The history of art forgery is often just as interesting as the history of original art. While artists may paint in order to challenge long-standing aesthetic, political or social norms, forgers paint for much less evident reasons. Their identities are never as well known as original artists; and yet in the back rooms of even the most lofty and discerning of art galleries and with art connoisseurs right across the globe their names are remembered as a source of shame and failure. Infamy is infinitely sexier than good, clean, old-fashioned fame.
The above clip is a promotion for a competition being run by Melbourne’s Art Series Hotel Group. If you stay a night at one of their three hotels — each designed around and some featuring work by a famous Australian artist — you have the chance to look at ten paintings and guess which one is an authentic Warhol. If you guess correctly, you can keep it. If not, you’ll end up with one of the nine remaining paintings, each being a fake created by master forger Tony Tetro.
That Art Series bunch certainly work their marketing team hard. Last year they had a competition challenging people to Steal a work by Banksy that they hung in a hotel corridor. It must have worked — we’ve written about them twice now! The problem is that there is lingering feeling of being violated. This hotel group is raising seriously interesting ideas about authenticity and fakery in the art world — and yet, how serious is it? How much do they care about the ideas and how much of it is just a stunt to promote the boutique artsiness of their company?
Perhaps I am old-fashioned. I relish public debate and I believe it should be protected against business interests and economic exploitation. I’d much rather sit in the local park and ask everyone who passes about their opinions on authenticity and fakery than sit in a forum funded by a private company who’s paid a forger to create a bunch of art that I can only access if I can afford the cost of a one-night stay in a boutique hotel.
They do raise an interesting issue, one that has plagued the art market world for decades. And yet, I can’t help but feel like I’m taking a sticky walk of shame after watching this latest venture.