Instead of obsessing over materials, the new technique takes a hard look at the picture itself – specifically, the thousands of tiny individual strokes that compose it In late March, a judge in Wiesbaden, Germany, found herself playing the uncomfortable role of art critic. On trial before her were two men accused of forging paintings by artists including Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky, whose angular, abstract compositions can now go for eight-figure prices.

The case had been in progress for three and a half years and was seen by many as a test. A successful prosecution could help end an epidemic of forgeries – so-called miracle pictures that appear from nowhere – that have been plaguing the market in avant-garde Russian art.

But as the trial reached its climax, it disintegrated into farce. One witness, arguably the world’s leading Malevich authority, argued that the paintings were unquestionably fakes.

Another witness, whose credentials were equally impeccable, swore that they were authentic. In the end, the forgery indictments had to be dropped; the accused were convicted only on minor charges.

The judge was unimpressed. “Ask 10 different art historians the same question and you get 10 different answers,” she told the New York Times. Read more from…

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