Art forger

Museum rewards donor with fake art to hang at home

After collector Henry Bloch donated an enviable group of impressionist artworks to the city’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the museum returned the favor, sort of.

The museum printed digital copies of each of Mr. Bloch’s 29 paintings—including examples by Edouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse—and delivered the framed replicas to his home two months ago so he could hang them in the exact same spots as the originals. Mr. Bloch said the copies are so realistic, he has to peer closely to discern the differences. “Every museum should be offering this service,” he said.

Art forgers aren’t the only ones using technology to produce ever-more-convincing fake paintings. Museums, in a rarely discussed practice, are churning them out as thank-you gifts to major donors. Curators say it’s mostly a taboo topic because the recipients don’t always like to admit they’ve got a glorified poster hanging in the place of a masterpiece, but Sotheby’s said auction houses have long gifted their major consignors with framed copies of big-ticket items. 

Julian Zugazagoitia, CEO and director of the Nelson-Atkins, said he initially considered the Bloch copies to be a fluky one-off, a gesture that could allow the museum to display Mr. Bloch’s art as part of its permanent collection when it reopens its renovated European art galleries March 11. Otherwise, it would have had to wait for the works to be given in a promised bequest as part of the 94-year-old collector’s estate. (Mr. Bloch’s foundation paid $12.7 million for the renovation.)

Yet as word spread of the museum’s unconventional offer, the director said his own trustees started reaching out, seeking prints for their art holdings. The director said going public about the potential perk could elicit gifts while donors are still alive. “The offer is becoming part of my tool kit now,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said.

Mr. Zugazagoitia said he is aware that such swapping could undermine one of the intangible factors that fuel an artwork’s value, namely the evidence of the artist’s own handiwork or at least the artist’s legitimising involvement. The museum itself will continue to display only original works, not copies. “We still believe in the aura of artists’ works,” he said. “People who come here need to see the originals.”The museum’s knockoffs are designed to look real—but only from the front so as not to dupe anyone long-term, said Steve Waterman, the museum’s director of design and experience. The fake canvases lack telltale brush strokes, and the backs of their frames lack gallery labels and other notations that appraisers and authenticators typically use to determine a work’s legitimacy.

Manhattan gallery sued over fake Warhol prints

Scandal has rocked the prominent Lower East Side Woodward Gallery as the art dealers now face a lawsuit from an irate former investor.

85 year-old Oregon resident Nira Levine claims the gallery’s owners, John and Kristine Woodward, doctored authenticity documents for 90 Andy Warhol prints from the “Space Fruit” series they sold her in 2008.

Now Levine has filed a suit against them to discover whether the details of her other investments with the gallery, which include stakes in over 50 modern masterpieces, were also falsified, reports the New York Post.

The petition, filed in New York Supreme Court on June 30, stipulates that Levine either purchased the pieces outright or co-owned them with the Woodwards, who then resold them and evenly split the proceeds with Levine.

Lee Ufan to take time to examine counterfeits of his paintings

Artist Lee Ufan, whose abstract paintings have become the subjects of art forgeries, took a look at the paintings the National Forensic Service identified as counterfeits for the first time Monday, but said he has yet to conclude if they are fakes. “I will come back (to the police) the day after tomorrow. There are things I have to check again,” said Lee as he left the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency after having examined the paintings.

Worries after forger Keating is linked to picture at Horham church

A painting returned to a village church after an absence of 50 years may be an original 16th century study or the work of master forger Tom Keating. Mr. Keating was asked to restore the painting in the 1960s but a decade later he was unmasked as a serial faker as bogus works assigned to Samuel Palmer and other great artists. Now residents at Horham, near Eye, say they cannot be absolutely sure who is the artist who created the painting – now returned to the village after 50 years in St. Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Why is the Korean art market vulnerable to forgery?

Artist Lee Ufan will finally have a look at the paintings that the National Forensic Service confirmed as counterfeits of his works next Monday.

One of the largest art forgery cases in Korea seems to be nearing its end as a 66-year-old art forger surnamed Hyun, who allegedly created fake works of Lee Ufan, was arrested in May and has been put on trial. All 13 works seized by police from galleries accused of distributing the counterfeits were confirmed to be fake.

Master forger Geert Jan Jansen presents own exhibition

The Dutch painter Geert Jan Jansen has just opened his new exhibition in List, Germany. Although this time the works on display are modelled after original masterpieces, they are not regarded as a forgery as they are signed by the artist with his own name. Some of the 135 exhibits are also his own work.

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The 72-year-old is well-known in the art world for his copying skills and is considered the “master forger of the century”. Jansen has forged works of over 40 different artists, including Pablo Picasso, Juan Miró, Paul Gauguin and Marc Chagall. He not only has copied artworks of these artists, but also used their individual artistic language to create original pieces and sign it their names. 

Jansen was arrested in 1994 in France, when over 1,500 artworks were seized. He was held in detention for six months, but was acquitted for lack of evidence. 

The exhibition runs until July 3rd.