Could you tell a masterpiece from a copy in the midst of a massive gallery? Sky Arts has swapped six central works for copies
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.
© PA - Doug Peters
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.
© Gareth Jones
It’s all in the brushstrokes of each artist.
Equally, the colours might be out of place. The Pre-Raphaelites pervading Manchester Art Gallery, say, had a more limited palette to choose from.
© Lisa Flemming
Extraneous colours might betray the non-original temporarily hanging there.
The paint type and finish could seem suspicious on the new copies.
© Andrew Brooks
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 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.
© National Museum of Wales
He even copied the craquelure and the wormholes in the frames.
In 1496, Michelangelo is said to have sculpted a sleeping cupid, then buried his work to make it artificially age.
© Dave Jones
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.
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.
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Three more places to see master works
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.
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.