Tag Archives: forgery

Chinese Hellstadt vs. the Blobbysphere

A friend of Picasso’s, while in Paris, comes across a dealer who sells him a Picasso sketch. When visiting his friend, he takes the sketch with him in order to verify it. Picasso looks at it for a few minutes and declares “It’s fake!”

Disappointed, the friend returns to Paris and confronts the dealer, who convinces him to take another drawing, also by Picasso, instead. Picasso inspects it yet again and, again, declares: “It’s fake!”

The third time, the friend brings another drawing. Picasso inspects this one as well and, the same as the last two times, proclaims it “Fake!”

“But Pablo, this one was a test. I saw you drawing this one with my own eyes” says the friend.

“That may be but you see, not even I am good enough to always produce Picasso originals!”


This anecdote is very interesting as it exposes the fragile relationship between the fake and the original, or better yet the forgery or the original. If a forgery implies a manufacturing process so similar to that of the original, as in the case of art reproductions, where the forger emerses himself in the style and the technique, how does it fall in such disgrace when compared to an original.

Today, the media that we work with not only makes faking it a possibility, but to a certain extent encourages it. The cut and paste generation, the photoshoppers, work with a medium that so easily generates fake-looking art, even if the intent was not a fake in itself. Due to the equalizing nature of digital design platforms, one can “design” in mere minutes forms that are both very different but ultimately the same. Take the blob for example. Is a blob not always a copy of an original blob, even though it might be more blobby to the left or to the right than the original blob? This sameness in design is in a way caused by this confusion between the fake and the forgery. If forgery involved the illusion of selling an artefact (whose making process involved a degree of involvement similar to that of the original) as an original, and if fake was the immediate copy, today’s mediums erase the line between fake and forgery since the difference in process becomes non-existent. Originals are so immediate that a forgery immediately becomes a fake. Maybe in today’s art world an original is a mere forgery and the forgery is nothing but a fake.

In the case of Hadid, for instance, we can argue that the initial works are the originals of a recipe of design that, through digital platforms, is repackaged to a certain extent in subsequent projects. They are forgeries of the original project.

The original projects so powerful that they generate a Zaha aesthetic and its adherents form a sort of new style. But it is in the formation of the style that the demise exists – all new designs that can be classified as “in the style of” become fakes of the original because their production was filtered through the sleek design-and-print digital process resulting in a general sameness and flashy spleen.

If slew of followers of a style of today generate samey designs, there is the question of outright faking-it. China’s long history of faking, which never became as culturally shunned as in Europe, creates a new aesthetic, an urban-scape collaged from fakes. The much-copied Zaha is probably the victim in the first fake architecture designed to be completed before the original. The Wangjing Soho design is currently being built in Chongqing, after digital plans and renders of the original were leaked. The Chongqing, adapted to the faking it quick-and-dirty method of working, is going to be completed well before the original in Beijing. Hadid is quoted as saying, so long as her cloned buildings include some innovative new mutations then any copy “could be quite exciting”.


Exercise: Which one is the Zaha?

This is a very interesting definition of the genetics of the fake. A fake of a fake of a fake will inevitably suffer a mutation, an accident, that will generate an original. But can this organic genetic definition of a fake happen in the copy-paste world when the copy never looses, never gains any content?

Let’s look at Little Austria, in China, where developers photoshopped google street views of the Austian town of Hallstadt and were building the doppleganger of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Far East. The straight out of a SF scenario involves befuddled Hallstadtinas looking at images of their UNESCOed homes in China. Is the copy-paste rut of design, masked by stylistic preference, simply a copy paste of a quaint little Austrian village in China?

Is design at a stand still, an infinite ctrl-V of an original whose meaning was long lost in the shuffle? Is the immediately satisfying nature of a design produced for a world that functions from deadline to deadline stopping us from ever questioning the design itself?

Or not? Maybe the shift towards a new understanding of space comes from the anomalies and paradoxes made possible by technology?  The recontextualising and the repurposeing of a stale little Austrian helm generates a more interesting discussion, and with it answers, than the blobbysphere ever will.


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Tables of F(ake/iction/orgery)

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The very words of fake, forgery and fiction boil down to a material quality of the making. If fake is a word one would use to describe the qualities of the words forgery and fiction, etymologically it perhaps best describes all three. Fake derives from the Latin word facere, to do, to make, to produce. The notion of making is rooted into the core of the very words fiction and forgery as well. Forgery is a compound of forge and -ery, forge being both the verb of producing metal work as well as the noun describing the location of the forging. Fiction, perhaps most interestingly, after many morphings of its core name has become fully distanced from its origin – from the Latin fingere, to knead, to form out of dough or clay. Fingere, of course, evolves into today’s finger, the instrument of this very tactile quality of making embedded in the three F. Although the table is simply a means of escaping the engulfing fiction of the Carceri, the very quality of the making links well with the surface of the making. As in the case of fingere (an act of making) paradoxically becoming finger (a tool), maybe there is a similar relationship between the made object and the surface it is made on, the table.


