#art, Look Out for Fakes!

Francisco Bravo Cabrera

Forgeries? Yes, there must be millions of them out there… You can probably find them in prívate collections, in museums like Museo del Prado, Le Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in almost all the others. Picasso himself expressed his concern and warned that his paintings were easy to falsify. Yet on the other hand we have Dalí who signed who knows how many blank papers hoping that after his death his work would still continue, even if they were forgeries…

Now let me bring to your attention the case of Oswald Aulèstia, man that came to be considered the most prolific forger in the world. This Catalan artist, and yes, he is an artist who has indeed sold his own paintings, is the son of sculptor and painter Salvador Aulèstia. He started his life of crime actually copying and falsifying his own father’s works. The FBI considers him guilty of flooding the North American market of false Picasso’s, Dalí’s, Chagall’s and many others. In Spain a mini-series was made of his life of crime directed by Kike Maíllo who had previously done a documentary based upon this ne’er-do-well.

However, before this crook existed there was also a world famous villain, whom I dedicated a video to, (https://youtu.be/w-5KFriDnb4), Elmyr de Hory, the Great Forger. Orson Welles made a documentary, in 1975, about the life and wrongdoings of this Hungarian which was titled “F for Fake.” Now this felon’s story is incredible. This aristocrat and supposed artist came to be considered one of the greatest painters in the world. It was said that he could paint like Rembrandt, Manet, Picasso, or any one of the great masters. He said that he was actually finishing the work they had not time enough to accomplish. But it was all a lie. He did not even know how to paint.

You see, Elmyr led a merry band of three culprits. One who painted, one who sold the forgeries and he, who created the false stamps and custom documents supposedly to lend the theft authenticity. But although he might have had a clever head for crime, he wasn’t too bright. His greed led him to create more and more forgeries until he was finally found out. He sought escape and safe grounds in Spain, where he had committed no crimes, and moved to Ibiza. However a case was brought up against him in France and Spain agreed to the extradition. To this news the delinquent decided to end it all and on the 11th of December 1976, he bade farewell to his friends and overdosed on sleeping pills and alcohol.

Recently the FBI has announced that they are looking at possible forgeries of some of the work of North American Black artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. It seems to the FBI that a Museum in Orlando, Florida (US), is presenting an exhibition titled “Heroes and Monsters” featuring false Basquiats. As you might recall, Basquiat, the enfant terrible of the New York art scene of the 1980’s died at the age of 27 on the 12th of August 1988.

(Basquiat and, you guessed it, Andy Warhol/Photo El País)

Museum Director, Mr. Aaron De Groft has said and confirmed that the paintings are authentic and bona fide originals, but the sources he used for authenticity do not fully convince the FBI. The paintings, which were done on the back of FedEx shipping boxes, are, to the investigators, proof that they are forgeries because the FBI alleges that the letters of the FedEx logo on these boxes did not even exist during Basquiat’s lifetime, that they started using the letters of that particular logo six years after the death of the artist. However, the museum insists that the letters were used during the life of Basquiat.

Supposedly the paintings, and there are 25 of them, were painted in Los Angeles, California (US) in 1982. They were then sold to the director of the television series “MASH.” After his death the paintings disappeared, but then they resurfaced in a blind storage locker sale conducted in 2012. Yet the paintings did not inspire any interest in collectors or in any other cultural establishment. Has the Orlando museum placed its reputation in jeopardy?

In any event, this is a short recount. There are many more forgers out there. Some might even be famous artists, like supposedly de Hory and Aulèstia, I don’t know. What I do know is that they are criminals that feed upon the greed of collectors, many of them possibly knowing that the painting they are acquiring…at a deal…is a fake, but it means prestige for their collection. Do they then deserve to be swindled?

But you, just keep in mind the next time you visit one of the great museums of the world and you stand in front of a Manet, Chagall, Picasso, Monet, Modigliani or any other painting, and you marvel at the work of the great master, instead you might be looking at something painted by some dark little crook in his grandmother’s basement. But is it still great art? I leave that question up to you to think about and if you come to any conclusions please let me know.


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10 Comentarios

    1. 🙏🏻😊🌹

      Me gusta

  1. Cassa Bassa dice:

    Whoa….serious crimes.

    Me gusta

  2. Muy interesante, me ha encantado!
    A la pregunta que nos haces, yo diría que sí, que sigue siendo arte. Alguna vez leí que Da Vinci definía a la pintura como “cosa mentale”… y sin duda lo es. Ese algo especial que además de técnica tiene el artista-creador, pero también el falsificador.
    Un saludo 🙂

    Le gusta a 1 persona

    1. Muchísimas gracias por tu muy interesante comentario. La pintura puede ser mental pero definitivamente es algo mecánico, algo físico, algo que lo tiene que hacer la mano del pintor y hasta que esa imagen o idea no se plasme sobre la tela o en piedra (o cualquier otro medio) no es arte porque el arte es comunicación y el arte se caracteriza única y exclusivamente porque genera y transmite, simultáneamente, emociones… El falsificador, si, es un artista, pero también un pillo y eso no se puede celebrar. Un saludo 😊🙏😊

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      1. Desde luego que es un ‘pillo’ por decirlo de manera suave, y si duda que no se puede celebrar. Eso nunca. Claro que no. 🙂

        Le gusta a 1 persona

      2. Vale, muy de acuerdo y muchas gracias. 😊🙏😊

        Le gusta a 1 persona

    1. Thank you so much Nora. All the best.

      Le gusta a 1 persona

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