Sunday, February 25, 2007

Faking It

"Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a universe which is disposable. You know it might be just this one anonymous glory of all things, this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are dust; to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us to accomplish. Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared, some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash: the triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life... we're going to die. 'Be of good heart,' cry the dead artists out of the living past. Our songs will all be silenced - but what of it? Go on singing. Maybe a man's name doesn't matter all that much." Orson Welles narrating his mockumentary...or is it a documentary? I saw this movie years ago...and it was a crazy cool film...some people have said it was confusing, riduculous, fake...but it's become a bit of a classic and just from that quote, you can see it delivers some outrageous observations...a little like Citizen Kane. It was Orson Wellles last completed film and really worth seeing.
I have often found stories of stolen art, and art forgery, to exicte my imagination. This painting, The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden...was returned to a church in Hidalgo, Mexico, where it had been stolen.

What is faked the most?

PreColumbian pottery: This type of forgery is common because of the enormous demand for the pieces and increasing penalties for smuggling in South American countries.
Greek gold jewelry: Gold can't be dated, and fakes pass by even the experts — plus the money is good.
Ancient Egyptian blue faience (earthenware) animals and scarabs: Every tourist going to Egypt must have an example or two of this type of work.
Paintings by Francesco Guardi, the Venetian 18th-century genius of landscape: You may actually think that Guardi is still alive because so many of his views of Venice are emerging daily.
Salvador Dalí prints: These prints have exceptional public appeal and are, therefore, faked frequently. In one infamous case, the aging Dalí was induced to sign a thousand blank pieces of paper that, after his death, were filled with images taken from his repertory, but were definitely not by him.
Watercolors by the American 20th-century illustrator Maxfield Parrish: Due to his growing popularity, Parrish's watercolors are often faked.
Old master drawings of every period: This is where the big money can be earned.

Elmyr de Hory was a famous forger. He forged Modigliani, Picasso, Matisse and Renoir. He was in jail several times and a concentration camp. He was deterred in a concnetration camp for being both jewish and a homosexual. I believe Orson Welles must have found him a fascinating person on many levels and that is why he made the documenatary about him...for one...the movie Citizen Kane is about storytelling and what is truth, and what makes history. Who writes the history of a man could easily be seen as an allegory for who writes the history of the world? Or writing screenplays and characters as a reworking a faking of real life, his own experiences with building a character inspired by Hearst might have taught him that one goes further with fiction than realilty?

Elmyr de Hory (on painter Modigliani): "He worked very little, he died very early, so if added a few paintings (to his collection) a few drawings it's not going to destroy him.."
Elmyr de Hory: "I don't feel bad for Modigliani I feel good for me."
Orson Welles (narration): "It's pretty but is it art?. How is it valued? The value depends on opinion, opinion depends on the expert, a faker like Elmyr makes fool of the experts - so who's the expert?.. Who's the faker?".
Orson Welles (narration): "I must say I'm honored - my signature forged by a real Elmyr."
Elmyr de Hory: "I never signed any painting."
Elmyr de Hory: "If they are hanged long enough in the museum they became real."Wikipedia

Richard Gere is starring in a upcoming movie called The Hoax about the author Clifford Irving who wrote a fake biography of Howard Hughes.

The remake of The Thomas Crowne Affair is about faking art and stealing art and is a very good movie. A sequel is coming out soon called The Topkapi Affair, which is also a remake. Isn't a remake a kind of forgery...a kind of revisiting a work if we are to be more generous? The movie Vertigo plays with the compulsion to remake art work, ourselves, and forge personalities...for criminal purposes and for love, and for art.
The Moderns is a crazy pretty movie with art forgery, the damned, the meaning of art, love and heartbreak and some very cool characters. The Spanish word for the day is cuadro. Or we'll take it up a bit, cuadro falsification. Cuadro=painting.

Funny about the title of Orson Welles last film. F for Fake could very well be an allusion to Welles reputation over his career. He was given grade school marks for his work. He was the butt of many jokes in his life. A brilliant mind and actor, his body, his boxoffice failures, his own hoax with War of the Worlds radio play...were often scorned and joked about in public. I'd like to believe he had found a kind of peace and personal resolution with his own art. I suspect he always did get it. Actors struggle with the exploration and surrender to a character as a mirror into their own self worth and knowledge as real people. Artists must surrender into a view outside and yet authentic to themselves. The dark side of this vision quest manifests in the criminal mind, in the clever imposter, in the mind of a stalker who obsesses about someone elses life in order to give their own life value and meaning, the thief or computer hacker who outwits the powerful elite and the immature youth who wants to dress and party like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears to learn how to be a powerful individual. Orson Welles might have enjoyed comparing forgers to actors and artists...after all comparisons are like art objects and allow philosophical exploration on what it is to be an artist. Artists are always in the struggle between being true to themselves and yet remaking the world as they see it, telling a story in their own words, and mimicking the words/images of others and the world, amplifying nature to make an object or an idea. The popularity of heist movies, the intelligence and talent of actors to mimic others, of art forgers to copy the greats is a poke at authenticity and reality. Artists know that by being fake and making comparisons between real and the imagination we find may find truth. A great double bill would be Vertigo and F For Fake where Hitchcock and Welles are at the height of understanding the drive to create with imagination and the responsibility of being true to oneself regardless of who writes history. Each man seemed to know the danger of this act too.


