.

In a statement John Lewis said it was widely acknowledged that the retail sector was going through a period of “generational change”.

Its response would be to focus on “greater differentiation – not scale” and invest more in developing “unique” products and services, as well as placing more emphasis on its own brand.

It said it would continue to invest at a rate of £400m-£500m per year.

While it does not expect to make any profit in the first half of the year, for the full year it said there were a “wide range of possible outcomes, given the market uncertainty”.

However, it said it was assuming that profits before exceptional items would be “substantially lower” than last year.

 

 

Costa 2% sales drop blamed on high street decline


QLM Business News/Costa Camden High Street

Owner Whitbread blames a lack of shoppers on high streets for the fall as it prepares to spin-off Costa from its hotel business.

Britain's biggest coffee shop chain Costa has blamed a drop in sales on the woes affecting the British high street.

Owner Whitbread said like-for-like sales fell by 2% in the first quarter, “principally from footfall weakness in traditional shopping locations”.

However, total UK sales growth was up by 5.2% thanks to new branch openings as well as self serve coffee machines which are mainly in petrol stations and convenience stores.

Chief executive Alison Brittain said: “Our stores remain highly profitable and deliver an excellent return on capital.”

Whitbread also said it remained committed to its plans announced in April to spin-off its Costa coffee empire from its Premier Inn hotel business and other interests as quickly as possible “to optimise value for shareholders”.

The company said: “Constructive early steps have been taken in preparation for the demerger and good progress continues to be made on the core infrastructure and efficiency work that was already underway.

“A further update on the demerger will be provided alongside the interim results in October 2018.”

Ms Brittain sounded a more cautious, but optimistic note on the company's outlook – particularly in the UK where retailers and the wider consumer-focused sector has endured tougher times because of a Brexit-linked squeeze on household finances.

She said: “Both the budget hotel market and the coffee market present long-term structural growth opportunities, and whilst we are cautious of shorter-term trading conditions in the UK, due to well-publicised consumer trends, we are confident that we have the right strategies in place to enhance our UK and international market positions and ensure each business is well-positioned to thrive as a separate entity.”

 

 

The Dentist Who Influenced That Movie Star Smile And Where it all began

 

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.

 

 

Debenhams issues profit warning as it battles increased discounting from rivals

Wikimedia

(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.”

 

 

Uk city leaders plan to bring forward ban on new petrol and diesel cars by 10 years

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.

 

 

The Worlds Luxury Trains Designed Specifically With Elegance in Mind

 

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,[1] luxury train travel has come a long way.

 

Sotheby’s own in-house fraud-busting expert: The world’s top art forgery detective

(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

Dixons Carphone reveal unauthorised data breach of 5.9 million customers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 13 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Dixons Carphone has revealed a major breach of data involving unauthorised access to 5.9 million customers cards and 1.2 million personal records.

The consumer electronics retailer said it was investigating an attempt to compromise the cards in a processing system at Currys PC World and Dixons Travel, but said there was no evidence of fraud as a result of the incident.

In a second breach, personal data such as name, address or email addresses, have been accessed. Again, Dixons said there was no evidence that it had resulted in fraud.

Alex Baldock, the company’s new chief executive, apologised for the data breach and admitted the firm had failed its customers.

“We are extremely disappointed and sorry for any upset this may cause. The protection of our data has to be at the heart of our business, and we’ve fallen short here.

“We’ve taken action to close off this unauthorised access and though we have currently no evidence of fraud as a result of these incidents, we are taking this extremely seriously.”

Baldock said the company had engaged cyber security experts to handle the matter and had added extra security measures to its systems.

The retailer will be writing over the coming days to those customers whose personal data was breached, “to inform them, to apologise, and to give them advice on any protective steps they should take”.

Of the 5.9 million cards that were accessed illegally, 5.8 million were chip and pin protected, and no pin codes, card verification values (CVV) or authentication data were accessed, meaning purchases could not be made.

However, about 105,000 payment cards from outside the EU and without chip and pin protection were accessed. The retailer said it had notified the banks concerned and they had not detected any fraudulent purchases on customer accounts.

Shares in Dixons Carphone fell 5.5% after the data breach was announced, as investors factored in a potential fine facing the firm.

The retailer said the data breach was discovered over the past week as part of a review of its systems and data. Although the breach occurred within the last year, it was before 25 May when the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules came into force.

As the data breach pre-dated GDPR, any financial penalty on Dixons Carphone would be imposed under the previous data protection act rules, where the maximum fine imposed would be £500,000.

Under the new rules, firms could faces fines of up to €20m (£17.6m) for a major data breach.

Dixons Carphone said the investigation into the cyber attack was ongoing and that the culprit or culprits had not been identified. The retailer has informed the relevant authorities, including the police, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the Financial Conduct Authority.

A spokesman for the ICO said: “An incident involving Dixons Carphone has been reported to us and we are liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Financial Conduct Authority and other relevant agencies to ascertain the details and impact on customers.

“Anyone concerned about lost data and how it may be used should follow the advice of Action Fraud.”

By Angela Monaghan

 

 

Fashion chain New Look report heavy operating loss in ‘very difficult year’

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 12 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Fashion chain New Look has swung to a full-year loss amid plunging sales on the high street and online.

The retailer reported an operating loss of £74.3m for the year to March 24, having made £97.6m profit in the previous year.

New Look's sales in the UK fell by 11.7pc on a like-for-like basis, accelerating from a decline of 6.8pc the year before. Website sales slumped by 19.2pc.

Total revenue was £1.34bn, down from £1.45bn year on year.

The business was hit with a £34.2m one-off cost, which included an exceptional charge from stock clearances.

Alistair McGeorge, New Look's executive chairman, said: “Last year was undoubtedly very difficult for New Look, with a well-documented combination of external and self-inflicted issues impacting our performance.

“Trading conditions will remain tough in the year ahead, but further operational efficiencies and a resolute focus on our core strengths and heartland customer will help to ensure we remain on the right track.”

New Look launched a restructuring plan in March, announcing that it would shut 60 stores as part of a company voluntary agreement (CVA), affecting 980 jobs.

The company said on Tuesday that the CVA would allow the business to save £40m.

The poor trading news from New Look comes after House of Fraser proposed a CVA, saying it intended to shut 31 stores, putting 6,000 jobs at risk.

Mothercare and Carpetright have also undertaken CVAs so far this year in a bid to save on costs.

Torrid trading on the high street has triggered a swathe of retail failures, with Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld all entering administration.

By Press Association

 

 

Oprah Winfrey’s Legacy Celebrated at Smithsonian’s Museum Exhibit

 

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is opening a new exhibit this week called “Watching Oprah.” It's a celebration of Oprah Winfrey's legacy. Gayle King previewed the exhibit with Oprah on Wednesday where the media mogul saw it for the first time.