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PhD Research: The role of conservation science in the authentication of modern and contemporary art (Samantha Skelton)


Samantha Skelton

Title of research project / research interests

The role of conservation science in the authentication of modern and contemporary art

Type of research e.g. PhD or Postdoc



Cologne Institute for Conservation Sciences at TH Köln


Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich, CICS; Dr. Erma Hermens, Rijksmuseum

(Estimated) date of completion

June 2019

Previous education and/or work experience

Kress Fellow, Paintings Conservation, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

M.S., Art Conservation, Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art COnservation


This PhD project aims to provide the basis for the establishment of standards for procedures to establish authenticity. Recently, one of Germany’s greatest art scandals, the Beltracchi forgery case (2012), made clear that there is a need to define the role of ‘scientific analysis’ in the context of the complex authentication processes of modern and contemporary art. In collaboration with the Auction House Lempertz in Cologne this research project will analyze a representative number of recent and new case studies where authenticity is doubted. Furthermore, cases will be analyzed where common authentication practices failed. The aim of this study will be to compare recent methodologies and techniques in the field of conservation sciences, to explore the relationship between methods derived from the humanities and those derived from the natural sciences, and to define the roles of conservators and conservation scientists in establishing and approving authenticity of modern and contemporary art works. Central to these investigations is to establish and communicate clearly the possibilities and limitations of art technological and scientific analysis to other stakeholders in that process and to support collectors and museums in their decision-making processes. Perspectives of various participants in the processes such as artists, estates, dealers, collectors and conservators will be considered.


Authentication; dating; attribution; scientific analysis; modern art; contemporary art

E-mail / Contact details