Timmer said...

"What's Bred in the Bone" by Robertson Davies has some interesting consequences for the Canadian protagonist in regards to forging art in Germany during the Nazi era. I thought that it was an excellent story.

Candy Minx said...

Oh yeah, Tim, thanks for reminding me of that novel, you're right it did have a lot to do with forgery. I was thinking about all the bullshit that happened around the WWII era and art. Interesting angle with Hory being a concentration camp survivor isn't it?

mister anchovy said...

I read once that the American symbolist painter, Albert Pinkham Ryder created a small number of works in his lifetime compared to the number hanging in American museums. His paintings didn't age well...he painted in many layers...his paintings cracked badly, and bituman caused them to blacken. This was the challenge for the forger...

Gardenia said...

I too love stories, movies about forged art. For some reason there is (at least in the telling) a high degree of romanticism and adventure surrounding forged art. I guess it should be flattering that someone even wants to forge a an artist's work - but I find myself furious over the theft of my web design and photography by the new County Clerk - so I have just talked myself into being flattered thanks to your post!

Candy Minx said...

Gardenia, Yes, I think there is one aspect of theft that is flattering.As for your web site, I think that's really weird, you'd think they'd want to change it for their own style...but there you go, isn't that a governemtn site? heh heh! Lazy...

You've heard of that advice: be careful what you wish for?

Well, all the artists who dream of making paintings and selling them, here is an option:

A little reminder that even if we aren't is better than being a factory masters painter no?

Although, it has been common practice in art school to assign the students to paint a master. I must say, I can do a pretty good Van Gogh...but it's kind of boring. I had a customer once who painted the Mona Lisa, and he loved making it...he said all the stuff you learn about it (her eye is in the exact center of the painting, it is DaVinci in drag, the landscape is crooked) comes pounding in on you when you study it by painting it...


Wondered what you were about to blog about when the title came up...

Seen the Welles movie n liked it meself. Liked pretty much everything that guy did.

Didn't Modigliani have some'at goin' with necks? All his women look like ostriches if yer ask me. Still I'm a heathen!

Amy Ruttan said...

I always wonder about which art is faked. Interesting post, Orson was really big on the Fake thing wasn't he. Fake marian attacks etc.,

Wylie Kinson said...

You should have your own newspaper column. Your posts are so insightful, brimming with educational high points and just plain interesting as hell to read.

Anonymous said...

To Candy Minx & all her friends!!!

Today at lunch break I heard on Public Radio WBEZ Chicago that some Picasso's were stolen from a prominent apartment...I just thought I'd mention this tidbit considering the interest of stolen art stories at the beginning under the Orson Wells picture....!?


Anonymous said...

I recall doing a pastiche on Jack Shadbolt when I attended York U. Though my efforts were praised, the piece could never pass for a fake! It looked like a study by an art student for sure! I think that I could maybe fake a Tom Thompson if for some reason that was a thing to do. But I wonder how many fakes are actually passed off. Thinking od Mr. A's comments on the stolen Picassos reminds me of how much Picasso has been copied and used as a basis of marketable works. Do you think that it is inspairation or rip-off?

Candy Minx said...

4Dins, well I am surprised you've seen that Welles movie, cool! Yes, Modigliani did have something going on with necks. I believe they are like the necks in Pre-Raphelite paintings, quite pahlic. did you know that the word cervix is related to the word neck? The cervix is the neck of the womb.

Amy, yes Orson Welles was intrigued by the fake wasn't he....well he was a writer and actor, two professions that deal with faking emotional scenarios. One has to be pretty good at faking things to FEEL authentic...and I hope I was able to suggest that in my post.

Wylie, thankyou so much you really made my day as I read your comment, my god, thank you so much!!!

Stagg, I thought this was pretty weird and funny as I had posted this the day before, I hope the art theives come to my blog...I bet they will. I've had a lot of visitors this past week who had googled "art thieves" or "forgery"...

Tim, I think that both emulating or sampling or copying...are both an homage and a rip off. Somehow there are some artists/writers who d it better than others. I also believe all stories and versions of art and image are connected and related.

* (asterisk) said...

I'm late getting here, but here I am.

I've not seen F For Fake, but I saw a documentary about it, I think, bizarrely enough.

The question of forgeries bing artworks in their own right is totally fascinating to me, though, and this was a cool, thought-provoking post.