Fake Art by Real Artists

In 2006 two brothers from Girona, Spain purchased a painting by Francisco de Goya. The two brothers hired an expert from the Girona Provincial Court to affirm their purchase, he declared “that the painting was a fake, done by a Goya contemporary rather than the Spanish master himself.” In December of 2016 the two brothers managed to resell the painting. The brothers were caught when they tried to deposit cash from the sale, the 1.7 million francs they received were photocopies. The person who purchased the painting managed to pay for it with fake money.

This particular situation is very uncommon but purchasing art forgeries is not as uncommon as you may have been led to believe. Artists have always replicated previous art styles in order to understand them better, the problem is when artists pass off their work as someone else’s, there is no problem copying art. The two brothers in this case were committing fraud by knowingly selling a forgery.

Forgeries are a lucrative business for many talented artists, they can make thousands of dollars off a single sale. Most artist make a modest living often selling their work to non-collectors for example Teak art has provided work for many low income artists.

Before Michelangelo was famous he carved a marble statute that was made to appear as if it had been made in the early Roman century. The sculpture was later purchased by a Roman antiquities collector. When he was caught Michelangelo gained recognition in the art community because his forgeries were good enough to pass off as the real thing. It takes an incredible amount of skill to create forgeries, so artists own up to their forgeries when they are discovered in order to gain the same notoriety.

Modern art dealers make their money by buying undervalued pieces of art and selling them at a higher price. Less experienced art collectors and dealers may not know what to look for in a forgery, which can be especially difficult when looking at pieces they are less familiar with. Identifying a piece of work to a particular artist involves recognizing their style and having historical evidence. One way collectors are fooled is due to experts not removing a painting from its original frame out of fear of damaging it, knowing this forgers use this to their advantage.

Forgers manipulate both the art and facts in order to give authenticity to their work then experts validate an artist’s work. I know next time I see any work of art I will wonder whether what I’m seeing is the real thing or not.

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