Paddy: One of the things that I had been thinking about when I saw this movie, was a similar case a few years ago — maybe you're familiar with it — The Getty had bought a Kouros sculpture, of a young boy, and had done all sorts of forensic studies, which had concluded that this thing was an original. There were only two experts who looked at it and said “I don't think so”, voices that were dismissed in exchange for the scientific evidence. And then, The Getty Museum loaned the sculpture to Greece, (at this point the sculpture had already been purchased for a hefty sum of money), and when it arrived everyone laughed at them, declaring it a fake on arrival. So now the museum has some sort of plaque that says Greek, 530 B.C. or modern forgery. In the same sort of way, that in the movie you see a few art experts look at Teri's painting and say “that's not right”, you saw the same thing happen in the of the Getty sculpture, only with disastrous results. What is the difference between that case, and yours?
Peter Paul: It's very simple. The nature of the evidence is very different. In Teri’s case you're dealing with finger prints. And the science of fingerprint identification is a true science. There are no gray areas. And when you have a sufficient number of characteristics a match exists. The science of fingerprint identification has been around for well over a hundred years now, and if a mistake is made it's only because of the lack of qualification on the part of the examiner, but if it is properly done, it is always one hundred percent reliable. Now I don't know exactly what they did with this statue, but that definitely was not about fingerprints. I work with fingerprints.
Paddy: My understanding was that they were testing the age of the patinas and that sort of thing”¦.
Peter Paul: Age determinations are often very vague. Carbon 14 dating for example, on more recent objects there is a very wide margin of error. You have to go back many hundreds of years where it becomes more and more precise. And then after a certain point its precision falls off again, and then other techniques are used to try to determine age. So there is a margin in that kind of dating, and if it is not done properly or if the sample is too small or perhaps the sample is contaminated”¦you have to take a lot of things into consideration. I don't know who carried out the examinations, I don't know how they arrived at their conclusions. The thing about what I do is that it is a very transparent process. And if I arrive at this conclusion that this fingerprint a match, then everyone will arrive at the same conclusion because the work has been done properly.
Teri: Which you always have double checked anyway
Paddy: Oh, so there's more than one fingerprint expert who has said that this is correct?
Peter Paul: Absolutely. My work, I always have double checked by a colleague who was head of identification at the RCMP for the entire province of Quebec. He has decades of experience in identification, and he was supervisor for the entire province. I think that is about as high as you can go. And you know, I am extremely meticulous, I take a long time to arrive at a conclusion, and there are many factors that go into sorting out what's what in a finger print. And in twenty years I haven't made one error.
Paddy: Is matching of fingerprints more definitive than the matching of paint samples, because you've done both?
Peter Paul: Yes, because paint samples do not necessarily identify individuals but fingerprints do. This is not to say that paint characterization is not important. In fact it is very important and when I go through an authentication process, I look at it as well. I go through every facet of an image, this is what I call the forensic process, is that we don't just take one aspect of a work of art and then work on that. We consider all of it. We consider its history, its visual appearance, as a connoisseur's assess a painting for it's style, technique, and aesthetic qualities, the chemical composition, physical composition of it, and of course the forensic elements that may be present on the painting. So if you leave any one of these things out the work is not complete. Which brings me to have to conclude that all these documents floating around out there in the market place titled authentication are partial authentications because they have not really looked at every aspect of the painting. If a painting is authenticated because an expert who judged it because of its visual appearance says that it is authentic and neglects to do the chemical work well, heads have fallen because of that, because people do make mistakes judging by eye. So you have to do the whole job, you have to do the whole nine yards to call something an authentication.
Text and photo via Peter Paul Biro: Montage of two details of equal size and orientation. On the left half Teri's Find, on the right half Number 5, 1948. The right hand side image is somewhat blurred in comparison as it was reproduced from a book illustration. Selection of colours and their relationship to each other are highly comparable.
Paddy: So the other thing that you did was that you looked at Jackson Pollock number 5. Or rather you did a visual comparison of the two paintings?
Peter Paul: What I tried to do there was kind of like a blind taste test. I took two areas that were completely arbitrary, from two images – one of which was number 5, David Geffen's picture, and an equal area from Teri's picture, same reproduction ratio, and I just put them side by side. And without saying whether the left or right was this or that, now you decide.
Paddy: Well, see that's what I thought was one of the most interesting parts of the movie in terms of providing compelling evidence, was that there was these two images side by side.
Teri: You can't differentiate.
