What is Art Forgery?

Yves Chaudron faked 6 copies of the Mona Lisa, selling them for $330,000 each.  Editorial credit: muratart / Shutterstock.com
Yves Chaudron faked 6 copies of the Mona Lisa, selling them for $330,000 each. Editorial credit: muratart / Shutterstock.com

Art forgery is the act of making, using and selling fake art (not original work from someone else). Since time immemorial, art has been one of the most lucrative businesses across the globe. Many have taken advantage of the situation by copying artwork from others to benefit from it. Nevertheless, advanced technology has made it easier to know what is fake and what is original in the world of art. Art forgery dates back to about 2000 years ago when the Romans made copies from the Greek arts.

Art Forgery

To date, approximately 20% of all artwork is fake. Three known types of forgers include the one who creates the phony piece, the one who discovers a piece of art and tries to change its meaning to increase its price value, and the one who sells a fake copy in a way suggesting it's original art. Two methods have since been used to detect art forgery, digital authentication and forensic authentication.

The Most Ill-Famed Art Forgers in History

Throughout history, many art forgeries have occurred. Michelangelo copied a Roman sculpture by creating a piece of art depicting Eros sleeping in 1496. A German named Reinhold Vasters was a goldsmith. He was a contractor to Franz Bock and spent time reproducing various designs. In 1970 (60 years after his death) his forgery was discovered. Elmyr de Hory was also one of the most infamous forgers of all time. He made over 1000 fake pieces. Wolfgang Beltracchi was named the "Forger of the century" after he made countless of fake pieces (about 1000-1300). He was arrested in 2010 and jailed in 2011 but released two years later. Yves Chaudron faked Mona Lisa's art in 1911. He made six copies and sold it to Americans at the cost of $330,000 each. John Myatt was accused of committing the "biggest art fraud of the twentieth century" after he faked more than 200 artworks with the assistance of John Drewe. He served a jail term for four months in 1998.

Some Recent Forgeries

An incident happened at Uzbek State Art Museum where pieces of art that were deemed original were fake. They were copies made by Alexander Nikolaevich and Victor Ufimtsev. Lee Ufan, a South Korean art star, made about thirteen counterfeit artworks. A $250 million heist was committed in Ankara (Turkey's art and sculpture museum) from 2005-2009. Some workers in the hall stole about 300 copies of original work and made fake copies. The case was fortunately solved in 2014.


More in Society