Monday, September 16, 2013

Is It Real Or Fake? Trickery in the Art World

Is It Real Or Fake? Trickery in the Art World
By Nancy Vicknair
Summer 2013, Turlock CA
Nancy Vicknair is a researcher, art historian, curator who is currently enjoying life in the California Valley. You may contact her at her blog or by
Does it matter if a piece of art that you see in a museum is not an original, but the label says it is by a famous artist? I say indeed. It does matter! A lot.

                      Forger painting a Van Gogh

For years I studied the Merode Altarpiece at New York's Cloisters which was attributed to one artist, but now the current thinking is that it is by someone else.This Altarpiece is a whole different story from the exaggerated art attributions and actual forgeries that are rampant today in the art world though. At least it is real!

Watch the movie Who The _____ is Jackson Pollack?

This fascinating documentary is about a "Pollack" bought at a thrift shop. My good friend and art expert, Tod Volpe, helped determine whether the work was by Pollack or not. Volpe is so naturally adept at sniffing out a forgery, that it is almost scary. Needless to say, he has also walked the darker side of the art underworld so he knows well its beautiful and the ugly sides, but that is another story.

                                     Tod Volpe, Art Expert
I do not know if the work in question was painted by Pollack. Dating by scientific methods is the best way to proceed here.

However, I care when a museum shows works that have questionable provenances. 

Here in little Turlock, CA, there is an 'exhibit' now put on by a traveling art show company in the local museum that features works the museum says were created by Picasso. The works are ceramics which are factory made and illustrated after originals by Picasso. But they are NOT Picasso's. The pottery was 'inspired' by Picasso and his one of kind original pottery--the same today as when Justin Bieber or Martha Stewart endorses a kitchen or fashion item.


The citizens of Turlock are being pandered to with this art show. They are not learning about original artwork. The museum director should say in the show literature that these works were done after Picasso died.  

Museum directors must abide by a code of ethics agreeing to show only authenticated artworks. The Turlock museum director has a responsibility to do this too. Scruples must be the rule in this arena.

Thank goodness most museums are using major investigative tools to discover the hidden truth about a work of art. It does matter if people see original works. My daughter remarked when looking at the pictures of the Picasso ceramic dishes and pitchers on display at the Carnegie Arts Center, that they looked new. That is because they are new!

I hate forgery. I firmly dislike "Editions" even more. If I buy a print, I know it is not the original. If I buy a painting, I want a detailed provenance before the seller gets my money unless the work is less than $300.00 or is by a local living artist! If I am at an art show, I expect the artworks to be genuine. This world is filled with enough fakery as it is, why perpetuate it?

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