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Fakes! Fooling Art Experts for Fun and Profit

By Kahren Jones Arbitman

Nowhere does the discovery of a fake arouse more public curiosity than when it happens within the exalted art world, where its announcement is likely to end up on the front page of The New York Times. This trickery occurs despite the natural skepticism connoisseurs bring to the authentication process when works by “big name” artists seemingly fall from the sky. Are the materials age-appropriate? Is the style and handling right? Is the story of its “discovery” plausible? These are standard inquiries that experts use to separate the real from pretenders.

“Fakes! Fooling Art Experts for Fun and Profit”
By Kahren Jones Arbitman
Mon, Jul 27, 5pm
Bellas Artes
Hernández Macias
100 pesos donation

If all the rules for uncovering fakes are scrupulously followed, then it should be a fairly straightforward process to expose a fake. But errors of judgment occur more often than the public would suspect. Thomas Hoving, former director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and self-proclaimed “Fake Buster,” says that connoisseurs, collectors, and curators alike succumb to three deadly sins: Need, Greed, and Speed. This unholy trio, Hoving contends, has accounted for the sale of multi-million dollar fakes to some of the world’s greatest art museums. How did this happen?

This hour-long illustrated lecture will provide some answers. With the acuity of hindsight, the fakes now stand out like a red dress at a funeral; but something about each imposter made it initially appear legitimate. What was the story behind its creation? Who were its victims? How was it eventually exposed? These tales are worthy of Hollywood.

The word “fake,” once attached to a work of art, will assure it a rapid, inglorious trip to the back corner of the attic or storeroom. There are many works of art, however, that while not by the famous artists whose styles they evoke, do not deserve this ignominious fate. This lecture will also discuss legitimate copies, student works, and school pieces. There’s some great art to be found among these “hangers-on.” Who, for instance, would hustle the extraordinary painting of The Man with the Golden Helmet to the basement, just because Rembrandt’s name can no longer be found on its museum label?

The lecture takes place Monday, July 27, at 5pm in the lecture hall at the Bellas Artes. Tickets are 100 pesos. All proceeds benefit the San Miguel International Music Festival. Tickets at Bellas Artes or at the door.

This lecture, part of the series entitled Art:Works! Insights by Art Historians, was created by Hope Palmer and myself to support the San Miguel International Music Festival, which this August celebrates its 37th consecutive season. I am a Ph.D. and a former curator and art museum director. Hope Palmer, MFA, is a former art history professor and longtime artist. Please mark your calendar for Hope Palmer’s upcoming lecture, “Diego Does Detroit: The Rivera Murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts,” Monday, August 3, 5pm, Bellas Artes.


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