ArtForgery

Museum admits all paintings in high-profile exhibition are fake

The Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts publicly apologised for failing to verify the authenticity of 17 paintings on display at an exhibition that have been confirmed as fake.

A panel of famous artists and experts and officials found 15 of the paintings, supposedly the works of legendary artists such as Nguyen Tu Nghiem and Bui Xuan Phai, were copies.

Two others were found to be works of other artists. At least one living artist, Thanh Chuong, has claimed one of the two paintings as his.

All the paintings at the show are owned by Vu Xuan Chung, who claimed to have acquired them from Jean-Francois Hubert, a known expert on Vietnamese art and a former senior consultant for giant auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Fake or Fortune: is this a genuine Lucian Freud?

In 1997, Jon Lys Turner was given a Lucian Freud painting by his friends and mentors, the artists Richard “Dickie” Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller. Turner had just entered one of the British art world’s bitterest feuds. 

Beginning in a Suffolk art school in 1939, and rumbling on past Freud’s death at the age of 88 in 2011, it would involve the painter’s family, art experts and auction houses. At its heart was a single question – was the portrait of a man in a black cravat painted by Lucian Freud? 

For Turner this is more than an abstract debate about provenance. Chopping was a highly regarded illustrator responsible for the original James Bond book covers. Wirth-Miller was a brilliant tutor, but his career as an artist had not been dazzling. Acolytes of Francis Bacon, the two men were life partners and, like Freud, had both studied at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Hadleigh in Suffolk in the early 1940s. Somehow in this creative wartime milieu, Chopping and Wirth-Miller came by the picture. Turner still can’t pinpoint a specific incident that led to the enmity between Freud and Wirth-Miller, but its fierceness is beyond doubt. 

As late as 2003, Wirth-Miller – who also died in 2011 – was writing lists of “reasons I hate Lucian Freud”. Freud was one of the most distinctive portraitists of the 20th century, and this early work hints at what lies ahead. 

Could it really be that his hatred for Wirth-Miller was so strong that he would deny his own work? Or was the painting actually a fake? For more than 20 years, auction houses and experts have told him he owns a genuine Freud, only for them all to change their minds. 

Now, thanks to Fake or Fortune?’s line-up of art experts and scientists, the matter can finally be settled. Turner admits he has grown to like the mystery of owning a painting that might or might not be by Lucian Freud. If it is genuine, will he sell it? “I think so. Then I’d have fulfilled my pledge. It wasn’t about the money for Dickie and Denis. It was a matter of honour. For them, it was about the feud.”

Freud’s famously fleshy nude, Benefits Supervisor Resting, sold for £35.4 million in New York last year – the highest price that has ever been paid for a painting by a British artist. 

Gallery operator indicted for counterfeiting Lee Ufan's works

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Prosecutors have indicted a 66-year-old gallery operator on charges of forging artworks made by renowned South Korean artist Lee Ufan. The suspect, identified only by his surname, Hyeon, is accused of receiving some US$1.1 million in 2012 for producing and selling three fake art works.

Hyeon allegedly received an offer from an unidentified antique dealer to fabricate Lee’s works in 2011, in return for 50% of the profits.

The investigation is still under way as the suspect testified that he created some 50 forgeries together with another accomplice, whose identity was withheld.

Race is on to beat art forgery with DNA technology

A British company is the latest to launch a labelling system that uses synthetic DNA to help protect works by living artists. Mark Darbyshire, the London framer, and Steve Cooke, the software developer, have created Tagsmart Certify to help combat forgeries. While issues of authenticity dog the market for older works, Cooke says the dynamics of today’s broader landscape—including online channels and emerging markets—heighten the need for immediate authenticity in contemporary art.

“Some artists don’t want to get technical, but they may now just have to be,” he says. Artists who have already endorsed the product—which has 12 security features, including its DNA label—include Mat Collishaw, Idris Khan and Gary Hume, who are among Tagsmart’s founding supporters.

A brush with the law: forger turns fine artist

He spent time in prison for forgery, but now David Henty has found a better use for his artistic skills. He’s discovered a talent for copying the works of geniuses like Van Gogh and Picasso. David, from Saltdean in Sussex, denies his paintings are fakes, but not everyone agrees. Ebay, for example, has banned him, as Malcolm Shaw reports.

The $80 Million Art Con

When one of the oldest and most respected art galleries in America, the Knoedler Gallery in New York, closed its doors abruptly in 2011, the art world was stunned. Not because the gallery closed, but by the discovery that over the course of 15 years, the gallery and its president, Ann Freedman, had sold millions of dollars in forgeries to wealthy collectors.

Stefan Simchowitz settles lawsuit with artist

Controversial art collector/dealer Stefan Simchowitz and Dublin dealer Jonathan Ellis King have settled their ongoing legal case with Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama. The terms of the settlement, which was reached on May 4, are confidential, but all parties will cover their own legal fees.

The battled stemmed from Mahama’s claims that Simchowitz and King were selling inauthentic artworks in his name. The dealers sued on a number of counts, including breach of contract, fraudulent inducement, commercial disparagement, and unfair competition.

Tagsmart partners with Gary Hume and Jealous Gallery

Our mission is to create a new standard for authenticity and provenance to help artists secure their copyright and allow galleries to sell with complete confidence.

We’ve already teamed up with some of the world’s leading artists and galleries including Gary Hume and Jealous Gallery. Hume’s Study In Black was one of the first artworks in the world to be tagged with its own ‘genetic fingerprint’ sealing its authenticity and provenance.

