Tag Archives: fake

Fake WWI Paris

For looking at copies/fakes and deception

Link to Fake Paris video

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Of Fake, Fiction and Misreading

I started with what was the oldest recon choice and, ever since then, a big question mark has been hovering above the work – how does Piranesi remain relevant today and, most importantly, why through looking at the relationship between the fake and the fact?


Piranesi’s work is embedded with a degree of narrative, of movement, it almost scripts out the passing through space. Perhaps this comes from his set-design background and is certainly the reason why most of his readers are themselves fiction makers – from the literary, with Poe, to the cinematic, with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Bladerunner.


Piranesi’s forgeries, his unclassifiable fake antique artefacts, were the physical manifestation of paraphernalia that he populated his partially fictitious renderings of ancient Rome. He attempts a 1700s response to authentic documentation of his pathological obsession with excavation – one embedded with his own authorship and interpretation. Here, an inadvertent accident happens – today’s readers believe in the authenticity of the excavation etching, the factual accuracy of the plan. Thus, these fictitious moments of an imagined ancient Rome are misread as real, including for many, the fiction of Campo Marzio. The two later Carceri additions, finished at the same time as the Campo Marzio series, open towards an imagined ancient Rome. Piranesi almost anchors his Carceri by the means of these wormholes looking into a fictionalised version of a space – from fake temples to a fake St. Peters. In other words, we misread Piranesi’s fiction as real through forgeries.


In the case of Piranesi, it is the way that we read the project, through these forgeries, that accidentally builds a very material alternate fiction in our minds, much in the way that we purpousfuly read the Unbuilt projects of today. I’ll return for a second to the recon example timeline, which start with a very early Piranesi, almost immediately jump into the early 20th century and abruptly stop in the 1970. The reason for this abrupt stop rests, I believe, in the medium. In the past decade we have again started to read the Unbuilt through forgeries, much like we misread Piranesi’s body of work. We live in a world that functions on the copy-paste, a world in which we so often find ourselves asking “Is it real?”. Fakes create alternate fictions within our very lives every day, from boob jobs to CGI to fake architecture in China to photoshopped images that we are inundated with online. This cornucopia of fakes has made us both incredibly accepting of it but also more attune to the fake itself – we are aware that anything we see could be a fake. The way that the Unbuilt is represented today has become, consequently, almost the selling of a fiction through a series of constructed fake paraphernalia, much as I have been doing during my recon, with the artefacts that support the fiction of the excavation of the Carceri. The line that separates the photograph of the built from the render of the Unbuilt has dissolved to such a degree that it almost always requires a double-take. The weightlessness and immediateness of the fake appeal to the digital reader. The fictions of today’s Unbuilt require forged paraphernalia to support its existence.


We have almost come full cycle, from Piranesi’s 1700s to 2013. We started off with misreading Piranesi’s fiction as reality and arrived to the necessity of reading today’s unbuilt through a similar process, only this time on purpose. We have an inherit wish to believe, to emerge ourselves in these alternate realities of Unbuilt. Here lies the paradox of the digital reader – the more he is saturated with fakes, the more he wishes to believe in them.


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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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fake (adj.) 
: not true or real
: meant to look real or genuine but not real or genuine
fake (noun)
:  one that is not what it purports to be: as
:  a worthless imitation passed off as genuine
: impostor. charlatan
:  a simulated movement in a sports contest (as a pretended kick, pass, or jump or a quick movement in one direction before going in another) designed to deceive an opponentd :  a device or apparatus used by a magician to achieve the illusion of magic in a trick
fake (verb)
:  to alter, manipulate, or treat so as to give a spuriously genuine appearance to
: counterfeit, simulate, concoct
:  to deceive (an opponent) in a sports contest by means of a fake
: improvise
:  to engage in faking something : pretend — sometimes used with it <if you don’t have the answers, fake it>
:  to give a fake to an opponent

Attested in London criminal slang as adjective (1775), verb (1812), and noun (1851, of persons 1888), but probably older. A likely source is feague “to spruce up by artificial means,” from German fegen “polish, sweep,” also “to clear out, plunder” in colloquial use. “Much of our early thieves’ slang is Ger. or Du., and dates from the Thirty Years’ War” [Weekley]. Or it may be from Latin facere “to do.” Related: Faked; fakes; faking.

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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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“It’s pretty, but is it Art ?”

Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty, but is it Art ?”

The Conundrum of the Workshops, Rudyard Kipling

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Orson Wells and the Aliens

“The issue is not weather it is real or fake, but weather it is a good fake or a bad fake.”

