Seven masterpieces in six big museums have been swapped for fakes - but will you spot them?

By Culture24 Reporter | 04 July 2016

Could you tell a masterpiece from a copy in the midst of a massive gallery? Sky Arts has swapped six central works for copies

A photo of people looking at a masterpiece artwork as part of a Sky Arts television show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge
Giles Coren and Rose Balston, the presenters of a new Sky Arts show swapping fakes with copies in six UK institutions, in London's Guildhall Art Gallery© PA - Doug Peters
Few would dare to question the authenticity of some of the grandest masterpieces held in the nation’s collections. But seven stand-out works, in six galleries in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London and Manchester, are now known frauds – the jokers in the pack for a new art competition in which visitors who correctly spot the copies could end up in a television detective finale.

A photo of people looking at a masterpiece artwork as part of a Sky Arts television show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge
Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebru's Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante (circa 1792), at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool© Gareth Jones
Spotting these spin-offs, according to Sky Arts, whose executives have persuaded the galleries to hide their treasured original paintings, can be like identifying a person’s handwriting.

It’s all in the brushstrokes of each artist.

A photo of people looking at a masterpiece artwork as part of a Sky Arts television show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge
At the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, the fake will be hidden in a display on The Art of The Stuart Courts, including portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, James I and Charles II© Lisa Flemming
Equally, the colours might be out of place. The Pre-Raphaelites pervading Manchester Art Gallery, say, had a more limited palette to choose from.

Extraneous colours might betray the non-original temporarily hanging there.

A photo of people looking at a masterpiece artwork as part of a Sky Arts television show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge
Manchester Art Gallery’s popular display of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, with works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, will hide one dud masterpiece© Andrew Brooks
The paint type and finish could seem suspicious on the new copies.

Acrylic paints only became commercially available during the 1950s, so a modern imposter might not consist of the oil or tempera of an ancient work.

A photo of people looking at a masterpiece artwork as part of a Sky Arts television show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge
A copy has been made of a British Landscape at National Museum Cardiff, which holds master works by JMW Turner and Richard Wilson© National Museum of Wales
A final varnish application also often cracks or becomes discoloured over time. James Gemmill, the artist who created copies of 150 paintings from the Louvre for the 2006 film The Da Vinci Code, overpainted and glazed the works.

He even copied the craquelure and the wormholes in the frames.

A photo of people looking at a masterpiece artwork as part of a Sky Arts television show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge
At the Walker, the copy will be hidden amongst paintings of Animal and Sporting Art from the 18th and 19th centuries© Dave Jones
In 1496, Michelangelo is said to have sculpted a sleeping cupid, then buried his work to make it artificially age.

William Boyd and David Bowie created a biography and back catalogue for Nat Tate, an imagined artist. His works sold for thousands at Sotheby’s.

A photo of people looking at a masterpiece artwork as part of a Sky Arts television show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton and Duchess of Argyll (1760) - a masterpiece at the Lady Lever Art Gallery
Decades later, the auction house spotted a fake when it offered the same Gaugin artwork for sale as rivals Christie’s.

Ely Sakhai, a New York Art dealer who bought original paintings before commissioning a copy to be sold with the original papers and provenance, was found to have been the culprit.

  • Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge is being filmed until the end of August and will appear on Sky Arts next year. Visit skyartsfake.com to take part.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three more places to see master works

, Warwick
Featuring over 70 works from the collection of the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, the Picasso on Paper exhibition traces Picasso’s evolving artistic vision through four decades of experimentation in printmaking techniques and subject matter. October 15 – December 11 2016.

, Margate
Turner and Colour will explore the familiar outline of his life and art in a new way. Colour is the essence of JMW Turner’s work, and his distinctive, sometimes eccentric use of vibrant colour was central to his success as an artist. October 8 2016 – January 8 2017.


Figure studies and portraiture, illustration, preparatory sketches, landscape and topography by historic and contemporary artists including Augustus John, Graeme Sutherland, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Will Maclean, Thomas Gainsborough, Amelia Long, William Gillies and Ian Fleming feature in the current exhibition, Draw the Line: Old Masters to The Beano. Until October 23 2016.
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This seems like a take off on Doug Fishbone's project at the Dulwich Gallery
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