Apollo Magazine

Four Fake Exhibitions

Is there value in fake art? Several museums and galleries seem to think so, and have mounted exhibitions to prove it

The Chagall Committee’s decision to seize and burn a painting after deeming it a fake has sparked fresh debates about how the art world should tackle forgery. Is there value to be found in these copycat works? Several museums and galleries seem to think so: here are a few of the exhibitions that have taken a closer look at fake art.

‘Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World’, at the Springfield Museums (21 January–27 April 2014)

The Springfield Museums’ timely exhibition of notorious forgeries is still open. It takes a look at the cultural con men behind the scandals, presenting their original work alongside fakes, and promises to delve into the mind of the serial forger.

Odalisque (1974), Elmyr de Hory’s ‘Matisse’

‘Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries’, at the National Gallery, London (30 June–12 December 2010)

The National Gallery took a more historical view in its 2010 exhibition, which promised to reveal ‘the vital contributions of applied science to the understanding of Old Master paintings’. Its controversial case studies proved that forgery isn’t just a contemporary phenomenon.

Madonna and Child with Angel (c. 1495–1500), Francesco Francia. A copy of this original painting is in the National Gallery’s collection Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Moira Burke (Creative Commons)

‘Seconde Main (Second Hand)’, at the Museé d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (25 March–24 October 2010) 

This exhibition of copied artworks caused a controversy when it opened in Paris. Pieces by post-modern ‘appropriationists’, who openly reproduced art by modern greats from Picasso to Hirst, were displayed alongside their sources. Various angry heirs and relatives spoke out in the press against the show, criticising the ‘vampires’ who had dared to copy the original artists’ works.

Eric Doeringer’s Bootleg stand in Miami, 2007. The artist’s ‘Bootlegs’ (unauthorised copies of contemporary art), were among the exhibits in ‘Second Hand’. Photo: Michael Mayer (Creative Commons)

‘Unearthing the Truth: Egypt’s Pagan and Coptic Sculpture’, at the Brooklyn Museum (13 February–10 May 2009)

In 2008 the Brooklyn Museum discovered that a third of the Coptic sculptures in its collection were modern fakes. Instead of hiding the items away, the museum staged an exhibition about the research behind the revelation, noting rather pointedly that ‘a comprehensive study has yet to be undertaken’ of Coptic sculpture across the globe.

Sculpture of a woman acquired by the Brooklyn Museum in the 1960s, but now believed to be a fake

Related Stories:

Unfortunate Fake: ‘Chagall’ painting to be burnt as a forgery (Maggie Gray)

Fixed Price: valuing fake and damaged art (Katy Barrett)

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