Clifford Irving

From crop marks to crop circles. A word used with great frequency when discussing the fascinating world of forgery is hoax. Forgers themselves, when discovered, claim that their fakes were not a criminal enterprise, but a hoax .




Orson Wells considered himself a great prankster and illusionist. His (partially fake) documentary about art forgery, F for Fake, reveals his magician persona, his love for illusion.


As a young man, Wells was working as a radio host and performed one of the biggest hoaxes of the decade, by announcing an alien invasion, poison gas attacks and an imminent war with the invaders. The fake news reports alarmed all of New Jearsy, who, before widespread tv ownership, depended primarily on radio for news. When hearing the alarming reports, many residents abandoned the cities and hit for the hills.


The same hoax was repeated by a copy-cat host in Mexico, who was promptly arrested. Instead of heading to jail, young Orson headed to Hollywood, a city built on illusions and hoaxes, where the young illusionists did very well, directing Citizen Kane at only 26.


You may have recognised the alien hoaxes’ fiction in  Wells’s War of the Worlds, whose remake set we’ve recently seen on the plywood and foam sets at the Universal Studio tour, a fake of a set in themselves. It is very interesting to note that the poster of the original film features the mike as the alien itself, clutching Earth, a very unveiled reference to Wells’s hoax. The aliens are, in fact, called tripods, a commentary in itself about the illusion of the cinematic lens and the visual media that was both invading and mesmerising the world.

This raises the question of authenticity through medium – the news report, the article etc. vs. a work of fiction and how they are perceived by the public.


The above picture is a snapshot from Universal Studios which, I must say, when cropped, looks much more real than it did in real life, where both the context (the tram) and the material reality (the fakeness of the set) distorted the illusion. But the same reality, cropped and filtered through a lens, becomes a new reality, more real than the actual experience, of a plane crash.


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Where the Lying Kids Go


Looking at Piranesi’s foray into forging of Roman antiques, I delved into the life and work of forgers and discovered a truly fascinating world. It’s worth the read, these people were incredible – the last two I’ve written about are movie material hands down.

Art forgery dates back over a thousand years, when Roman sculptors, in order to indulge the growing taste in Roman art, would copy or replicate Greek statues and sell them as originals.

In the Renaissance, many artists took on apprentices who would learn the trade by imitating the style of the master of the studio. In turn, the artist would sell the apprentices’ works as their own.

With the rise of the middle class, an art market was created to meet the demands of the new consumer. Starting with the 1300s, when Roman statues were unearthed, the taste for antiquities grew and so did the number of fakes on the market. In the early history of art forgery, most fakes were of ancient sculptures, but, when the value of a work of art became linked to its author, the trend soon spread to more modern artists. In a way, what we truly know as forgeries began in the 16th century, when artists started the habit of signing their work. A forgery is not only an imitation of style but an appropriation of an identity.

Durer marked one of his prints with the inscription “Be cursed, plunderers and imitators of the work and talent of others”, such was his annoyance for the multitude of forgeries of his work on the market. Other artists recognized the paradox of the forgery and embraced it, to a certain extent. Picasso famously declared that he would sign any fake that he would judge good enough to be his original, while Jean Corot, in addition to his around 700 original works, flooded the market with thousands of copies he personally signed.

But the central figure in the forgery process is not the imitated but the imitator. Some of the most famous (and then perhaps not some of the best, since what is the greatest accomplishment of a forger if not to go undetected) had immensely interesting lives and personas.



A little known anecdote about Michelangelo’s beginnings is his attempt to sell a fake Roman Sleeping Eros statue, which would have sold for a much higher price than if he had accepted it as his own.   The young Michelangelo damaged his finished sculpture and buried it in his dealer’s yard where he “found” it and later sold it.



John Myatt and Stephen Fry with the Fry as Pope Velasquez

John Myatt (b.1945), together with his dealer, faked a paper trail for his forgeries of Chagall and Giacometti, which they inserted in real archives where they could later be “discovered” in order to prove the authenticity of the works. Myatt admits to have released around 200 fakes and their documents onto the market, but only 60 have been found, which leave 140 works undetected. Myatt was recently released from prison and is working with a team of investigators to track down other forgeries (although not his own). He is currently talking to George Clooney about an upcoming biopic.


