Written by Neha Sankhla
“Fakes trouble India’s booming art market.” – The Independent
Then a new practice is born, born with it is its parallel deluding world that is lucrative, dubious and notorious. Art forgery is one such pursuit that has been attempted by repudiated artists; art apprentices and striving artists in need of a quick buck; and even incorporates innocent young practitioners whose imitations of the old masters in art classes are sold illicitly as original works. However, such forgers are only a part of this colossal nexus. To trade the counterfeits in the art market, they pair with art dealers who with their nefarious skills assist them with forged provenance documents, collection stamps, archival photographs, authenticity certificates and most important- the accompanying story that alone could inveigle prospective buyers into buying fakes.
The counterfeit mechanism of forgers, on the other hand, has mounted various levels ever since its inception, even outwitting the forensic tests. From the yesteryears methods including Han Van Meegeren’s use of Bakelite to his paints or forgers copying the signatures of acclaimed artists, to the aid of technological advancement when digital images of the originals are printed on canvas and painted over, imitators have advanced in duping the gullible buyers with the aid of new technologies.
Experts, art aficionados and critics have laid out several critical points of precaution to rescue the buyers and tame the circulation of counterfeits. Within the parameters of a painting in question, one should compare it with the artist’s oeuvre to scrutinize the technique, elements of spontaneity and visual imagery. In some cases, the latter becomes the last resort when authenticating works of artists like Jamini Roy or Raja Ravi Verma who have replicated their own works making it impossible to number them. Sometimes it is also important to see the rear of a painting because firstly, it includes gallery stickers and stamps that lead to its origin and secondly, the canvas/paper could determine its ageing. Now coming to the accompanying documents of the painting, it’s important to review provenance documents which could help processing through its previous owners. Also, acquiring an authentication certificate from the artist who is still alive is necessary.
Forensic tests along with catalogue raisonné are great solution to art forgery that could authenticate a painting through latest scientific methods and could keep a record of an artist’s oeuvre respectively. Another significant tip is to buy artworks from galleries that represent the artist rather than falling prey to dubious antique shops or e-commerce platforms. Sometimes flexible prices could indicate about an artwork’s authenticity, as the main motive behind it is to make profit. Lastly, it is important to visit art exhibitions and reading catalogues to understand art rather than see it as a potential investment to avoid falling in the pitfalls of such frauds.