John S Clifton
The art forger must be at least somewhat proficient in the style and genre he is trying to imitate. Many forgers have been fledgling artists that have tried to break into the art market and eventually resorted to forgery. Some forgers have borrowed the original items, copied them and then given the copy to the original owners. Although many art forgers are in he business solely for money, some have claimed that they have created forgeries to expose the credulity and snobbishness of the art world, essentially claiming that they have performed only hoaxes of exposure. These claims have usually surfaced after they have been caught. Most forgers usually copy artists who are already dead, but others may try to imitate still living artists.
In 2004, for example, Norwegian painter Kjell Nupen noticed that a Kristianstad gallery was selling unauthorized signed copies of his work. If the dealer of the forged art is aware of the fraudulent nature of the item, they may end up exploiting the painter by threatening to expose them. Some of the exposed forgers have later sold their work attributing them as honest copies or selling them as their own original work. Some forgers have actually gained enough notoriety to become famous for their own right. Dor example, forgeries painted by the late Elmyr de Hory have become valuable collectibles.
The most obvious forgeries are revealed because they are just clumsy copies of previous art. The forger may try to create a "new" work by combining elements of more than one work (a pastiche). They may omit details typical to the artist they are trying to imitate or add anachronisms. They may also try to claim that a slightly different copy is a previous version of the more famous work. However, if the forger is skilled enough to create something new that is reminiscent of the style of a specific artist, investigators must rely on other methods. Sometimes thorough investigation is enough.
Sculpture may have been created with modern methods and tools and diluted in chemicals to "age" it. Some forgers have tried to imitate worm marks by drilling. Art experts try to find out whether the work came out of nowhere and study catalogues of previous auctions to find out whether it has been for sale elsewhere. If the item has no paper trail, it is probably a forgery. Some forgers therefore try to produce proof.
Investigators may try to use carbon dating to find out the real age of the item but this is useful mainly in very old items. They may analyze used pigments to find out if the used paints are too modern. They can use infrared analysis or x-ray fluorescence to find whether a painting had been painted on old canvas or over some other painting (not a definitive method since genuine artist may have also reused old canvases if they could not afford new ones). X-ray fluorescence can also reveal if metals in metal sculpture or even in the pigments are too pure. Sometimes they may be able to check the artist's fingerprints left in the paint. If the forger has been meticulous, there is still the analysis of style of how the original artist has created his art, such as characteristic brushwork and perspective, preferred themes and techniques.
Problems of verification
The fact that experts do not always agree on the authenticity of a particular item makes the matter of provenance more complex. Some of the artists have also sometimes accepted the copies of their work. For example, it is related that Picasso stated that he would sign a very good forgery. And Jean Corot painted 700 works but also signed copies made by others in his name. Sometimes art restoration is so extensive that the original is practically replaced when new materials are used to supplement older ones. Art restorers may also add or remove details to a genuine painting, trying to make the painting more saleable.. Some of the potential buyers may not even care about the provenance of the item as long as it can pass for the real one in their social circles. Some experts and institution may also be reluctant to admit their own fallibility. Estimates about the amount of forgeries in the art institute collections range from insignificant to Thomas Hoving's 60%. It also sometimes happens that the work that has been declared a forgery is later accepted as genuine, for example Vermeer's Young Woman Seated at the Virginal had been treated as a forgery from for many years but, in 2004, was declared genuine.
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