Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Fakes, Forgeries and Wishful Thinking

Since everyone is a little obsessed with the Gold Elephant at the moment, let’s have another general discussion about fakes and forgeries in the hobby.

The next time you have the opportunity to go to an art museum, keep this thought in mind: at least a handful of the things you’ll be looking at are fakes or forgeries:


It’s not necessarily the consequence of lazy or sloppy research: there are some really good forgers out there, and sometimes the allure of having a work by an important artist will override any questions that may arise about stylistic anachronisms or (most often) provenance.

Usually what happens after an item is determined to be a forgery, it’s either quietly taken out of public display, or – if the piece is itself quite old and of some merit in and of itself – reattributed to the artist who actually created it, if known.

Like the notorious Han van Meegeren, who made a fortune faking Vermeers – works by the 17th century Dutch artist, not the recent Premier Club release Friesian.

It would not surprise me if I have some fakes in my Breyer collection: you buy few thousand models in your lifetime, you’re going to end up with at least a handful of questionable ones. (I can think of two, in particular, that I am a bit fuzzy about.)

We have some very talented forgers in the hobby too.

And many not so talented; I’m always so surprised when I see things that are very obvious fakes go for significant sums on eBay.

Many of these pieces eventually go the way of more upscale art pieces and are either never seen again, or are correctly attributed – and sometimes collected in their own right, much like Hong Kong Knock-Offs.

The only problem with the pieces that disappear from public view is that often the rest of the hobby doesn’t get the memo – or learn the lesson.

Then there are some fakes or forgeries that persist because of wishful thinking: we’d all like to believe that we’ve found something wonderful, magical and rare, even when evidence points to the contrary.

Some of the most uncomfortable conversations I’ve had with other hobbyists have been when someone is looking for validation of a purchase, and I can’t give it to them. Some people accept the opinion and move on, sometimes after getting confirmation from others.

(No biggie: I am sometimes wrong.)

And others won’t stop until they find the opinion they are looking for. Everybody in the hobby has an opinion on just about anything, so chances are they’ll eventually find it.


timaru star ii said...

Very true. I'm suddenly remembering that I put Indian Pony warpaint markings on a buckskin Action Stock Foal to match its mother... and they were perfect-!

Suzanne said...

Ha, I put war paint on my Stud Spider. I peeled it off eventually, it was a very rubbery cheap acrylic.

I don't have any fakes, my collection is quite common. I wish I'd been able to commission one of those factory style horses from BHR, back in the day...I remember something about the horses having the initials engraved on their bellies "to prevent them being used for evil purposes"!