Who is the maker that responds to the different aspects and qualities of the Fake, the Fiction and the Forgery? Who better than a fake, an invented character, my paper replica. This replica takes on three roles – that of the Architect, the Archeologist and the Forger. Each of these roles responds in different ways to the fake, the forgery and the fiction according to the context that he is looking at.

The central character (architect/archeologist/forger) fabricates the paraphernalia of four facets of the F(ake/iction/orgery).

I. The Piranesi Table

Piranesi’s Carceri in Rome is a fictional project, populated with imagery of Campo Marzio forgeries and recon-ed through (archeological) fakes.

forgery – fiction – fake

II. Los Angeles Studio Sets

Los Angeles is a city whose very development is a consequence of mass produced fiction, the film industry. The film sets, the sound stages, the sets are forgeries of spaces. At first these spaces might start fakes, facsimiles of a real space, but through the filter of dissimulation of the camera, are seen as real, thus becoming forgeries.

fiction – fake – forgery

III. National Gallery, London

Experts say that, at this moment, almost 40% of the world’s art consists of forgeries. Many forgers sell their paintings to museums, constructing a paper trail that they insert in the museum archives. The National Gallery, according to a famous forger, contains hundreds of forgeries, 20 unnamed ones of which are produced by him. The fake is embedded in the architecture of the building itself – its Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown extension a copy of the original facade.

forgery – fake – fiction

IV.  Chinese factory and/or fake city

China, the mass-producer of fakes, be they products that are shipped throughout the world, or immobile fakes in the form of architecture – such as the deserted fake European cities or the rice paddy Eiffel Tower.

fake – fiction – forgery



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forg·ery (noun)

: the crime of falsely making or copying a document in order to deceive people

: something that is falsely made or copied in order to deceive people : something that is forged

1 (archaic) :  invention

2:  something forged

3:  an act of forging; especially :  the crime of falsely and fraudulently making or altering a document (as a check)

1570s, “a thing made fraudulently,” from forge (n.) + -ery. Meaning “act of counterfeiting” is 1590s

see also: counterfeit, fake, hoax, humbug, phony (also phoney), sham

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Madonna with Seatbelt



Tony Tetro painting a Mona Lisa with Seatbelt, commissioned by the LA Transportation Department (they all seem to gravitate towards L.A….)

Tony Tetro, the most prolific American forger of the both century, forged hundreds of works ranging from old Masters to 20th century artists and even a Ferrari.

After being released from prison, Tetro does original artwork on commission. He will gladly include his patron in a Chagall or Da Vinci. You can order a work and have a consultation online, which I am considering doing. We should get a big Dip9 canvas, maybe a Titzian style Bathers what with the amount of women in the unit. Or some sort of reverse da Vinci-esque Last Supper…

Here’s his own account on faking Dali:

Where do I begin? I did most every medium that Dali did with the exception of sculpture, bronzes and jewelry. This includes oil paintings, drawings, watercolors, gouaches, lithographs and etchings. I don’t remember exactly how many oils I did but its somewhere over 25 paintings in different eras. Each painting had to make sense so I wouldn’t put elements that he did in the 40’s and 50’s that he did in the 60’s and 70’s. This of course applies to drawings , watercolors and gouaches.

Dali, unlike Picasso didn’t catalog everything he did. This opened the door for emulating his art which is the only way I did his “original” one of a kind artwork. Dali often wrote about work that he did that I couldn’t find in any art books [ like the six exploding angels and I could only find a couple]. Another way was to take a drawing, watercolor, gouache and even etching he did and use that as the bases for an oil painting. I believe all his lithographs were originally oil paintings.[ I should mention here that I read some people believe Dali never did any lithographs and that all of them were photo mechanically produced by collotype or lithography printed by publishers then Dali would sign them or more common on “pre signed” paper that could be bought in blocks of 500 or 1000 sheets]

I would use Grumbacher or La France oils and mix with linseed oil and a “sicitive dryer” that allows the oil to dry more quickly. This is important because it takes 50 years for an oil painting to dry then “craqular” begins. Craqular is formed when the paint shrinks from evaporation of the oil. Actually “islands” are formed and the perimeter of each island is a crack. But even with the sicitive dryer it doesn’t dry completely but much better than without it.