Paddy: Yeah, you can't differentiate. The only thing about that though, is that I had no reference point as to where that sample came from, from within the greater scope of the painting. So I could certainly say that within two areas it looked indistinguishable to me, but there was no comparison of the full sized images”¦I mean, I went home and googled that image immediately.
Peter Paul: Just published an article on this, you can find this article online and in the article they reproduce Teri's painting
Teri: The color is different, but the design, they intermingle perfectly together.
Paddy: Exactly. So Teri, I have a question for you. When you got this painting”¦when did you get it?
Teri: 1991 1992, about 14 years ago.
Paddy: Right, so when you got it you thought it was piece of shit?
Teri: Right, I didn't know what I had. It was just a joke.
Paddy: Now that you've spent 14 years with it, has your opinion of it changed, or do you still think it's pretty much a piece of shit?
Teri: Well, the only way I can explain that is that the whole painting to me is based on principle, and what I want to do with it and the barriers I've run into to accomplish the authenticity of it, but as far it as a piece, it's not my forte, I don't care for abstract, never have, I don't care if it's a Pollock or whoever, but I did see it, one time on the wall, of somebodies – somebody who had it on the wall and had the proper lighting, and I have to admit it was beautiful”¦it had the right lighting, the right environment, and it was pretty it really was, but me, I don't like abstract, I like Norman Rockwell, so”¦you know.
Paddy: But one of things I noticed about your place, at least when it was shot in the film, I mean I thought that you had great taste in art. Like your apartment is REALLY well decorated.
Teri: Well, when I got involved with this, to learn about art, I had to have something to learn it with. So I went to yard sales, thrifts stores, and I'd pick up this painting, they were all oils or watercolors or whatever, but I had to have something. I couldn't just go to the colleges and start investigating what art is unless I had something to start with. You know what I'm trying to say? To know what it was made out of, and who the artist was and da-da-da da-da. And that was a big help, in helping myself learn how to research Pollock, and in the frame of doing it I ended up with some really nice pieces. So they're hanging in my house.
Paddy: So you actually have a lot more art now?
Teri: Right, but it's not worth anything like this.
Paddy: Right, no no”¦
Teri: And you see I wasn't driving any more, I couldn't drive any more, and I had collected antiques for years, they were running out and bored and I had to find something else to do instead of sit at the BMW and play peanuckle and drink all day cause that's just as honest as I can get. So I got involved in picking up these pieces, and it gave me something to learn to enable me to follow through on this thing. So I never got rid of them — I like them, so I just hang them.
Paddy: Right, Now that you've had a couple of offers on this, where you ever like “Nine million dollars sounds like a lot of money”. Were you tempted at any point to take the offers, and why not?
Teri: Cause I know what's it worth. It's going to take. I know what his (Peter) work is worth. If I were to let them do this, to buy this from me bottom line cheap, what would this do to his work, what would this to do to the forensic authentication if I let the art world talk me into doing this because of their scenario.
Paddy: But the Sultan”¦does he really”¦
Teri: Well, this is another side of the story that has never come out, which is neither here nor there, but I'm not sure that it was a bonified offer see. It could have been done by some former dealership that I had, to see what I would sell it for, so I can't say for sure if it is, and even if it was I still would not have sold it for that amount”¦because it's not justified.
Paddy: Now, in the movie, they say that the painting, I can't remember who it was that estimated the painting at being worth fifty million right? But you would be willing to accept half of that — at least that was what said in the movie.
Teri: You know, when it comes down to it, the bottom line and my age factor, and whether it's coming through on its own merits, or because of the forensic authentification ”¦I won't know until the time comes. I can't say what I'd sell it for right now. That's as honest as I can be. I don't know what I'd do from one day to the next, because I get so stubborn in my principles, and I've got children, I've got people that need help just a multitude of things, so that I need to bring this to a conclusion, but I'm not willing to destroy his work, for what I need. They go hand and hand. His authentication goes in hand with my sale, and I'm not going to sell this thing to the art world with their bullshit, and discredit him — which it would do. If I let them buy this, at their lowball price, what good has he been, what will it do to it? It will be for not. For nothing”¦if I go through their scenario, where we have to get these experts, when they can't authenticate”¦you saw Thomas Hoving in the movie. This is where I'm coming from, [Peter Paul Biro] has devoted a lot of time out of belief, and I believe it is authentic. And I don't owe him anything. I owe him nothing as far as anything goes, except respect for what he's done. He's had the faith to stay with this painting”¦