Orion scientist James Martin will lead a new department for the auction house.
Martin has conducted art fraud investigations for the FBI for 20 years and taught at The Getty Conservation Institute, The Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, and the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit.
Tad Smith, Sotheby's chief executive, said: “Sotheby’s has had the pleasure of working with Jamie for the better part of the past two decades."
He added that the acquisition would "create something unique within Sotheby’s that would further distinguish us in the marketplace and at the same time help to make the art market a safer place”.
Over the course of 2016, concerns have grown in the art market amid questions of the authenticity surrounding a number of high profile paintings. Sotheby’s said Martin has played a central role in the “most significant forgery investigations of recent times”.
These include two Old Master paintings that Sotheby’s investigated after they became linked with a potential Old Master fakes scandal. One of the works was a Frans Hals portrait that was bought by a US collector in a $10m private deal that Sotheby's brokered in 2011. After Orion conducted forensic analysis, Sotheby's reimbursed the buyer.
Sotheby's also asked Orion to analyse a painting catalogued as ‘Circle of Parmigianino’ which was sold for $800,000 in a New York auction in 2012.
Orion is known for analysing works of art across different periods and Martin has undertaken more than 1800 investigations for clients. The firm was involved in a high profile investigation when it was hired to conduct forensic testing on paintings sold through New York’s Knoedler gallery.
Sotheby's said Martin’s scientific techniques include technical imaging, magnified visual inspection, elemental analysis and molecular analysis.
Martin said: “The range of works offered by Sotheby’s, as well as the breadth of existing expertise and experience, provides for a unique opportunity.”