The scandal is sohuge that it has dealt a severe blow to the bronze market and many collectorshave given up their passion as a result of their disgust. This happenedwith Alain Delon, the famous French actor, who got rid of his collectionof Rembrandt Bugatti bronzes after suspecting that many of his treasuredpieces were forgeries.
Now the market haseven been more wrecked since hundreds of copies, notably French animalierbronzes and also works after the American artist Frederick Remington havebeen made at low costs and introduced onto the market from Taiwan or south-eastAsia since the early 90's.
Regarding marblesculptures, many fakes were detected during the middle of the 19thCentury, notably Renaissance statues which in fact had been made by GiovanniBastianini (1830-1868) who created some superb pieces which were eventuallybought as genuine by the Louvre and the Victoria and Albert museums. Specialistsnever suspected the trick which was in fact revealed by a jealous dealer.
LOADS OF FORGEDPAINTINGS
Back to paintings,the market underwent after World War One a complete facelift as soon asImpressionist works became popular. Moreover modern art, through Cubism,made its revolution and new customers appeared on the scene.
Several artists suchas Van Gogh, Gauguin, Manet, Sisley, Cézanne and Renoir reachedfame after their deaths and were therefore much copied.
However, it was inthe wrath of World War Two that forgers became extensively busy. As soonas the Germans invaded a large part of Europe, Nazi leaders enacted a planto plunder several collections belonging to their political opponents andJewish families. All the more , they claimed all works of art which wereallegedly part of the German patrimony. One of the main Nazi leaders involvedin the plunders was Marshall Goering who formed collection of old masters'paintings.
Goering was interestedin masterpieces and was told one day that he could have some remarkablepaintings by Vermeer in Holland. The Nazi leader went on to buy one ofthem, Mary-Magdalene washing the feet of Christ, from a certain Hans VanMeegeren. In the 1930's, several experts, including Bredius, the best specialistfor Vermeer's works, had said they had no doubts about the authenticityof this work and others including the "Pilgrims" which wasto be bought by the Boymans museum of Rotterdam.
At the end of thewar, Van Meegeren was arrested on charges of having been involved in collaborationistactivities with the Germans. While in prison, Van Meegeren baffled allspecialists on confessing that he had in fact forged pictures certifiedas by Vermeer sold to Goering and the Boymans museum as well as to othercollectors.
Suffering from beingconsidered as an obscure artist, the forger told investigators that foolingexperts had been for him some kind of sweet revenge. He added that it hadbeen quite exciting to ridicule art critics who had scorned his own works.
Strangely enoughthe war did not affect the art market much especially in occupied Pariswhere trade blossomed despite economic restrictions. With the return ofpeace, the French capital became the main art trade centre while the UnitedStates was just seeing the emergence of its modern school of painters.
Picasso, Braque,Matisse, Miro, Dali were at their heights and scores of books and catalogueswere being published as part of a recognition of their works. From thenon, the market was in constant development. In the late sixties forgersbecame busier than ever, notably David Stein and Real Lessart. The formerbeing specialised in fake Chagall, Picasso, Dufy and post - impressionistpaintings, the latter working for an agent called Fernand Legros who wasselling his production with forged certificates. A former ballet dancer,Legros fooled a few rich American magnates, including Arthur Meadows, theowner of the General American Oil Co. in Texas.
Legros once useda subtle stratagem on entering American territory. When asked by U.S customswhat was in his luggage, Legros used to explain that the paintings he wasbringing were merely copies. Eager to verify, U.S customs officials wouldcall upon art experts to determine whether Legros was not trying to cheatthem and driven by such suspicion , these specialists concluded that thesepaintings were in fact genuine. Unmoved by the fine mposed on him Legroswould then further impress his customers by showing them the U.S customsdocuments proving the authenticity of the works he was selling .
David Stein, whohad managed one day to have a forged Picasso authenticated by the masterhimself, was arrested after Marc Chagall fell upon a forged painting exhibitedin a New York Gallery. He later started a career as a painter after servinga prison term.
