Can you love a fake piece of art?

By Melissa Hogenboom

BBC News Magazine

Wrong signature. Dubious provenance. Fake. These are words an auction house dreads to hear.

This is exactly what happened recently with a drawing hailed as an early Andy Warhol. It was denounced by his brother as a fake but discussions on its authenticity are ongoing.

A work by Van Gogh or Munch can fetch tens of millions. Cast a shadow of doubt over its provenance and that value rapidly declines.
But if it has a level of draughtsmanship, colour and imagination that is nearly enough to fool an auction house expert, isn’t that worth something?
Han van Meegeren is a candidate for the greatest forger ever. The Dutchman came closest to being acclaimed as an artist in his own right after gaining notoriety forging 17th Century Dutch masters that would fool art-loving Nazis.

While his own paintings were of little interest to critics, his forgeries earned millions and conned, among others, Hitler’s deputy Hermann Goering.
Van Meegeren was arrested in 1945 and charged with treason for selling a Vermeer – classified as a Dutch national treasure – to the Nazis. Facing a possible death penalty, he confessed all – that he was a forger.

The Dutch authorities didn’t believe him. To prove he was no traitor, he was asked to paint a copy.

“A copy,” Van Meegeren is reported to have exclaimed, “I’ll do better than that. Give me the materials and I will paint another Vermeer before witnesses.”
Before the war, frustrated that his style of painting did not suit the world’s new-found interest in modern art, Van Meegeren had forged a Vermeer in his own style that was “unlike any previous Vermeer”, says Frank Wynne, who wrote a biography of the forger.

“What infuriated him was a skill that would have made him famous in an earlier age was of no interest to anyone at a time when the world was interested in post-impressionism.”
His experiment worked. His painting, The Supper at Emmaus, was hailed as a previously unknown masterpiece by Vermeer and was one of the most visited paintings in the Netherlands until it was revealed to be a fake.

Van Meegeren wanted to prove that a famous signature on a painting hugely influences how beautiful we think it is, says Wynne.

“A famous artist’s signature gives us the romantic notion that their paintings are sacred artefacts that were touched by the hand of a genius.”



“The Scream” The secret history

Article From The Art Newspaper

By Martin Bailey

Munch’s The Scream, 1895 (right), which sold for $119.9m at Sotheby’s New York on Wednesday, has a surprising and hitherto undisclosed provenance. The masterpiece had been resting in the vaults of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for 17 years, with few people even knowing that it was there.

The Sotheby’s catalogue states that The Scream was “on temporary loan 1990-91” to the museum. It was on display from May 1990 to July 1991. What went unrecorded by the auctioneers was that it was also “on deposit” from 1989 to 2006. A spokeswoman told us that the work was “very frequently” shown to university classes and scholars in the museum’s print room. However, its lengthy stay was not recorded in the 2007 Munch catalogue raisonné.

The museum must have hoped that at some point it might be able to acquire the pastel (one of four versions of The Scream), through either donation or purchase.

The Oslo businessman Petter Olsen, who owned the work, has said he will spend the money made by its sale to establish a new museum, art centre and hotel. The museum in Hvitsten, 40km south of Oslo, is due to open in May next year. Olsen still owns some Munchs, which he inherited from his father, Thomas, a ship owner who bought The Scream in 1937.
Olsen is planning an exhibition on the paintings created by Munch between 1906 and 1916 for the auditorium at Oslo University. The show will take place next year, when Norway celebrates the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth.


Earliest surviving film inspired by the work of Charles Dickens?

The international celebration of the life and work of Charles Dickens takes place to mark the bicentenary of his birth, which falls on 7 February 2012. Find out more about the international institutions and organisations involved.

This recent rediscovery is believed to be the earliest surviving film inspired by the work of Charles Dickens, in this case the character of Jo the crossing sweep from ‘Bleak House’. ‘The Death of Poor Joe’ was almost certainly made by pioneer filmmaker G.A. Smith and predates his 1901 adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost’.

“Mona Lisa” could have been completed a decade later than thought

A drawing of rocks by Leonardo in the Royal Collection provides evidence that the artist worked on the portrait for much longer than the dates officially given by the Louvre
Leonardo’s Mona Lisa was probably completed a decade later than the date given by the Louvre. This radical redating follows conservation work on the Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa.
The Louvre dates the Mona Lisa to 1503-06. It has now been realised, however, that part of the painted background was based on a drawing of rocks that Leonardo made in 1510-15.
The link between the drawing and the landscape in the Madrid copy was spotted by the Prado’s technical specialist, Ana González Mozo. This emerged during an investigation of the background in the copy, which had been overpainted in black in the second half of the 18th century. The overpaint was removed earlier this year.
When the Prado copy was being studied, infrared images revealed that a section of the original design for the rocks beneath the paint surface had been based on a drawing now in the Royal Collection. Martin Clayton, the senior curator at the Windsor print room, dates the drawing to 1510-15 on stylistic grounds.
The Prado copy of the Mona Lisa was worked on side by side with the Louvre painting, so this connection has important implications for the dating of Leonardo’s original.
Louvre specialists went back to photographs taken of the original Mona Lisa in 2004. They realised that the design for part of the rocks on the right side in the Prado copy also appears in the underdrawing of the original, in a blurred form. This can just be made out in an emissiograph, an image made using an x-ray technique.
It is known that Leonardo had begun the Mona Lisa by 1503, since that year it was recorded in a note by a senior Florentine official, Agostino Vespucci. What remains controversial is the date of its completion.


