Art of faking art

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Painting by MF Hussain

“Simply train a pair of hands in understanding how a said artist worked, and the returns can be exponential”, says Arvind Vijaymohan, chief executive officer of Artery India. As Indian art world blossoms to new heights of popularity, similar is the scenario in the market of ‘fakes’. It definitely slows down the trade in art and leaves collectors as victims. One of the very reasons for this exponential growth in the art market is due to the price rise that an art piece is demanding in the market.

In a statement quoted in the Hindustan Times, Harsh Goenka Chairman of RPG Enterprises states that two months ago, a dealer referred a Manjit Bawa painting for sale to him and it looked great with the right size and had the right tonality but the price seemed too good to be true. After he ran the painting past two art experts, he found it to be a ‘fake’. Similar was the case when he was offered an artwork of MF Hussain by a Mumbai dealer.

Krishna with Flute (1997) | Manjit Bawa

Goenka is not the only tycoon to have been targeted by fraudulent art dealers. “We were once offered a set of watercolours by a renowned painter,” says Ajay Piramal, Chairman of the Piramal Group, and a well-known art collector. “We were given a convincing provenance. It was gifted by the artist to a long-time friend of his and even had a handwritten letter behind one of the paintings.” However, when research on works from this series was done, it was found that the exact same painting existed as prints that were made many years ago and these were copies of those prints.”

Man and Woman (1954) | F N Souza

Dinesh Vazirani who runs the auction house SaffronArt says that FN Souza, SH Raza, Jagdish Swaminathan, VS Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta and MF Hussain are the most faked artist and to the list he adds the name of reputed Bengali master Jamini Roy whose works are now all over the place.

Manasa (The Snake Godddess) | Jamini Roy

So here the question arises, is the law not strong enough to deter forgeries? Lawyer Roshnek Dhalla says that the law for this field is limited because of the lack of awareness about provenance in Indian art market. “One of the primary causes driving the rising instances of art forgery is the lack of transparency and awareness”.

To safeguard oneself from the ‘Art of Faking Art’ is to buy from an established gallery or auction house where there is some recourse. “Watch out for deals on big names. If it seems too good to be true, then it’s not authentic,” says Vazirani.

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