Service of Forgeries

November 14th, 2013

Categories: Art, Forgery

Forgery 1

In a New York Times op-ed piece, “In Praise of Art Forgeries,” art critic Blake Gopnik lists some of the benefits which follow:

“If a fake is good enough to fool experts, then it’s good enough to give the rest of us pleasure.”

“Forgers also remind us that great art depends on the ideas of artists, not necessarily on their actual hands.”

Forgeries 2“We may also want to bless forgers for helping to tame our absurd art market. If speculators eventually are scared off by the danger of being stuck with fakes prices may fall.” The result of this, he observes, is that museums can afford to buy the art for many to enjoy.

Inflated prices curb the ability of smaller fry artists and dealers to compete he suggested. He continued that as a result we all lose as the expectation of giant price tags affects the art people create. People deserve “work that’s conceived to address artistic issues, not to sell well to robber barons.”

magnifying glasss 2He is tickled that successful forgers discredit the reputations of so-called “connoisseurs.” I would imagine the arrogant ones [who annoy me plenty] drive him particularly nuts.

I live with antiques and art [none in the $ stratosphere, unfortunately]. I don’t buy for investment: I purchase what I like to look at. I think that this might be the point that Gopnik’s making: If you love the picture, does it matter who the artist is? Do you feel this way? Or is forgery to art what plagiarism is to writing?

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

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9 Responses to “Service of Forgeries”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    I have mixed reactions to Gopnik’s statements. Despite the fact that I think most of the observations stated regarding the benefits of fakes are ironically quite sensible, the deliberate production of fakes meant to deceive does seem akin to plagiarism. And current legal standards punish it much more severely!

    For years owners of fine jewelry have knowingly been able to obtain imitations for security purposes, although I doubt that the secret lack of value is a deterrent to assault or robbery. However, complicity in the purchase or use is the determining factor.

    Perhaps institutions such as museums have exhibited “fakes” uncertain or unaware of their provenance or authenticity. The public and or deceived collectors may enjoy the same gratification as would be provided by an original. Nevertheless, the deceptive nature of offering something for sale, loan or exhibition as something that it is not, is dishonest and at the moment, certainly if money changes hands, illegal. Still one person’s reproduction may be another person’s fake. Certainly the “Art” market has become a caricature of commodity trading. There is a need for general revision of thinking and a dose of common sense.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A copy or forgery is clearly worth less than an original anything–first edition book, couture gown, your great example of jewelry–and someone trying to make money by charging the higher price for something they know is a fake is wrong and illegal.

    Similarly, taking advantage of increasing the value of something the owner knows is fake by adding provenance because the work has been exhibited in a prestigious exhibit is deceptive and should also be illegal.

    However I think that from his front row seat Blake Gopnik sheds light on much of what has gone astray in the art world. By shocking some, he clearly made good points.

  3. Hester Craddock Said:

    When the medieval monks created their magnificent illuminated manuscripts, they may not have done it to earn money, however almost all professional artists since then have expected payment for their creations. Forgery is stealing the benefit of another human being’s creativity. It is wrong and evil, and should be severely punished.

    That said, your point about appreciating a work of art for its own sake, not because of its attribution, is well taken. One of my favorite paintings at the Metropolitan is a colorful, active chase scene, which was long believed to be by Francisco Goya. More recently, after a thorough scientific examination, the experts discovered that the earliest it could have been painted was 20 years after his death. They now have decided that it is a pastiche made up of elements from several of his canvasses by a later unknown artist. It is no longer worth big dollars, but the museum still occasionally exhibits it, because people like it.

    I’m glad they do.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The experts who determined that the Goya work was a pastiche assembled by someone after he’d died should be asked to solve cold murder cases! I wonder what the giveaway was as 20 years is a relatively short period of time when product introductions, such as paint pigments, chalk, paper and canvas, came slowly–not like today.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    What is the difference between a copy or a forgery? Both are usually pretty much the same with one indicating fraud. These terms have huge meanings for dealers and collectors whose reputations and pleasure of acquisition are paramount. The rest of us usually go by what is enjoyed and/or what is affordable. In todays world, I would not want any work in the megabucks category: When alive, the possibility of theft would be a concern; and after death, the IRS is sure to turn up demanding a share of the spoils.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You make a point that Gopnik didn’t include and I didn’t think of: Taxes! How right you are. I bet children who had enjoyed looking at some of this art all their lives would have to sell some if not much of it simply to pay the taxes. Anyone who likes what I hang on my wall won’t have that problem.

    From my stint at Art & Antiques Magazine interviewing dealers, most didn’t like it when a market for their specialty took off because it meant that they couldn’t replenish inventory and that many who ended up with the art, sculpture or collectable didn’t really like it so it was wasted on them while those who loved the work could no longer afford to buy it.

    Buying mega art for investment is much like buying stocks. Make sure there are no hedge fund types manipulating in the background and that you’re not buying the Emperor’s well worn clothes.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Oops–I didn’t respond to your question, Lucrezia, about copy vs. forgery mainly because it was rhetorical and you already did.

    I envision the countless students sitting on the cold marble floors of museums around the world learning their craft by copying the masters. I think that many of these efforts never see the light of a sale and that if they do, they hardly resemble the originals. There are famous forgers who have only sales and hoodwinking in mind which you captured in one word: Fraud.

    In museum stores people line up to buy postcards, posters, notecards and small reproductions of the works they’ve admired inside. My first apartments had many of these copies–all also legit as it was obvious what they were. I still love posters. All serve to cheer up a room.

  8. Erica Martell Said:

    I saw this piece on CBS News a few months ago. I thought it was interesting. The art forger is proud of his forgery work.

  9. Martha Takayama Said:

    Just found this today:

    FAUX Real: On the Trail of an Art Forger Part 9

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