Archive for December, 2010

Art Fakes, real (Giacometti) and fictional (Donna Leon)

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Got bronze?

Evidently, a lot of people do.

Giacometti's Walking Man

Thane Peterson in the December 2010 issue of ARTnews writes about 1000 fake bronze sculptures supposedly made by Alberto Giacometti as well as furniture supposedly crafted by his brother Diego. The booty was found by German police in a warehouse in Mainz.  Estimated value:  somewhere in the hundreds of millions.  Five fraudsters (fraudsters is an actual word, although it sounds suspect) have been charged with selling the fakes.  But not manufacturing them.  The foundry or foundries which made them have not been discovered.  The case is on-going and sure to be complicated.

There is an interesting web site which advocates for bronze artists and lists forged bronzes, You can get a sense of the scope of bronze related theft.

Got plot?

Zillions.  Art theft and fraud make for great plots in mystery novels.

Venice's Acqua Alta

I recently read one of Donna Leon’s novels, Acqua Alta. The title refers to the tide waters which periodically rise inundating Venice with the sea. Leon’s careful descriptions of the rising water throughout the story provide the overall sense of ominous danger. Her story involves real treasures on loan to Venice from China which are duplicated and the replicas returned to China while the real art is kept in private collections. It’s a detective mystery with art the reason for murder.

Art mysteries, real and fictional, are making a lot of good reading now. I used art theft as a plot devise for my novel Artists&Thieves. My heroine steals not for money but to atone for an ancestor’s shame.  Some years ago I read Peter  Carey’s Theft which is so good, and Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel which is a chess game of investigation.  They were the tip of an iceberg for me which I hope doesn’t melt away any time soon.

It is easy to imagine the greed, lies, and schemes which infuse the art market and novels with faked art and murder. Not so easy to figure out why, in reality, we are duped on so many levels.