The Art of Copying may(be) save us
Hello everyone, hope your holidays were amazing! You may be upset with my statement but I really can’t wait for Autumn to come. I think summer got me crazy as I feel I’ve been living in a sort of surrealist painting and right now I need to come back to reality. That’s why I’m trying to have that radical chic detox from instagram (and toxic people, but those are so deep-seated ugh).
Somebody says Summer is an interlude, an unreal parenthesis, not sure I agree but I firmly think Summer drives everyone crazy. As a proof: a gentle businessman while flying from Zurich to Ibiza (good vacation spot -let us face it) put in his luggage a Picasso sketch dated 1966, Trois Personagge to be accurate. In order to save his face, when stopped at the customs clearance he affirmed the painting to be a fake. That made me think. Overlooking the dumbness of someone who both admits this and then keeps the $450,000 receipt in the same suitcase, I thought “2022: call it a fake will save you”
We learn that fake is something not so admirable, not valuable as it’s a copy or counterfeited but (broadly speaking) we often can’t recognize it from the original (especially in contemporary art as it is made of “sketches which could be done by a kid” someone would say)
That is what happened to Knoedler & Company, an old New York auction house which had been selling fake paintings from 1994 to 2011 claiming them to be signed by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and others big names in the contemporary art market.
A deep and unsolvable debate takes form from this event: since we’re unable to recognize a real from a copy, and we are moved by the copy, is the fake a fake? An old master used to say that “copying is learning” and basically considering the art world from ancient to modern one, it’s true as you need to retrive technique and rules from the Masters. When it comes to contemporary art the concept of copying changes as the painting technique itself is soaked by the artist’s own experience and feelings. Copying a contemporary artwork would be stealing someone's soul - to be poetic.
Knoedler & Company director, Ann Freedman, claimed to get emotional in front of the fake paintings she sold for an amount of 70 billions dollars (well, of course she did, she was being accused of fraud). But the point is: not knowing sometimes is the only way to act natural, as a kid.
Or, opposite: we get influenced by knowing something has been made by someone without considering its true essence and quality.
Too many captiousnesses for a Monday, I must admit.
Hence I just suggest you watch Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art on Netflix, a docufilm based on the Knoedler & Company scandal. May we learn how to rebuild a career after the whole world knows we have deceived ten of the wealthiest players of our business; or how to fool such a self-confident world.