By reproducing paintings, KUADROS makes the dreams of many art buyers come true.
The reproduction of paintings is a legitimate and long-standing business. However, there is a darker side to the art world, when the authors of such reproductions try to trick buyers by passing off fake works as authentic.
Every year numerous fakes are displayed in museums, private collections and art galleries.
The role of technology in art forgeries
Copies or replicas abound on the market without anyone realizing that the real version is hanging in a museum or, without knowing it, that it is in a private collection. Regarding authorship attribution, some paintings go through several rounds of attribution because no one can find out who created them. The work can finally be attributed to the school of a certain artist.
Art forgers have the tools to create versions of "real" art using the science and skill to copy an artist's style that includes not only the artwork itself, but even provenance documents. By researching a painting, you may find a similar one that is more widely published or found in the artist's catalogue. Forged provenance documents accompanying the work may include handwritten letters or photographs. Some of history's greatest art forgers have even taken photographs of modern people in period dress alongside works of art to show convincing documentation of a work of art's history.
The incentive to be a successful counterfeiter has skyrocketed; A single expertly executed imitation of a master of the art can finance a long and comfortable retirement. The technologies available to help the would-be counterfeiter have also improved. Naturally, then, the frauds have increased, triggering a crisis of authenticity for the art world's institutions, museums, galleries and auction houses.
Counterfeiters are becoming more rigorous in collecting materials, going to the trouble, for example, to obtain wood paneling from furniture that they know is attributable to the year of the forgery. (The trick is not entirely new; Terenzio da Urbino, a 17th-century con artist, sought out old, dirty canvases and frames, cleaned them, and turned them into "Raphael.")
Venus by Lucas Cranach the Elder
The unraveling of the plot of a series of forgeries of ancient masterpieces began in the winter of 2015, when French police showed up at a gallery in Aix-en-Provence and seized a painting from the exhibit, Venus, created by the Renaissance master. German Lucas Cranach the Elder. An exquisite work of forgery was discovered that had it all: oil on oak, 38cm by 25cm, dated 1531. The work was purchased in 2013 by the Prince of Liechtenstein for around £6m. Venus was the inescapable star of the exhibition of works from her collection; she shone on the catalog cover. But an anonymous tip to the police suggested that she was, in fact, a modern forgery, so they picked her up and took her away.
Another interesting example was Frans Hals's painting, Portrait of a Gentleman, supplied to Sotheby's by Mark Weiss. The work sold for about £8.5 million ($10.8 million), but was later declared a fake.
Portrait of a Gentleman (original), Frans Hals
Salvator Mundi - Leonardo Da Vinci
The world's most expensive painting, Da Vinci's portrait of Jesus which sold for £350m to the Saudi prince, "may actually be a FAKE".
The Salvator Mundi, a striking image of Jesus dubbed the male Mona Lisa, sold for a record $450m (£342m) in 2017 to a Saudi prince.
It was believed to be a long-lost da Vinci but fully authentic and verified by experts from around the world.
But it turns out that the portrait was probably only "attributed to, authorized or supervised by" the Renaissance master.
It is actually now believed to have been painted by one of his assistants or students, with only a few brushstrokes, if any, by da Vinci himself.
The degradation, first revealed by The Art Newspaper, will likely drastically reduce the legendary value of the painting.
The official buyer for 2017 was Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, a little-known member of the Saudi royal family with no background as an art collector.
But it is widely accepted that he was purchasing the masterpiece on behalf of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, making him the actual owner of the painting.
Art forgeries: a growing problem
Georgina Adam, who wrote the book Dark Side of the Boom, detailing the excesses of the art market, said many forgers are sensibly choosing to forge 20th-century painters, who used paints and canvases that are still available, and whose abstractions are easier to imitate. "The technical skill required to forge a Leonardo is colossal, but with someone like Modigliani, it's not," plot. "Academicians will say they're easy to tell apart, but the fact is it's not that easy at all." At a celebrated Modigliani exhibition in Genoa, it was revealed that 20 of the 21 paintings on display were fakes. As the wave of money in the market has increased, making decisions about the authenticity of these works has become an imperative.
The works of old and modern masters , whose art is sold at auction usually be the most counterfeit art. If collectors or museums are looking to acquire this type of art, some tasks that can be completed prior to acquisition include scientific analysis, historical research, and obtaining a certificate of authenticity. Reports can be placed in the Artwork Archive database to ensure data remains securely with the Artwork Archive.
A few years ago, handshake deals in art transactions were the norm when two massive forgery scandals sent chills through the art world. All those who relied on the market had been cheated. Christie's and Sotheby's sold the forgeries, experts authenticated them, the New York Met and other museums displayed them, major dealers distributed them. In 2010, Wolfgang Beltracchi was arrested in Germany and admitted to forging 20th-century masters like Max Ernst and Fernand Léger. The fakes numbered in the hundreds.
