Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm

The National Gallery of Art in London is organizing a curious exhibition, open from June 30 to september 12, 2010. It’s entitled “Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries” and will feature fakes, remakes, and copies of old master paintings which have fooled the experts like the National Gallery of Art in London.

National Gallery of Art London

National Gallery of Art London

Rather than focus an exhibit on the true beauty, skill, and innovation of the artists of a certain time period, this will focus on the art of forgery.  For example, The National Gallery bought a work in 1923 which they thought was a 15th-century group portrait of the family of Federico Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino.  It was believed to be Piero della Francesca‘s art, as described in the article National Gallery pays tribute to the masters of deception

Piero della Francesca, Duke of Urbino Portrait

Piero della Francesca, Duke of Urbino Portrait

It is said these works on display were deliberately made to deceive – the initial creation was one of deception.

The current director of the Gallery Nicholas Penny says “I wish we had more fakes [in the collection]. You only get good at spotting them by seeing them.”  But there’s something about using the already meager museum budgets to buy ‘fakes’ rather than to expand in true masterpieces that makes me shiver. Mistakes already cost a lot of time and money, for instance if a museum buys one thinking it’s an original and not a mistake so is seeking them out really a right approach? This is a peculiar way to approach an innovative exhibition and what in the end that means for viewers and educating on artworks.

I guess it’s also a way for museums to use what they already have in their collections and try to recuperate some of the losses incurred by acquiring these fakes once in the past. It’s smart because I’d be curious to see what a mistake vs the original looks like and if there really is that significant of a difference.

The art of faking it: gallery puts forgeries on show indicates “Likewise, in 1845 “A Man with a Skull” was bought as a Hans Holbein the Younger piece, although its authorship was disputed. Modern analysis of the wood panel support has since proved that it postdates Holbein’s death.” It will be a good exhibition displaying the museum’s human mistakes and recoveries. No one is perfect, and the museum is defintitely putting themselves out there- who else might own up?

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors


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