The Fine Art Of Fakery

An interesting case that combines art and crime is proceeding in New York City.  It involves an art dealer who had a reputation for selling undiscovered pieces by famed modern artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko — paintings that prosecutors say were fakes.

According to prosecutors, Glafira Rosales and her boyfriend sold more than 60 phony paintings in the scheme.  They found a painter in Queens who produced the paintings and they applied techniques — such as heating and cooling and exposing the paintings to air and sunlight — to give them an artificially aged appearance.  They then sold the paintings, claiming they were early pieces produced by modern art icons that had been part of collections by overseas clients who wished to remain anonymous.  Amazingly, people fell for the scheme and paid millions for the paintings — including two Manhattan galleries that allegedly paid more than $33 million for the fakes.

It’s the kind of case that raises questions — questions like how supposed experts could fall for such a simple scheme, and how much phony art is out there on the market, being sold to unsuspecting but wealthy people who want to say that they own a Pollock or a Rothko.

It also raises an even more fundamental question:  did the people who bought this art buy it because they liked it, or because they wanted to invest in a piece that they expected to increase in value?  If it’s the latter, maybe that’s the big mistake on their part.  Art should be about the art itself, not the name on the piece.  People should buy and collect what they like — whether it was actually painted by Jackson Pollock or by a random artist in Queens.  If you’re just in the market for a name, perhaps you only have yourself to blame for ending up with a counterfeit.