A year later, the prestigious Knoedler & Company gallery, one of the oldest in New York, closed amid allegations that it had sold some $60 million worth of fake abstract expressionist paintings. The accusations later turned out to be correct. Manhattan federal court judge Paul Gardephe ruled that Knoedler and his former director Ann Freedman they should go to trial in two lawsuits brought by angry buyers, New York collector John Howard and Sotheby's chairman Domenico de Sole and his wife, Eleanore. Knoedler and Freedman deny any wrongdoing and say they too were misled. Freedman's attorney, Luke Nikas, told The Art Newspaper that at trial she will "tell her story and demonstrate her good faith."
50% of the world's works of art may be fakes
In 2014, a report by the Swiss Fine Arts Experts Institute (FAEI) stated that at least half of the works of art circulating on the market today are fake. Others argue that the percentage is lower. However, considering the size of the art market, which was estimated at $45 billion in 2014, money has been spent unwisely among collectors and museums. Unless all dealers, museums, auction houses, and collectors are willing to pay for scientific analysis, research, and obtaining expert opinion, there is no way to rid the market of counterfeits. many experts of art are increasingly willing to authenticate works due to the chances of being sued for incorrect attribution or refusing to authenticate the work.
“The reaction right now is sheer terror – nothing hits the art world quite like the ability of an asset to go up in smoke 100%. Systems and structures that are supposed to be reliable are not," says Jeffrey Taylor, who teaches arts management at the State University of New York at Purchase.
How to deal with this new uncertainty?
Given the ease with which counterfeits enter the market, It seems obvious that the experts of the art world no longer must be satisfied with traditional one-line billing and oral guarantees of authenticity from a gallery.
Several years after Beltracchi's arrest, it's time to ask what market players have learned. Do they check provenance more carefully, consult experts and get written guarantees from galleries?
What has changed?
"Nothing," says art consultant Todd Levin, echoing other figures in the art world. Others see what art lawyer Peter Stern calls "evolution." "More sophisticated buyers are more cautious," he says. “The assessors do everything they can for them to verify the authenticity.
However, there is a consensus that the very obstacles to determining authenticity highlighted by Knoedler and Beltracchi remain formidable, because the ways of doing business have changed little, if at all. Consider the provenance. If a work can be traced from the current owner to the artist, it is almost a guarantee of authenticity. But the art market is known for its lack of transparency. With galleries as intermediaries, even the seller's name is often not revealed to the buyer. Knoedler collectors paid millions even though the fictitious owner was never named. The gallery itself knew him only as Mr. X. (Mr. X was invented by Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales, who brought the fakes to Knoedler; in 2013, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion, wire fraud, and money laundering.) of money).
anonymous art dealers
Seller anonymity will probably remain one of the rules of the game. "I don't see things changing with regard to participants' willingness to identify themselves, so due diligence can be difficult," says Judd Grossman, who represented the first debt collector to sue Knoedler and Freedman. (Ten lawsuits were filed. Four , including Grossman's, were settled on undisclosed terms.) "Sellers have the right to remain anonymous," says Achim Moeller of Moeller Fine Art. Even if there is documentary evidence of provenance, it can also be convincingly forged. Beltracchi told buyers that the fakes were picked up by his wife's grandparents. He took pictures of her posed before a series of forgeries and dressed them in the styles of the day. "It was brilliant," says art consultant Liz Klein.
Buyers can consult an authenticator, but "are becoming more cautious" for fear of being sued, says attorney Stern. The experts involved in the Beltracchi and Knoedler scandals have been taken to court in both the United States and Europe. And many artists' foundations have closed their authentication boards in light of legal fees incurred by the Andy Warhol Foundation to vindicate itself in an authentication lawsuit. In 2007, a collector named Joe Simon-Whelan sued the Andy Warhol Foundation's authentication committee, claiming that he had twice rejected a Warhol silkscreen he owned because he wanted to keep the Warhol market scarce. Four years later, after spending $7 million in legal fees, the committee was disbanded.
The collapse of these committees feels like a victory for market forgers over academia, a blow to the real cause of trusted authentication. In New York at least, a small group of lawyers is pushing for legislation to protect academics from being sued simply for voicing their opinion.
Where does this situation leave buyers?