Thomas Patrick Keating (March 1, 1917 – February 12, 1984)

Tom Keating (1917 – 1984) was a prolific forger who produced almost 2000 fakes, which, when caught, he refused to name. Keating stated that he produced the forgeries as a rebellion against the art trade and left time bombs and clues within the fakes themselves. For instance he would paint text in white led paint under the painting, text that he knew would be revealed under x-rays. He used modern materials and techniques and painted in a manner very much his own – Titian-inspired Venetian approach to applying oil paints, fine tuned along Dutch lines. Another trap he hid in his paintings was applying a layer of glycerin under the oil paint. When the painted surface would need to be cleaned, the entire layer of oil would dissolve, ruining the work which would then be revealed as a fake. He never listed his forgeries when apprehended in 1977. After serving his prison sentence, he starred on a channel 4 tv series in which he taught viewers how to pain like the old masters. His health deteriorated quickly due to years of inhaling the fumes of the trade – ammonia, turpentine and methyl alcohol. His work has become increasingly valuable, now selling for 10 000 – 20 000 pounds.



Shaun Greenhalgh (b. 1961) is an incredibly diverse forger – he has faked works ranging from 20th century British sculpture to an Egyptian statue purportedly from 1350 B.C., fooling Christie’s, Sotheby’s and The British Museum, as well as other illustrious victims. The Greenhalghs were caught when a British Museum expert noted that Assyrian sculptural relief tablets, supposedly created in Mesopotamia in 700 B.C., contained misspellings in cuneiform. He was convicted in 2008, alongside his octogenarian parents, pictured above.



Tony Tetro (b. 1950) is a very prolific forger whose perfect reproductions earned him the title “genius” in the press. Tetro became successful and wealthy, owning a tri-level condominium, a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit, two Ferraris and a Lamborghini Countach.He gambled in Monte Carlo and frequently traveled to Paris and Rome. With no visible source of income, local police and residents assumed he was a drug dealer and his car was frequently searched. After his arrest, which bankrupted him, part of his sentence included 200 hours of community service in which he was ordered to paint a mural on a public building, one of his only original works.



Yves Chaudron was a French master art forger who is alleged to have copied images of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as part of Eduardo de Valfierno’s famous 1911 Mona Lisa painting theft. After the painting was stolen, the plan was that the original would remain hidden and six copies by Chaudron would be sold secretly to collectors as the original. Chaudron was never charged since the details were only discovered after his death.



Elmyr de Hory (1905 – 1976?) not only faked numerous paintings, but attempted to fake the very reality of his life. He reached fame by being the main figure in Orson Wells’s documentary, F for Fake, and the book Fake by Cliffor Irving. Born in Hungary at a time of great social upheaval, he lies about both his Jewish origins and his sexual preferences in order to avoid jail. He studies in Paris under Fernand Leger and becomes accustomed to a very extravagant lifestyle. He returns to Hungary and becomes involved with a British spy, which lands him in a Transylvanian prison, from which he escapes by painting the warden’s portrait. Shortly, he is imprisoned again, this time in a German concentration camp but escapes from the prison hospital and bribes his way into France. It is in France that he start making forgeries when he is unable to sell his own work. He mainly copied Picasso and Matisse.

He moves to Miami in 1950 and, after selling several forgeries to a Chicago art dealer, is charged with fraud. He quickly flees to Mexico where he is again arrested(!) but this time for suspected murder of his British lover. He pays his legal fees with a forgery and flees back to the US where due to being known as a forger by dealers, was forced to sell lithographs door-to-door. He suffers from depression and attempts suicide by sleeping pills.

He soon becomes involved with a young man named Fernand Legros who becomes his lover and his dealer. Legros sells de Hory’s works and keeps most of the profits, lying to  Elmyr. Legros later meets Real Lessard, with whom he cheats on de Hory, both personally and professionally. Legros convinces de Hory to move to Ibiza, sending him a monthly allowance of 400 dollars, while he and Lessard remained in the States and sold forgeries. The paintings’ quality begins to suffer as de Hory sinks deeper into depression and dealers report Legros and Lessard to the authorities. The two are caught and charged with fraud, but de Hory evades the accusations by claiming that he never signed the fakes, but that Legros did. Without proof of faking a signature, he cannot be tried for forgery but is instead imprisoned for two months for homosexuality.

After his release, he achieves somewhat of a celebrity status and is interviewed by Clifford Irving who writes his biography, “Fake!”. Irving himself becomes a literary forger by writing a fake auto-biography of Howard Hughes. In 1976, his live-in boyfriend and bodyguard finds him dying from a self-administered sleeping pill overdose. De Hory soon dies but there are many who claim, including Irving, that he had ultimately faked his own death and in order to avert the authorities yet again.

