Art Forgeries

Sep 15, 2023 | Newsletter

“200 billion dollars is spent worldwide on art each year and 6 billion of that is tainted by illegal and illicit activity. Getting duped by  forged art is in some ways the rich person’s ultimate humiliation. “

–  Ben Ryder Howe, AiA Art News

“The incentive to be a proficient forger has soared: a single, expertly executed old master knockoff can finance a long, comfortable retirement.”

–  Samanth Subramanian, The Guardian

If you want to learn the inside dope about the enormous business of art forgeries, you must read, Con Artist  by Tony Tetro and Gimpiero Ambrosi. You’ll  learn about the exhaustive labor it takes to paint a believable forgery and how  these incredible fakes dupe savvy galleries and prestigious museums. The book also gives examples of how wealthy people knowingly buy these fakes so they could display them in their home, impressing visitors with their unsurpassed art sophistication.

A quote from the book:

Corot painted 3,000 canvases, 10,000 of which have been sold in America.” – René Huyghe, former chief curator, Louvre Museum

Both the New York DA’s office and the FBI have beefed up their art fraud departments. Former  DA head, Cyrus R. Vance, justified the expense saying, “Forgery is not good for New York City business. You don’t want to be known as a place where you go to buy art and half the time it’s fake.” 

Thomas Hoving, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for two decades, examined thousands of art objects donated to the museum. In his book, False Impressions, he wrote, “I almost believe that there were as many bogus works as genuine ones.”  

Not all painters start out as forgers. Dutch artist Henricus Antonius “Han” van Meegeren was determined to become a  successful painter. When that didn’t pan out, he started duplicating works by Vermeer. He completed six forged paintings  he called  “unknown” Vermeers. He sold them for an eye-opening 60 million dollars. 

Forged paintings were not only sold to ill-informed, unsuspecting buyers. Forger John Myatt was so talented he duped such highly-regarded  auction houses as Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Philips.  Forgeries have also been found in public museums, private collections, and prestigious galleries.  

There are so many expertly-done forged paintings, that it has spawned an industry of Forensic Art Detectives. These experts use the latest techniques to determine if a painting is authentic or  fake: checking the age of the canvas, the paint pigments, X-rays, infrared scans, verifying the painting’s paper trail (called “provenance”), and radiocarbon dating.  There’s talk that computers may one day be the  full-proof method for inspecting paintings. But computers can easily be hacked by experts producing questionable results.

Those who have not been victims of art fraud will delight in seeing these three outstanding and eye-opening films. They will reassure anyone who has ever been fooled in business, even the smartest, the most experienced, most influential buyers of fine art occasionally get duped.



The Knoedler Gallery, the most prestigious in the U.S., 165 years old, predating the Civil War and the city’s museums, closed down when it was discovered it was dealing with fake art.




About art experts trying to determine whether an obscure painting, purchased for 1,175.00 dollars and sold four years later for 450 million dollars, was authentic or a fake.




The eccentric forger, Mark A. Landis, refused to sell his fake paintings and enrich himself. He preferred being a philanthropist and donated the paintings to museums around the country. The grateful museums readily accepted his fake paintings. 




My best,

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