They never know what the experts might think, says Dean Nicyper, an art attorney who, along with the New York City Bar Association, is pushing for legislation to make it harder to sue authenticators. Buyers can obtain some guarantees with the type of written agreements common in other commercial transactions. A gallery may reveal the seller's name if the buyer's attorney signs a confidentiality agreement, for example. "Most galleries will fix a problem if you ask them," says art consultant Klein. But that's not the way the art market usually works. Unlike buying a house, where everyone has a lawyer, Grossman says, art is "one of a kind, and buyers don't want to lose the deal by getting a lawyer involved."
Klein says that some collectors buy from someone they trust and leave it at that because they are seduced by social things, they meet artists and they think their lives become more interesting.
One person who changed his way of doing business is veteran dealer Richard Feigen, who was a middleman in the sale of a Knoedler counterfeit. "I depended too much on Knoedler's reputation [...] so I didn't scrutinize it as carefully as I would with a less reputable individual or gallery," he says. "That was a mistake, and I learned from it."
The collectors in the Knoedler lawsuits said they, too, trusted Knoedler's reputation. In their court papers, Knoedler and Freedman argued that because the buyers were sophisticated, that reliance was unreasonable. Judge Gardephe said that was a question the jury would have to decide. Working with a reputable gallery is still very helpful.
If you buy from a reputable dealer, your due diligence is due in part to that dealer, says Dedalus Foundation President Jack Flam. Flam was instrumental in exposing Knoedler's forgeries when Dedalus discovered that the gallery was selling fake Robert Motherwells. Observers think the trust is justified: "The best galleries have always done and will continue to do their homework," says art lawyer Grossman. Forensic analysis confirmed the Knoedler and Beltracchi forgeries, and may be the best protection for art sold on the secondary market.
technology to the rescue
The forensic business is booming, says Nicholas Eastaugh, director of London-based Art Analysis & Research, who identified the first Beltracchi forgery. Technology will play an important role in the art world.
In January 2018, the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts exhibited 26 fake works, which were loaned by a collector. The paintings, by 20th-century Russian artists Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky, were deemed fake by academics who noted the works were not included in any of the artists' catalogues. The Art Newspaper stated that they "have no exhibition history, have never before been reproduced in serious scholarly journals, and have no traceable sales records." Also, the museum did not conduct scientific analyzes on the works because it is only standard policy for acquisitions, not loans.
Also the Telegraph reported that a collection of 21 paintings by Amedeo Modigliani, which were on display at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, were advertised as fake. Modigliani is one of the most copied artists in the world and his paintings sell in the millions. Marc Restellini, a French Modigliani expert, believes there are more than 1,000 fake Modigliani paintings in the world. The exhibition closed in July and the paintings were handed over to the police for investigation.
Then a small museum in the south of France realized that 60% of its collection was fake. The Etienne Terrus Museum hired an art historian to reorganize the museum, who discovered that 80 paintings the museum recently acquired were not by the artist Etienne Terrus. He noted discrepancies between the materials used to construct the canvases in the forgeries versus what Terrus used. He also mentioned in The Guardian that "in one painting, the ink signature rubbed off when I ran my white glove over it."
Later, two experts claimed that a painting purportedly by Parmigianino, and auctioned through Sotheby's in 2012, was fake. Sotheby's rescinded the sale in 2015 after hiring a scientific analyst to confirm the presence of a modern synthetic green pigment called phthalocyanine in more than 20 locations in the artwork. Sotheby's turned around and sued the seller. The painting had been exhibited in Parma, Vienna and New York after the Sotheby's auction according to The Art Newspaper.
What does the future hold
It is possible to imagine the perfect forgery, the one that defeats scientists and connoisseurs of art. Our villain is a talented copyist, well practiced in the style and themes of his chosen artist. He is also an ingenious procurer of materials, capable of creating all manner of age-appropriate canvases, frames, pigments, and binders. His forgery fits neatly into a chain of provenance, giving him the title of a work now lost, or providing false documents to claim it had been part of a known private collection.
In theory, if each of these steps is done perfectly, there should be no way to expose the painting as fake. It will be a work of art in every way except one. But today's world, the world in which the counterfeit is being created, is likely to set well within the paint, for example, radioactive dust, perhaps, or a cat's hair, or a stray polypropylene fiber . When that happens, only the scientist can hope to catch it.
Science has a habit of displaying the sagacity of scholars. At a 1932 trial in Berlin, the first to use forensic examination to examine art, two connoisseurs argued over the authenticity of a set of 33 canvases, all purportedly by Vincent van Gogh. All the paintings were sold by an art dealer named Otto Wacker. It took a chemist, Martin de Wild, to trace resins in the paint that Van Gogh had never used, and to prove that the paintings were fake.
Since then, science has improved, even as human judgment has remained unchanged, vulnerable to the thrill of discovering lost masterpieces and to market pressures.
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