Elmyr de Hory’s real name is suspected to be Elemér Albert Hoffmann.



Han van Meegeren painting a fake during his trial in order to prove his prowess

Han Van Meegeren (1889 – 1947) is probably the most well know forger of the 20th century. He studies architecture in Delft and is highly appreciated as a student but drops out since he doesn’t want to become an architect. While still in school he designs and builds a boathouse for the Rowing Club DDS. He then studies art in the Hague and is awarded a gold medal for the best project in five years. After graduating, he takes on a teaching position. To support his family, he also sells Christmas cards and portraits.

He becomes relatively well known for his signed work, mainly portraits of American millionaires rendered in Dutch Golden age style, and drawing of deer. His very old-school style is sneered at by Dutch contemporaries as “a gifted technician who has made a sort of composite facsimile of the Renaissance school; he has every virtue except originality.” In order to prove his critics wrong, he sets out to create a work of art so magnificent that it would rival the works of master painters. He moves to the south of France where, for six years, he dedicates his life to developing the perfect forgery. He exercise by copying the styles of  Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Vermeer, settling on Vermeer as “author” of his masterpiece. He studies his life, work and technique. He mixes his own pigments from raw materials and paints on genuine 17th century canvases with badger hair brushes that he makes himself. He glazes his paintings with Bakelite and bakes them in order to harden and crack their surface so that they appear 300 years old. He then ages them by filling the cracks with India ink. He finishes several trial Vermeers, which he does not sell. The firs forgery he sells is Supper at Emmaus, which is praised very highly after being declared a lost Vermeer. With the proceedings, he buys a 12-bedroom villa in Niece which he fills with real Old Masters. His forgeries sell for around 25-30 million dollars (in today’s prices) and he leads a very lavish lifestyle.

In 1942, during the German occupation, his dealer sells a forgery to Alois Miedl, a Nazi banker. The painting was not one of van Meegeren’s best since his health had been declining (he was addicted to morphine) but since all Vermeers were in salt mines to be safeguarded during war, a comparison could not be made and Miedl’s purchase is deemed genuine. Miedl sells the painting to Reichsmarchall Herman Göring who stores it in a salt mine. When allied forces storm the mine, the “Vermeer” is unearthed. The painting is traced back to Meegeren who is arrested not for forgery but, more gravely, for treason for consorting the enemy and selling the cultural heritage of the Nederlands. After three days in prison and facing a death sentence Meegeren tells the authorities that the painting is not a real Vermeer but a forgery. The forgery is so good that he must prove this statement by painting another fake during trial, in front of the jury. During a lenghtly process, a large team of experts analyzed the painting and declared it a fake. Ultimately, he is only charged with fraud (a one year sentence) and his posessions are sold (although he had divorced his wife Jo and moved all money and property to her name just before trial in order to prevent loosing his estate). He dies on the day of his sentencing of a heart attack.

He becomes famous and the forger becomes forged himself, the market being full of fake Meegern fakes. His most famous forger is his own son.

With such prolific forging careers, it is no wonder that art historian Thomas Hoving estimates that various types of forged art comprise up to 40% of the art market. Contemporary artists, in order to prevent forgery, now start signing their works using magnetic inks, like those used on banknotes, making artworks virtually impossible to fake. I find this paradoxical since the the very nature of erasure that contemporary art has been through makes forgery both very easy but also not challenging to forgers, who see what they do not merely as imitation but as an artistic expression in its own right.

Some references:

F for Fake by Orson Wells 1973

Fake! by Clifford Irving, 1969

The Art Forger’s Handbook, by Eric Hebborn

Museum of Art fakes, Vienna

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The real, the fake and the hyper real

Progress update on the island map.

Map 1. Crab Key: a fictional island invented by Ian Fleming to be the secret location for Dr. No’s Evil Lair.

Map 2. Zoom in to the “bermuda triangle of film realities” (Help! good name needed!) – where the reality of the real site (jamaica) intersects with the fake site (pinewood studios) and the hyper real site(or hyper fiction? still dont know) of my head.

There will be bridges in between these realities. but i will draw them after i drew all the sets and i understand the overlaps and the surreal.

Map 3 (and up) : zoomed in maps of the fake, the real and the hyper real

Possible overlay of these maps ( ref. to moving arrow s)

Other maps to build a world map of evil architecture:

Map A. Plan Voising, Corbusier

(list in need of research. suggestions of evil architecture accepted.)


That ‘s all for now.

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