Friday, May 18, 2007

Beautiful Fakes

In todays' New York Times, Grace Glueck reviews a show at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich called "Fakes and Forgeries: The Art of Deception," which is "devoted by and large to intentional art faking or forgery, applied to paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and photographs, and the many means of doing it." Glueck writes:

"The show raises the question of what exactly a fake or forgery is, and how do you tell one from, say, an artist’s honest attempt to copy the work of another? Not simple questions, as Nancy Hall-Duncan, senior curator at the Bruce who assembled the show, makes clear in her catalog essay. As a basic definition she holds a forgery to be 'a work that, by mimicking the style of an artist or replicating his signature, represents itself as being produced by that artist,' constituting 'a deliberate attempt to deceive.'"

The show includes “pre-Columbian” knockoffs produced by BrĂ­gido Lara, who, when he was arrested in 1974 on grounds of trafficking in stolen artifacts, requested some clay and produced copies of the supposed "artifacts," earning his release. He ended up being hired by an anthropology museum as a restorer: "Now authorized to make legitimate replicas, he signs them but continues to assert that his creations, both signed and unsigned, are not forgeries." It also includes "probably the 20th century’s most famous forger," Han van Meegeren, whose “Christ and His Disciples at Emmaus,” painted to look like a Vermeer, was bought in 1937 by the Dutch Rembrandt Society for about $4.7 million in today’s dollars and donated to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. In 1945, at the end of World War II, he was arrested on charges of collaboration with the enemy and, in the process, confessed to forging 14 Dutch masterpieces, including “Christ and His Disciples,” and was sentenced to a year in prison (but died six weeks after sentencing).

Maureen Mullarkey reviewed the show earlier this week for The New York Sun.