Art forgery is a form of misrepresentation of a genuine piece of work, and it could be painting, sculpture or even a work of literature. The range of forgeries counterfeit the style of an artist. It is essential to mention the differentiation of forgery from making copies or replicas of the original work. This is a subject that is talked about on serious notes for two reasons, one; the fake art is a serious problem and museums feel an educational obligation towards the public. People who work in museums are anxious about these issues. Next, the public too raises questions and doubts.
What is art forgery?
It is true that artists have been copying the styles of other artists for thousands of years, and this was a common tradition that ran down many generations. However, then it was like an academic training for any artist to copy the artwork of the great masters. In fact, copying is a required part of the curriculum at major art schools. It is the intention behind that differentiates the forgery cases. Today, art is looked upon more as an investment potential rather than the intrinsic aesthetic merit it carries, and hence it is no surprise to see such frauds consume to flourish.
Art forgery is creating replicas of the original work and selling them under false credits. The art world today is a business like many other enterprises that is driven by greed and ambition. Artists and art dealers are looking for faster recognition and more money. The aim behind is to deceive others for monetary profits. Art forgery is something that leading museums and galleries have to deal with on a regular basis. It is a crime and causes a substantial problem in the art world. The difference lies in the intention.
The true artist creates art for the sake of art and not with the intention of deceiving his viewers. This is what makes the original work different from the fake or forged work (Nelson)
Examples of art forgery
There have been a huge number of attempted art forgeries till date, and the ironical part is that the best forgeries still remain undiscovered and are displayed in museums worldwide. The presence of forgeries in museums and art world is not at all welcome as they undermine the real value of art and distort the precise documentation of origin. Some examples of art forgery can be discussed as Disciples at Emmaus and Christ as well as the Amarna Princess (Young 2)
Van Meegeren’s forgery is perhaps the most frequently studied of all artistic forgeries and the most famous. There are already many books hat talk about van Meagerness life and his techniques for forgery. The most notorious artistic forgery created an uproar in the art world during the 20th century and is considered a masterpiece of Vermeer. He is remembered for his successful forgeries (Young).
The Artful Codgers or the Garden Shed Gang created a series of breathtaking forged works between 1989 and 2006. Shaun Greenhalgh was the main artist who was meek and never held a true job. However, he did carry an extraordinary artistic talent and the most lucrative forgery for the group was the 2003 Amarna Princess that was sold to Bolton Museum for almost ??440,000 (Young).
Moral and aesthetic issues
Financial profit is the most obvious motive for art forgery. It is essential to look at the underlying motives behind fake art and what can be done to curb these incidents. Before looking ahead, it is essential to look at the current and the past incidents to come to the right conclusion. Moral and aesthetical questions often revolve around the work of art, and one needs to get the right answers. If a forgery finds its way successfully and unnoticed in the art world, it is very offensive not only for the artist but the whole community. The definition of art forgeries can be expanded as a big lie.
When looking at a fake work, there are moral and aesthetic issues involved. The aesthetic evaluation of a fake work may still receive praise as a work, but it treads on the wrong side of moral issues. However, there are some scholars who maintain the brilliance of such works despite their inherent spuriousness. The uncertainty arises because of the lack of initial intention behind a forgery. Philosophically, it is unreasonable to say that aesthetic issues can lead to the moral issues. However, even after an aesthetic assessment of a forgery, the work is still a fake and a lie. The moral judgment on such a work is largely objective, and one has to see as to what extent is the work morally wrong. Thus, if the forgery is completely immoral, there is no sense in making an aesthetic assessment of it (Young).
The status of law on art forgery
The law is still not well suited to handle the forged art and works. The elements of originality and authenticity arise from the perspective of an artist. The legal practitioners are often put in a tight spot because of copyright laws and if they suit the aesthetic dimension. Lawyers and judges often have to foray into the world of art and aesthetics. Judges may be well versed in legal reasoning but tend to avoid practical discussions of artworks, fake or real. The artworks are often puzzling and frustrating to understand (Clark).
The copyright laws of Title 17 of the United States Code protect an artist’s unique, original contribution. As art productions are looked upon as derivate works, they are also subject to the statuary standards of the 1976 Act. The copyright laws make a distinction between the forgery and reproduction, and to what extent can an artwork be deemed as a forgery. As the nature of art is subjective, it is not easy to decide as to where the creativity begins and copying ends. Although these laws can prevent forgery to some extent, they fail to act against the wide prevalence of forgery in artworks and especially the much fine art forgery. In order to deal with such issue, these laws need to attain an element of creativity. The case where the forger creates and replica of the original artwork is still not addressed adequately by the copyright laws as the courts finds the idea and expression exactly the same (Nelson).
What can be done to prevent art forgery?
When studying forgery in art, one looks at the forger’s game and the investigation of a work of art that will reveal if the artwork is a genuine piece. The process involves scientific apparatus and technical analysis of art objects as well as complex legal aspects that are involved in forgeries. The art world remains largely affected by art forgery and the courts still tend to ignore these issues. There is a need to make those copyright laws stronger so as to prevent forgery and reduce the number of such incidents. Rather than imposing post facto recovery, there should be stronger and preventive measures taken. There is a need to protect the original works and the efforts of the original artists. Both creativity and originality are important. The owners of authentic work should get copyrights for their work. The Congress and courts should impose tougher laws so as to protect the artist and their original works. (Nelson )
There is a long history of the art forgers and who have enjoyed deceiving the critics. The status of art has changed over the years, and there would be many who do not see art forgery a crime. However, the meaning of art needs to be clearer and well defined in the more ‘financialized’ art world. Despite stringent measures being taken against forgeries and fake works getting exposed, some of the best forgeries are still undiscovered as they are proudly displayed in museums worldwide. Forgery of famous artworks is leading to a new global problem. The fakes and forgeries go undetected, and the law enforcement agencies are still not strong enough to prevent the growing incidence of fake art, even after the perpetrators are exposed. The laws related to forgery need to be changed as it is often difficult to draw the line of originality when ideas and expressions overlap.
Clark, Michael J., J.D, and Ph.D. “The Perfect Fake: Creativity, Forgery, Art
And The Law.” Journal of Art and Entertainment Law 15 (2004): 1-433.
Nelson, Judith M. “Art Forgery and Copyright Law: Modifying the Originality Requirement to
Prevent the Forging of Artworks.” Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal 8.2 (1990): 683.
Young, Matthew D. “A Survey of Art Forgeries.” Wesleyan University The Honors 1.1 (2009):
...(download the rest of the essay above)