New Book Tells How U.S. Soldiers Saved Works of Art During World War II

In the midst of the conflict, the Allied Forces appointed the monuments officers—a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists—to ensure that the great masterworks of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. The journalist Ilaria Dagnini Brey focuses her spellbinding account on the monuments officers of Italy, quickly dubbed “the Venus Fixers” by bemused troops.
Working on the front lines in conditions of great deprivation and danger, these unlikely soldiers stripped the great galleries of their incomparable holdings and sent them into safety by any means they could; when trucks could not be requisitioned or “borrowed,” a Tiepolo altarpiece might make its midnight journey across the countryside balanced in the front basket of a bicycle. They blocked a Nazi convoy of two hundred stolen paintings—including Danae, Titian’s voluptuous masterpiece, an intended birthday present for Hermann Göring. They worked with skeptical army strategists to make sure air raids didn’t take out the heart of an ancient city, and patched up Renaissance palazzi and ancient churches whose lead roofs were sometimes melted away by the savagery of the attacks, exposing their frescoed interiors to the harsh Tuscan winters and blistering summers. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree, they succeeded, and anyone who marvels at Italy’s artistic riches today is witnessing their handiwork.


YES . . . We Can Sue About Warhol’s Banana !

The Velvet Underground, known best as Lou Reed, John Cale, Maureen Tucker and Sterling Morrison, never received trademark registration for the image from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The band argues instead that it earned trademark rights by virtue of years of association with it.
“The Banana design became a symbol, truly an icon, of The Velvet Underground,” reads the complaint. “What had been the cover design for one album…became an element of multiple different CD and DVD recordings embodying music by The Velvet Underground and, more broadly, a symbol of the group The Velvet Underground.”
Further evidence of the close connection between the band and the image, according to the complaint: a 2001 vodka advertisement in which the words “Absolut Underground” appeared beneath the iconic banana.
The Warhol Factory became a meeting place of artists and musicians such as Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote and Mick Jagger. Other, less frequent visitors included Salvador Dalí and Allen Ginsberg. Warhol collaborated with Reed’s influential New York rock band The Velvet Underground in 1965, and designed the famous cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico, the band’s debut album. The album cover consisted of a plastic yellow banana that the listener could actually peel off to reveal a flesh-hued version of the banana. Warhol also designed the album cover for The Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers.
Warhol included the Velvet Underground in the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a spectacle that combined art, rock, Warhol films and dancers of all kinds, as well as live S&M enactments and imagery. The Velvet Underground and EPI used the Factory as a place to rehearse, though the definition of “rehearsal” should only be taken loosely.


Need for Courtroom Sketch Artists Fade as Cameras move into Courts

Sketch artists have been the public’s eyes at high-profile trials for decades — a remnant of an age when drawings in broadsheet papers, school books or travel chronicles were how people glimpsed the world beyond their own. Today, their ranks are thinning swiftly as states move to lift longstanding bans on cameras in courtrooms. As of a year ago, 14 states still had them — but at least three, including Illinois this month, have taken steps since then to end the camera prohibitions.
Cutbacks in news budgets and shifts in aesthetic sensibilities toward digitized graphics have all contributed to the form’s decline, said Maryland-based sketch artist Art Lien. While the erosion of the job may not be much noticed by people reading and watching the news, Lien says something significant is being lost. Video or photos can’t do what sketch artists can, he said, such as compressing hours of court action onto a single drawing that crystallizes the events.
But while courtroom drawing has a long history — artists did illustrations of the Salem witch trials in 1692 — the artistry can sometimes be sketchy. A bald lawyer ends up with a full head of hair. A defendant has two left hands. A portly judge is drawn rail-thin.
Subjects often complain as they see the drawings during court recesses, said Chicago artist Carol Renaud. “They’ll say, ‘Hey! My nose is too big.’ And sometimes they’re right,” she conceded. “We do the drawings so fast.”
Courtroom drawing doesn’t attract most aspiring artists because it doesn’t afford the luxury of laboring over a work for days until it’s just right, said Andy Austin, who has drawn Chicago’s biggest trials over 40 years, including that of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. “You have to put your work on the air or in a newspaper whether you like it or not,” she said.