Art Forgery Abounds
They say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery, but what if it costs you millions of dollars?
This is what happened when New York gallerist Ann Freedman was apparently duped for years into buying canvasses purportedly by Mark Rothko and other esteemed artists.
The Netflix documentary, Made You Look, is one of the most recent productions shining a light on an industry that has been making billions for centuries.
Through the lens we see how the then prestigious, but now defunct, Knoedler Gallery (of which Freedman was its president) bought and sold ‘fakes’ posing as Motherwells, Pollocks, Rothkos and others, produced by one Pei-Shen Qian in a garage in Queens, and sold to the gallery by art dealer Glafira Rosales and her partners.
It seems, by all accounts, that famous art forgery has become a career and people have made an astounding amount of money using their artistic talents in the wrong ways.
If you can’t tell your Manet’s from your Monet’s then you probably also won’t know any better, but these professionals sometimes spend years on a painting that they sell to art houses and galleries as the real deal.
One peculiar case is that of Mark Landis, one of America’s most prolific art forgers. He did not sell a single piece of forged art, but instead donated his fake paintings to universities, and museums. For Landis, the thrill of feeling like a philanthropist was the only reward he was after.
Over three decades, Landis forged work by Picasso, Walt Disney and even a letter by John Hancock. In the 2014 documentary film, Art and Craft, we get to know this interesting man and discover his reasons for forging.
Recently at an exhibition held in New York City named “Creative Conscience”, Landis’s work was displayed and instead of focusing on his story as a forger, the exhibition showcased his own artistic merit.
The exhibition experts brought up themes of appropriation, authenticity and the way value is created.
NFT experts joined a panel discussion with the directors of the film and Landis himself, and the idea of creating a collection of NFTs from Landin’s work was brought up and debated.
In essence they are art pieces, and since he never monetized them, they were not illegal. So why not authenticate his work?
The Age-old Authentication Debate and the Fascinating Case of da Vinci's Salvator Mundi
As we continue to look at the value of authenticated art with all the proper paperwork and art provenance in place, we can’t help but be reminded of the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.
In 2005 a painting was sold at auction by St. Charles Gallery auction house in New Orleans for less than $1,175. An unassuming and damaged canvas, heavily overpainted, but the consortium of art dealers who bought it spotted something different.
After sending the painting for restoration, it was discovered to resemble an original Leonardo Da Vinci.
There are less than 20 documented Da Vinci originals and they are mainly in museums, so the excitement in the art community was tangible when news hit that one might be coming up on auction.
The discussion on the authentication of the painting, now called, the 'Salvator Mundi', went back and forth for a very long time with experts from all over the world trying to determine if this is in fact a lost da Vinci.
With no extant paperwork to follow, they had to rely on the paint and canvas to guide them and after numerous experts studied and compared the work with other da Vinci paintings, they attributed the painting to da Vinci.
Salvator Mundi was officially heralded as a 'new discovery' by the National Gallery in 2011 and became the most expensive painting ever sold only 6 years later when it was sold by Christie’s to Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al Saud for an incredible $450.3 million.
Can you imagine spending that much money on a painting with no historically documented provenance or authentication?
With the whole world moving to digital to store important information, we are hoping to see the next generation of great artists leaving an easier trail of breadcrumbs to follow when it comes to authentication, attributions and provenance.
Using NFTs to Authenticate Art
The Fine Art Ledger (FAL) is pioneering the use NFTs as a means of authenticating art.
Far from simply producing, for each artwork, a blockchain certificate of authenticity disparate and separate to the art, FAL stores, and pull the art and artist's information, as well as its provenance and ownership details directly from the blockchain and NFTs attaching to the artwork, combines these details with unique identifiers for the physical or digital artwork, and uses the artwork itself as a secure vault, itself, of these details.
In this way the art itself is not separated from the immutable record authenticating it (the NFT), and it, and its NFTs authenticity is easily verified by tapping or scanning the artwork with your mobile phone.
FAL's system not only works for traditional digital NFTs, but importantly for Physical NFTs too.
Physical NFTs are NFTs of the underlying, physical, real-world artwork itself. Here the physical work, as opposed to a digital representation of it (in the form of an image or video clip, something we are used to when speaking about NFTs), is authenticated as the original artifact, and not the image or video clip itself.
Having NFT's that reside in your digital wallet but which represent underlying, physical art assets, combined with FAL's easy method of verifying each artwork while standing in front of it, using just your mobile phone, is a phenomenal development in art authentication.
And when one realizes, that each NFT is transferable and itself capable of authentication on its blockchain, means that that record of authentication can be populated and depopulated from one art inventory to another simply on transferring the NFT form one owners crypto wallet to another's.
No if we had FAL's technology at the time of da Vinci, there is no question that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on Salvator Mundi would be a pretty safe bet indeed, wouldn't you say?