The issue of fakes is alluring headline fodder: what is it that is so compelling about forged artworks? Once could say it places greater emphasis on what makes the real deal a genuine article; though the limelight tends to fall on the fake works themselves, obscuring the original talent which it so brazenly tramples over. It challenges what we decide to call the canon. We, so eager to discover a new work, and aware that occasionally artists had off-days, give dubious pieces the benefit of the doubt. In turn, not only the buyer, the general market, but art history itself, is compromised by a false admission to circulation. Much attention has been afforded German ‘superstar’ faker Wolfgang Beltracchi, with excessive media attention focusing on the sheer depth and breadth of his deception. It is compelling viewing as Bertracchi remains arrogantly defiant, calling himself an artist and forger: terms that are oxymoronic. It is depressing that he enjoys almost mythical status; for he is an enormous contributor amongst innumerable, uncountable instances of dishonesty which threaten the integrity of art trading.
It is extremely worrying, then, that the announcement of Vincent Fremont as CEO for ARTnews Ltd. has gone relatively unchecked, despite some extremely alarming trading allegations committed during his tenure as exclusive agent for the Warhol Foundation (1990-2010), eventually admitting guilt after a good decade of some healthy commission bonuses from sales of dodgy Warhols. Unchecked, because ARTnews Ltd owns ARTnews, Art in America, The Magazine Antiques, and Modern: this censorship at once compromises the very purpose of journalism and publishing. It’s interesting that ARTnews Ltd. itself is owned by Peter Brant, himself a major Warhol collector. Is this an ingenious move to hush embarrassment and red faces of duped buyers all round? It seems an awfully rash decision if so. But then the monied elite move in strange ways.
Also escaping due comeuppance is Ann Freedman, who has settled legal dispute out of court a day before she was due to stand over her alleged role in the sale of a fake Rothko to collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole. Sold for $8.5m, the De Soles were seeking $25m in damages: we do not know the eventual payout made, but that the compensatory amount requested justly reflects the severity of what happens when one decides to turn a blind eye to more rigorous checking of provenance. Once again, greed is proven an extremely dangerous trait.