Artzila Tips Part 4: Fakes and Forgeries - How to protect yourself
Art forgery dates back more than two thousand years when Roman sculptors produced copies of Greek sculptures. Art patrons at that time, however, were aware of the status of these sculptures and cared little for the actual artist. Today, on the other hand, the worth of a piece of art is most often closely related to the artist who created it.
Art forgery can be highly lucrative and so it offers much incentive to forgers, who often themselves are unsuccessful artists and eventually resort to forgery. Some of these forgers, once exposed, have even gained notoriety and have become famous in their own right. A prime example is the late Elmyr de Hory, whose forgeries have become valuable. His interesting story has been the topic of numerous books and was even featured in the film F for Fake, directed by Orson Welles. (Check out the following sites if you’re interested in this riveting tale http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/arts/design/elmyr-de-horys-real-identity-its-becoming-less-of-a-mystery.html?_r=2& and http://www.artfakes.dk/hory.htm.)
According to Wikipedia ‘Art forgery is the creating and selling of works of art which are falsely credited to other, usually more famous, artists.’ This type of deliberate forgery by a person who makes a reproduction and credits it to his target artist in hopes of financial gain is easily recognizable and illegal. Beyond this, however, lines, both ethical and legal, between a legitimate reproduction and a deliberate forgery are blurred. Is a piece of art in the style of a master a forgery? Is a reproduction that is not signed and therefore not blatantly credited to a known artist a forgery?
Although the improvements in modern dating and analysis techniques have made the identification of forged artwork much easier and the work of a forger much more difficult, anyone who buys art is at risk of purchasing a forgery.
Don’t let this happen to you! Here are a few tips to help you avoid being a victim of a forger especially when purchasing high-dollar art.
1) Get a complete provenance and find out where the art came from originally. Double check the piece’s history and do not simply rely on certificates of authenticity.
2) Research the dealer carefully and in depth. Make sure he is legitimate and reputable.
3) Check the signature on the artwork and makes sure it is congruent with the rest of the piece (for example, it isn’t brighter).
4) Take a look at the frame and stretcher. Are they as old as the work? Check the joints at the back. Are they fresh cut?
5) Verify the labels. Are they as old as the work? If the piece has been reframed the labels must be transferred.
6) Familiarize yourself with verified works of the artist you are interested in. Look at their brush strokes, how they compose a work, and so on. The more familiar you are with an artist’s work, the better chances you have of not being taken in by a forgery.