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Label: fake

Friday 24th April 2015Spot the Fake Masterpiece

Social experiments are hardly anything new to the art world. Performance art, that often most conceptual of all art movements, is intrinsically based on social perceptions and the way we interact with the world around us. In the latest twist, though not exactly a performance art piece, an art gallery has been challenging its visitors to take a turn playing art authenticator and attempt to determine which is a true masterpiece and which is a fake. Dulwich Picture Gallery, which has Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 18th-century work Young Woman hanging on its walls, ordered a hand-painted copy of the piece from China for about £70, and asks visitors to take a guess at which is the original and which is relatively worthless.

Amusingly enough, it appears to be incredibly difficult for the average person to tell the difference. After three months worth of guesses by over 3000 visitors who attended the gallery during the experiment, a paltry 10% of guesses were correct. Whether this is more of a reflection on the caliber of visitors that the gallery gets, the skill of the Chinese artist who painted the fake, or simply the true difficulty of the task is unclear, but it provides an interesting commentary on the ability of the average person to appreciate true art.

Xavier Bray, the chief curator for the gallery, told MailOnline, "It made people look closely at a painting and discern what might be a replica and why. Ten per cent got it right, which means Britain as a nation is still a nation of connoisseurs, which is great. Unfortunately others got it wrong. A number of visitors presumed the imposter was a female portrait by Rubens, which had been restored 10 years ago, because it appeared brighter. But that was interesting as it allowed us to find out more about the way the public look at our paintings."

The entire exhibit was the brainchild of American artist Doug Fishbone, and is entitled Made in China. Bray raised some interesting points about the possible future of the fake painting, as well, and probably quite valid ones (although nothing so grand as if a more prominent gallery had pulled off the same experiment. "It will be very interesting to see what happens when the counterfeit leaves the gallery. Will it achieve significance and become a work of art? This is where the power of it being displayed in a temple of a museum could give it extra significance in the art world - that is also part of the experiment."

Posted on April 24th 2015 on 10:48pm
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