Legros, who had RealLessart and an Hungarian named Elmyr de Hory working for him, was arraigneda few years later and jailed for a while. He who lived like a prince endedhis life in misery and died from a throat cancer.
Elmyr de Hory, wholived on the island of Ibiza, made hundreds of forgeries including workssigned Van Dongen. The Dutch artist , apparently in need of money at theend of his lif, endorsed more than once the paternity of such fakes whichwere sold by Legros.
In the 1960's certainartists repudiated some of their own works probably because they felt somedissatisfaction about their quality or about the low prices at which thesewere sold. This was notably the case with the Italian master Giorgio deChirico who was charged in 1969 for having seized some of his sculpturesas forgeries whereas he had signed a legal contract for their production.Another master, Maurice de Vlaminck refused to authenticate some of hisown works simply because he did not like them anymore. He also was chargedand received a fine for having rejected a painting which was in fact genuine.
In England, manyexperts were destabilised by the Keating scandal in the 1970's. Tom Keatinghad made a speciality of producing forged water-colours by Samuel Palmeror oil paintings by Flemish, Dutch , English and French old masters.
Keating , who camefrom a poor family, failed to reach fame and therefore wanted to avengehimself by producing forgeries of all sorts, oil paintings and drawingswhich were to be certified as genuine works by Gainsborough, Degas, Boucher,Fragonard, Renoir, Modigliani and Van Dongen notably.
The poet Jean Cocteau,who was the friend of many famous artists, produced hundreds of drawingsduring his lifetime. These drawings being so easy to copy, there have beenmore forgeries than originals on the market during the past ten years.
Other forgeries havebeen produced regarding Van Gogh, Boudin, Stanislas Lépine, Vuillard,Matisse, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, Maurice Utrillo, GeorgesRouault, Jean-Michel Atlan, Michel Basquiat, Franz Kline, Marie Laurencin,André Lhote, Serge Poliakoff, de Staël, Karel Appel, GiorgioMorandi, Chaïm Soutine, Modigliani, Pignon, Signac,As a result, it hasbeen estimated that over 15% of paintings sold throughout the world werefakes.
Bernard Buffet,Malevich, Tatlin and scores of well-known artists in France, Italy, Britain,the U.S or Russia notably.
Forgeries have beendetected in numbers in the field of engravings, notably modern lithographs,the biggest scandal concerning works by Dali printed in record quantities.It has been estimated that some 100,000 lithographs bearing the signatureof the Spanish Surrealist artist have been sold throughout the world duringthe past 15 years.
The scandal did notcease after Dali's death and despite the seizure of some 10,000 illicitprints in Hawaii, a Court there took an incredible decision in February1996 declaring that these could be sold to the public as copies - presumablyto cover some of the judicial costs- instead of ordering their destruction.
On a smaller scale,the prints of several other well-known artists were forged or a least multipliedbeyond the authorised quantities. Hundreds of prints by Miro - who wasnot really an engraver himself- were sold as genuine in Scandinavia andother parts of Europe. This proved quite a lucrative business since someoriginals were sold at least at US $ 40,000 a piece by Maeght, the artpublisher which was producing Miro's prints. In fact, the firm itself tooka rather exaggerated attitude in selling those prints at huge prices whereasthese were basically only photo-lithographs heightened with colours.
Forgeries were lessfrequent regarding old masters except for some artists like Dürerwho were much copied during their lifetime. The only problem is to determinewhether a printed sheet is an original or a reprint.
Another big problemhas arisen with photography a domain which has been freshly booming especiallyregarding modern photographers. It has been quite difficult for expertsto sift through originals and reprints. Knowing the value of a photo byMan Ray or Ansell Adams it is rather nerve racking to buy safely.
Regarding ceramicsand porcelains, there were problems with Chinese pieces which used to beproduced over several decades with old markings which could baffle expertswhen they had to determine the period of their fabrication. With Europeanpieces, there have been more difficulties especially with 19thCentury copies of French, Italian and German porcelains and ceramics.
