Museums News

“Spot the fake”, making a museum visit even more entertaining

I love this idea, London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery has commissioned a replica of one of its paintings from a Chinese studio which churns out masterpieces from any period and style. It will be hung in the genuine frame alongside the gallery’s collection of Old Master paintings this spring. The public and art experts will then be invited to spot the fake, which will hang in place of the original in Dulwich’s permanent display of 270 works. Read more about the story here.

Dulwich, the world’s oldest purpose-built public gallery, with works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo, Murillo and Poussin, is giving no hints about the size, date or subject of the painting. For three months the identity of the work will remain concealed. Doug Fishbone, the conceptual artist that came up with the idea, states: “It’s not just a ‘Hey, spot the fake’ stunt – it raises serious issues of how we view, appreciate and value art.” You can be certain everybody will be looking extra closely at their paintings; and if you can motivate people to do so just by hanging one ‘fake’, I’m all for it.

UPDATE: a kind reader informed me that the BBC’s Antique Roadshow once had a similar example of ‘spot the fake’ with a focus on African art, see it here. One of the four objects is a ‘fake’ according to the expert – I think they all are 🙂

Unfortunately the discussion on ‘fakes’ in African art is so loaded, that I don’t see anybody coming up with something similar in our niche.

UPDATE2: a reader informed that Susan Vogel had a ‘spot the fake’-case during her exhibition The Art Of Collecting African Art in 1988, when she was curator at the Center for African Art in NY; it

… showed not only the objects that were the pride of the collector, but the works that had been passed over as mediocre, altered, restored, or forged. A case full of Baule masks had a label stating: “CAUTION: THERE ARE FAKES IN THIS CASE”. The exhibition invited the viewer to look closely and form his or her own opinion before reading the label that revealed my opinion. Labels were personal, opinionated, and informal in tone rather than didactic. This exhibition was intended to encourage careful looking and did not attempt to teach connoisseurship.

(From: Vogel (Susan), “Always True to the Object” in Ivan Karp and Steven D. Levine (Eds.), Exhibiting Cultures. The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, Smithsonian Institution Press Washington and London, 1991: p.191-204)