Watch our CEO Lawrence and Jealous Gallery Founder Dario Illardi talk to Reuters about it here.


“To be able to authenticate my work using the latest technology as I sign it and enter its details into an online searchable database will make it so much easier for people to track the history of the work and its authenticity in years to come.”
– Gary Hume


Come see us at Art16 from this Thursday, May 19th!

Copycat artist defends sale of 'Grand Masters'

A reformed forger has rejected criticism that selling his near-perfect copies of world famous paintings is damaging the art world. David Henty, who has previously been convicted of forging passports and number plates, insisted he is simply allowing the public to own great artworks at an affordable price.

Until recently he sold forgeries of Van Gogh, Picasso and Modigliani online, auctioning off hundreds of his works through multiple eBay accounts. He trod a fine line between legality and law-breaking by never explicitly claiming – merely implying – that his reproductions might be authentic originals.

Painting by Vu Cao Dam to be auctioned in France, believed to be fake

The painting is called Jeunes femmes prenant le thé is offered for the starting price of 15,000 to 20,000 euros. According to art researcher Ngo Kim Khoi in France, this is a fake painting, which is ugly, with vulgar lay-out and its style is not that of the famous Fine Arts College of Indochina so it cannot be an artwork by Vu Cao Dam.

Art fakes, a genuine menace!

Every week, Akbar and Bhanu Padamsee receive images from collectors and auction houses for them to look at and confirm authenticity. On most occasions, they turn out to be forgeries. “Most of the works which have been brought to us in the recent past, have not been painted by Akbar,” says Bhanu.

The wife of the master painter made the alarming disclosure to ETPanache while attending a celebration at Priyasri Art Gallery in south Mumbai, to mark the artist’s 88th birthday. However, adds Bhanu, the proliferating racket of fakes is not confined to the octogenarian’s works alone, but confronts all other leading artists too.

Gallery of fake paintings opens in Argentina

The paintings in Buenos Aires’ newest gallery may look like the work of great artists, but they are actually rip-offs – and the exhibition’s organisers want you to know it.

One of the works doesn’t even look the part – it is supposed to be a masterpiece by the late Argentine painter Antonio Berni, but the main figure’s head is cut off by the frame. The 40 canvases on display at the exhibition in the Argentine capital were seized in a raid organised by cross-border police agency Interpol on a band of forgers.

Tagsmart’s Certify: ‘DNA fingerprinting’ technology offers security for art market

Tagsmart Certify is a unique, technology-driven platform that delivers a secure and verified solution to artwork security for the global art market.

Developed by leading framer Mark Darbyshire and product designer Steve Cooke, Tagsmart meets the needs of the art world in the digital age. Over the 20 years spent in the framing and art fabrication business, it became clear to Mark that there was a real demand for increased accountability within the art market. Mark and Steve, along with a team of industry experts, spent 18 months developing Certify as a unique solution to artwork security issues.

Bird in $2.5m 'Brett Whiteley' painting looked like 'wet rag', expert tells court

A bird painted on a fake Brett Whiteley painting which sold for $2.5 million looked like a “wet rag”, a court has heard.

Professor Robyn Sloggett, the director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, is a key Crown witness in the fraud case against art dealer Peter Gant and art conservator Mohamed Aman Siddique.

Mr. Gant and Mr. Siddique are accused of taking part in a joint criminal enterprise to create and sell fake Whiteley paintings.

The rise of fakes and false attributions in the art world

Pablo Picasso famously once said, “We all know that art is not the truth.”

With the recent conclusion of the first lawsuit filed against the now defunct, Knoedler Gallery of New York, for selling forgeries, the art world has been abuzz with stories of high-end fakes and the grave issue of false attributions. However, it is a universally established fact that forgeries are not a recent phenomenon but in fact have only grown in prevelance over the last four centuries.

Currently, the FBI estimates that art theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines are a “looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.”

Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

In 2009, two years before news of the Knoedler Gallery’s US$70m sale of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings began to emerge, Ann Freedman resigned as director. Two years later, the venerable gallery closed down and the lawsuits against Knoedler and Freedman began to flood in. Five settled. The first to reach trial, brought by the collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, also settled its claims against Freedman on 7 February (and against Knoedler shortly afterwards), just before she was set to take the stand in the New York courtroom. Her testimony had been eagerly anticipated, not least because she has never given her view of the unfolding scandal and her involvement in it. Until now.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper in an exclusive interview, her first in several years, she summed up the situation thus: “There has been a lot of misunderstanding.” We spoke to her in her sun-filled gallery on the Upper East side, FreedmanArt, which she opened in 2011. “Looking back, there can be things I didn’t see at the time… Could I have done some things differently? Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I don’t have an answer sitting here. I will at some point probably.”

The so-called Caravaggio in the attic looks like a fake to me

I am sorry but it is all too good to be true. The owners of an old house near Toulouse ventured into their attic and found a large dusty painting. When a local antiques dealer gave it a gentle clean, he recognised it as a painting by – or closely associated with – none other than the great Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

FBI seizes art and documents from Santa Fe dealers

FBI agents carried paintings, documents and a computer last week from the homes of two Santa Fe art dealers under investigation for possible fraud, court documents show, as artists claim they have not been paid for work the duo has sold and buyers allege they have not received pieces they purchased.

Search warrants unsealed in federal court Friday indicate investigators are trying to track down paintings claimed by several artists and buyers who say they have struggled for years to recover works that rotated through galleries jointly owned by Saher Saman and Marji Hoyle.