I would sometimes use old canvases if I could find them and strip off the paint with commercial paint remover and then cover the canvas with a water based white gesso. More often I would use new stretcher bars and canvas that I purchased in Paris because they are European sizes and still made by dovetailing and glue and even the nails are the same as 40 or 50 years ago. European canvas and stretchers are not available anywhere in the U.S. Then I artificially aged it by bleaching the canvas and staining the stretcher bars with walnut stain. The bleach would damage or burn the fibers and dry it out and make it brittle. This is good because when a painting is new the canvas is very pliable as it ages it becomes more and more brittle.

On a painting that is older you can press your finger on the back of the canvas and feel the difference. At this point I would dilute raw umber until it had a watery consistency and soak the canvas and the stretcher bars. While I was working on the entire project I would smoke [Lucky Strikes] and put the butts in a 8 ounce glass of water less than half full and put the ashes in another empty 8 ounce glass. I would then cover the entire front of the painting with a less diluted mixer of raw umber to give a slight “patina” depending on what era the painting was completed. How dark the patina was depended on if I wanted to make look neglected or protected and how old it was. Often a painting is neglected by being in an environment that changes from hot and dry to cold and humid. It could be in direct sun light or not. A painting that’s been neglected will also have more craqular than one in a stable environment without direct sun light. I preferred a neglected look most of the time, it seemed more believable.

Now I would use a water based varnish and after It dried to the touch I would bake it in my oven at around 250 degrees for about an hour taking it out occasionally to make sure there was no damage. This would dry out everything, the paint, canvas and stretcher bars. Now I would cover the image with a clear oil based resin. This was never done by Dali or any artist for that matter because it dried so hard it could never be taken off for cleaning or restoration. It was so hard because I had to mix two catalysts together and a chemical reaction would happen. I purchased this in a craft store, old ladies would pour this into ready made molds to make knick knacks. Now there would be another chemical reaction between the water based varnish and the oil based resin. The varnish would crack only slightly. The cracking could be controlled by how much of the water based varnish and oil based resin was used. Thinner coatings produced less craqular. Dali’s generally don’t have craqular because most have been protected in a stable environment but not all of them. Just a touch of craqular seemed to add authenticity.

Because the resin was so hard it made it almost impossible to test the age of the paint although the chemical composition would be the same because Dali used the same oils, La France in Spain and grumbacher in New York. [Dali often spent the winter in New York] If while testing the painting it was found odd that the resin was used it could be explained that someone stupid varnished it because I don’t believe Dali Varnished his own paintings although I don’t know this for a fact. It also could have been varnished at a later time. Never the less the resin wouldn’t dismiss it as fake. Also paintings are rarely tested anyway.

Now I would bake it again when the resin is dry to the touch. This not only helps dry it but also binds the water based varnish and the resin together. Now I would again cover the image with diluted raw umber to fill in the tiny cracks then wipe it down so as not to have to much aging At this time I would take the cigarette butts out of the 8 ounce glass with chop sticks and smear the brown sludge all over the painting front and back including stretcher bars. This would make the patina just right because cigarette smoke is one reason paintings have patinas anyway. Then I would wet the back of the canvas with water and sprinkle on the cigarette ashes I’ve been collecting in the other 8 oz glass and smear it in.

I’ve notice that some old paintings have a gray brown look on the back of the canvas and the ashes soften the raw umber to give it gray tinge. I was at Sotheby’s Beverly Hills in the 70’s before it closed and noticed a man smell a painting. The cigarette smell would make sense. Then I baked it again. Lastly, I use ultra fine wet sand paper and wet sanded the image to scratch it slightly like it! was cleaned with house hold products by a maid or whoever for 40 or 50 years.

Finally I wet the nails [Dali used nails even after staples were used on canvases, also no master European artists used staples] and then salted them so they would rust. I did this after I was done because if I did it before the rust stain wouldn’t bleed around the nails and that gave it another touch of reality.

Now I’d like to mention that the British forgers John Drewe and John Myatt didn’t seem to care if a painting was ever inspected by an expert. The only reason I can think of why Myatt used house paint and K-Y jelly is because it would dry faster. This could have been done better using acrylic water based paints and a drying agent. Acrylic paints are just as vivid as oils and flow beautifully and have a broad range of colors equal to oils. Also Myatt would take a train to meet Drewe with “rolled up canvases” under his arm. So I would assume they didn’t use old or aged stretcher bars.

When a painting ages the stretchers age at the same rate and look like they belong together. I don’t understand why any modern painting would not be stretched. It could happen but why put up a flag. Also Drewe’s ex girl friend said she saw him in the garden rubbing dirt on a canvas to make it! look older. This seems not just amateur but worthless. And last why did Myatt put nails in a pail with salt water to rust them if the canvases were rolled up? If the canvases were not aged and you used rusted nails it would be like putting perfume on a pig, why bother?


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