There is a heroism in crime as well as in virtue. Vice and infamy have their altars and their religion.

---------- William Hazlitt

I think fame and infamy are two sides of the same coin. One would always accompany the other. There is no person whether natural, legal or mythological who has been subjected to the scrutiny of the general public. Similarly, the art world has been replete with examples of imitation artists who have been kissed by fame despite their shady involvements. So, buyers need to be vigilant when buying contemporary paintings online.

Elmyr de Hory, Han van Meegeren, Robert Driessen, Jacques van Meegeren, and Eric Hebborn are some of those artists who earned their livelihood and name by producing fake pieces of one of the most sought after artworks belonging to eminent artists like Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, etc. In India, fake art has penetrated and have established its roots. This is evident from the fact that most of the Souza’s paintings belonging to diamond merchant Nirav Modi were found to be forged rather than original.

Many famous artists like Matisse and Picasso also produced paintings that were an imitation of some other master. The difference is that they eventually got over with it and their art was recognized rather than condemned.

De Hory had seen many rough days in his life. He was sent to concentration camps and although he claimed that came from a family of government officials and bankers, he actually came from the middle class. He was captured in concentration camps during the First World War. He lost his parents and their legacy. His work was not recognized. So, he gradually went by faking and selling. Desperate times! Desperate measures!

Facts show that there is an open season in France on fake art. Like any other European country, its art galleries and museums are filled with this kind of work. More than 60% of the art collection being housed by Terres Museum, founded by late Odette Traby to revive the works of Étienne Terrus, were found to be forged.

The mighty task of identifying the fake was done by Eric Forcada when he was granted the task of renovating the museum by the municipality of Elne. Fifty-eight out of one hundred and forty were declared to be original, leaving the rest eighty-two paintings to be seized.

Consequently, the French administration took the matter in their own hands. The ministry of culture introduced stringent procedures of acquiring artwork by museums. Validation centres were set up across the country to check the originality of the work before it entered any museum.

Uday Jain is the director of the Dhommimal Art Gallery in Delhi. It was established in the year 1936 by his grandfather, Shri Ram Babu Jain. He observes that fake art makes its way through the art market when people are oblivious to the intricacies involved when they are to buy contemporary paintings online. Most of the time they neglect the crucial process of tracing the provenance of the artwork and purchase it. They do not try to investigate and often get duped by relying upon the word of art dealers.

Experts have every now and then realized the need to consult an able and experienced art curator before completing the transaction. One of the plausible reasons for people getting conned is that there is a continuous glut in the market and demand is way too less. Art dealers make their standing by initially supplying prospective buyers some original works and passing away fakes in later dealings.

Therefore in continuation with our previous blog post, we will tell you about the tricks to not to get duped:-

You can’t Trust Those Signatures and Certifications

It is common prudence that the authenticity of anything is determined by the certification. But, in the art world where fake art fools an expert’s eye and experts certify a fake as original for earning some money. Noah Charney is an art enthusiast from Slovenia who is interested in the history of art and fiction. According to him, “If the authenticity of an object relies on a certificate alone, then that is reason enough to be suspicious." So certification alone is not enough. Then what else maybe? Signatures?

Checking for signatures is a reliable source of identifying a painting. But, this doesn’t apply all the time. According to Rajagopalan, artists who forge paintings copy the signature style of the artists to make them untraceable. It is not necessary that each artist put his signature. You may not find any distinct mark of identification and yet the artwork is original. Manjit Bawa’s daughter, Bhawna, admitted in an interview that imitations of Bawa with his forged signatures have infiltrated the realm of Indian paintings online.

Fake can’t Fool ‘Phineas and Ferb’

Insatiable avarice is the only motivation that keeps frauds going, according to Noah Charney. He is an art historian and has written several novels on the subject of art fraud like ‘The Art of Forgery’. He is the founding father of an institution for conducting research on offences against art that operates in the US and Italy. He claims that no fake can escape the scrutiny of forensic tests.

The age of the internet has also made it easy for everyone to check whether the artwork presented to them is original or not. Buyers may always trace the current location of any paintings online. Tristan Bruck, one of Christie’s sculpture expert observes that fraudsters don’t have access to the back or bottom of the artwork. So, they end up committing mistakes. A three-dimensional piece is hard to copy.

Some of the most common forensic tests are:-

  1. Carbon-14 dating
  2. Infrared Rays
  3. X-Rays
  4. Ultraviolet Rays
  5. Portable Spectrometer

Detection of fake art is a monumental task that requires the exercise of patience and prudence. The authenticity and reliability of the source that is being taken into consideration are more important than the art itself. Therefore, while ascertaining the originality, buyers have to go through permutations and combinations of factors like the origin, historic cataloguing, case studies, research papers, exhibition and trail of ownership of the artwork, forensic tests, etc. Rest all you need is the zeal for having an original piece of art!