As for watches andclocks, forgeries appeared as early as the 18th Century whensome great makers from England and France became much copied. Many forgedBreguet watches were on the market during Napoleonic times. As for 20thCentury watches, Cartier, Rolex and Patek-Philippe pieces have been reproducedin quantities. Some Cartier watches have been sold recently at over US$ 50,000 a piece with an original movement fitted in a forged 1935 casemanufactured in Switzerland. All the more, poor copies have been circulatingin south-east Asia since the late 1980's. Otherwise, many 16thand 17th Century clocks were modernised between 1720 and 1850and are worth much less than original pieces on the market.
Some vintage carshave been so much transformed that these are sometimes considered as forgeries.Regarding coins, notably Roman and Greek, as well as medals, forgerieshave been increasingly circulating for over 100 years.
Glass forgeries werescarce until the craze for Art Nouveau and Art Deco vases and lamps byGallé, Daum and other famous manufactures. These pieces were completelyneglected in the 1970's but a few years later prices on the market wentskyrocketing. Buyers from the U.S and Japan became crazy about Art Nouveauand Art Deco and the demand was such that the rise in prices seemed tobe unending. But forgeries found their way on the market. Mostly producedin Romania , these were imported in France and sold as genuine. The Gulfwar in 1991 as well as a growing suspicion concerning the authenticityof many pieces had a negative effect on the market.
Japanese buyers nolonger played a major part in the field of Art Nouveau and Art Deco andprices went down to pre-1986 levels.
Furniture were muchcopied during the 18th Century after makers took a habit ofputting their marks on their productions. However, furniture pieces weremore sought for furnishing purposes and did not attract speculators asduring the 20th Century. During the early eighties, dozens ofmakers' marks were sold at auction in Drouot and some prestigious labelswere bought by certain dealers who used them unscrupulously afterwards.
Around 1910, AndréMailfert a furniture-maker in Orleans, embarked on the production of hundredsof copies which found their way as genuine pieces on the other side ofthe Atlantic.
"Everythingis nothing but illusion and illusion is a true happiness in life",Mailfert wrote in a book which caused sensation in 1935.
Mailfert startedhis business with a little workforce and went on to promote an incredibleindustry of copies with more than 250 people working in his Orleans workshopand scores of cabinets, commodes, chest of drawers, chairs, armchairs andmirrors made with bits and pieces dating back to the 19th Centurywere eventually sold as genuine.
Mailfert used allsorts of tricks to make his furniture look old with ultra-violet rays todiscolour the wood, electric motors with flexible transmissions to drillextraordinary worm holes, powerful compressors to throw fly dejection mattersand cold and hot air blowers to provoke well-chosen cracks.
"There aretwo kinds of people in society, those who trick others and... others, "he said ironically while confessing that he had fooled thousands of so-calledconnoisseurs.
Mailfert 's productionhas remained unequalled in terms of quantities but some other antique dealersmanaged to surpass him regarding quality notably in Paris in the 1980'swhen at least three of them were charged for selling well-made forgeries.
The easiest wayto make forgeries was to copy Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces of furnitureas there was little differences between modern techniques and those usedby creators at the turn of the Century. Hundreds of well-manufactured lacqueredcommodes, wardrobes, tables, chairs and armchairs have been mistaken asworks by Ruhlmann, Majorelle, Printz, Jansen and other makers.
Now, concerning manuscriptscollectors have had to show caution more than once. Some gifted forgersin fact managed to imitate the signature and writing of many celebrities.One of the biggest scandal over 15 years ago was about the Hitler's memoirswhich suddenly appeared in Germany. There were several note-books all producedby some genius who cheated top experts and who had the rare pleasure ofseeing them published in the respected Der Spiegel magazine.
As a conclusion,the existence of forgeries has proved that most people are likely to bemistaken and that the judging a work of art is after all not an easy task.Forgeries have had therefore a significant impact on the market as theyhave often alienated the attitudes of most experts whose main anguish hasbeen to avoid misjudgements. As any human being, experts are guilty oflapses especially when it comes to decide of the authenticity of a piecebut the pernicious idea of being fooled sometimes leads them to delivererwrong opinions. As a result, genuine works have been classified as fakesbut on the other hand forgeries have also been authenticated as originals...