Forger

Can you spot the difference?

The art of forgery has progressed step by step with the evolution of art. Some forgers even create fake paper trails. Others are so accurate that even the experts can’t tell them apart, and then science must step in to analyse the paint, canvas or relative age of the work.

At the Piramal Museum of Art in Lower Parel, an exhibition titled Likeness Without Reference – The Cultures of Forgery, is putting the real and the counterfeit side by side to try and show viewers the scale of the problem, and teach them a little bit about how to tell real master art from forgery (signatures and markings play a key role, FYI).

Aboriginal artefacts in Sotheby's auction prompt questions over provenance

“I defy anyone to look at these and not feel uncomfortable,” says Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones of the broad shields listed in the catalogue for the Sotheby’s London auction of Aboriginal Art on September 21.

At first glance, the listing may seem relatively innocuous. However, little is known about how this particular shield came to be in private hands. 

Jones, along with National Museum of Australia senior curator Carol Cooper, is on a mission to find out exactly where shields like this came from, right down to identifying the people who made them. He has set up an informal group of Aboriginal elders from around south-east Australia who he consults when he and Cooper come across similar pieces at auction, in private collections or in institutions.

A number of 19th-century weapons such as boomerangs and spears are listed in the Sotheby’s auction catalogue, alongside pieces from the Fiona Brockhoff collection of early Aboriginal sculpture and contemporary Indigenous art from the estate of Gabrielle Pizzi.

Asked about the provenance of items such as the shield, Tim Klingender, a consultant on Aboriginal art to Sotheby’s London, said it was true some items had been taken as curios in the 18th century and had remained in private hands since, only to be rediscovered in homes in England and Scotland.

Regarding recent cases in which items had been returned by institutions, such as the Shiva statue repatriated to India by the National Gallery of Australia after it was found to have been stolen from a temple, Klingender says there is no comparison. Unlike the Shiva, there is no suggestion the weapons listed at Sotheby’s were stolen, nor their ownership history falsified. However, he says it is true that some ethnographers collected many items such as bark paintings without recording “a single name”.

Jones, whose research focuses specifically on shields, says the lack of detail is deeply problematic. “It’s a challenging idea. If something was sold was it under duress? Were people in a position where they could refuse a sale?,” he asks.

Artist Jogen Chowdhury collects his counterfeit works & labels them ‘fake’

Different artists have different ways of dealing with counterfeits of their works. Jogen Chowdhury simply collects them, strikes them out with ink and writes the word ‘fake’ on them. “I have more than 18 fake paintings of my work with me,” the 77-year-old Chowdhury says. “When people come for authentication of my work and it’s not authentic, I then tell them so. I keep the work and tell them to ask the people they procured the work from to meet me. They never come.”

Fake Monet, Renoir paintings cost dealer US$31M and his reputation

Alex Komolov, the owner of the Alskom Gallery in Manhattan, is in the midst of a six-year legal battle against his former business colleagues for allegedly selling him more than US$31 million worth of fake art. He’s seeking to recoup his money and restore his name.

Komolov claims David Segal and Mohamed Serry tricked him into buying US$30 million worth of fraudulent Monet, Vlaminck, Picasso and Manet paintings, among other antiques, between 2007 and 2009. Komolov purchased the works through his company High Value Trading and also claims Segal and Serry, owners of Artique Multinational, skipped out on paying US$4.2 million for his New York City condo in 2007.

In a second suit, Komolov is targeting Universe Antiques owner Jack Shaoul for allegedly selling him a fraudulent Renoir painting in 2011 for US$1.2 million.

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.

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.

Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes

These masterpieces should be worth in the region of a half a billion pounds. Except they are fakes produced by David Henty, a convicted forger who produced them in the living room of his house by the seaside Brighton. Mr. Henty was exposed by The Telegraph a little over a year ago for selling his copies on eBay, duping hundreds, if not thousands, of the internet auction site’s customers in the process. But proving there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Mr. Henty has turned the notoriety to his advantage.