• gerard van weyenbergh

Forgery history, part 6/7

Like thefts, fakes are the obsession of amateurs. In both cases, they need to protect themselves or from themselves. But while it is possible to secure an apartment or house best to reduce the risk of a burglary, it is more difficult, even for a very discerning hobbyist, to escape the trap of forgery.

There is also a galore per minute across the world, which means that the illegal business of plagiarism is not about to be eradicated, especially as amateurs have the unfortunate tendency to feed on the dream of getting their hands on the rare item by purchasing it at the lowest price. Thus, the desire to make a big win causes to lower their guard when they come across what seems to them to be a treasure, which makes the exciting game of discovery often accompanied by disillusionment.

The discovery is one thing; the authentication of a find is much more complicated, especially since it most often leads to a negative or mixed verdict. A model of a statuette of Jean de Bologne made in Florence around 1600 had recently been auctioned at the incredible price of € 1.2 million in Drouot. An amateur who had found a similar copy 20 years ago contacted the expert in sales with the idea that it too would reach a significant price. Only then, the expert explained to him that his statuette had been produced 50 years later by the Gobelins workshop and that, in his opinion, it would not exceed € 50,000. All this to say, even if it is from the period, a sought-after sculpture is not necessarily worth the same price as another a priori similar, not to mention that the provenance can also play a decisive role in an auction.

The truth does not correspond to an absolute reality and can even turn into a fake, especially when an expert asserts that the piece submitted to him is plagiarism when it is in fact, genuine. The fake itself comes in all the sauces since it can be obvious, deceptive, confusing, undetectable at first glance, and subtle or become authentic by the grace of a certificate granted by a blind specialist or trapped by its perfection.

On the other hand, we know that artists have always copied the masters to train themselves. Still, we too often forget that they unconsciously plagiarized them - which they have always been reluctant to admit - by defining their style.

In the early 1950s, the art critic Clement Greenberg, one of the most influential art theorists of the twentieth century, had elevated several artists, including those of the expressionist-abstract movement or Kenneth Noland to the point that the future of art seemed to depend on his analysis.

He allowed himself to idealize Noland, whose works similar to archery targets imitated that of Robert Delaunay made in 1910. Greenberg also asserted that Barnett Newman owed nothing to Mondrian while the latter, in fact had strongly influenced him.

Greenberg also qualified Fautrier as an abstract painter, although the latter vehemently denied being so. Fautrier also remained for a long time ignored by gallery owners and amateurs. The day after a failed exhibition in 1955, he was led to write to Jean Paulhan: "You have always told me that very great painters never sell anything at the beginning. Well, be satisfied: in this exhibition, nothing was sold! "...

It was thanks to Tarica, a skilled carpet merchant who converted into a gallery owner, that Fautrier finally began to find buyers for his works. One day, the dealer showed him a dozen paintings by Poliakoff of which he was proud and was told by Fautrier that of all the post-Cubists, this one was probably the best, which in fact meant that there was a hell of a difference between "post" and "authentic".

Another day, Tarica accompanied an American client to Fautrier, who asked 1,000 francs for a painting. The American finding it too expensive, Fautrier then took six other identical paintings out of a cupboard and told him: "These are only worth ten francs a piece . "Astonished, the visitor tried to understand and Fautrier replied with a smirk: "Because my cleaning lady made these."

They were in fact the famous "Multiple Originals" but, confused, the American customer left without buying anything.

In New York, the works of Ben Shahn, Tworkov, Guston, Motherwell, Kline, Rothko or Newman that Tarica saw seemed to the latter little appreciable because of the inexistence of plastic break with the paintings which preceded them shortly. "I was amazed at the importance that this belated abstraction had so quickly taken on," he remarked.

So it took a persuasive speech and an appropriate "name" to admit what in his eyes seemed to be only the exuberance of the creations that had nourished the first thirty years of the twentieth century. Obviously, according to him, the abstract-expressionists had worked during a less good period, taking advantage of the influence of Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian. Their over-mediatized art had made him think of the statues of the great Roman Empire, suddenly disdained from the moment where they were compared to those "archaic" of the small Greek kingdom.

Faced with these works produced by abstract expressionists, Fautrier himself wondered how an artist could preserve the integrity of his "self" in a period when values ​​were sacrificed to fashion. Apparently, the success of Abstract Expressionism was being built on a sham, especially since Fautrier's works exhibited in New York were ignored and denigrated. It was almost the same in Paris where the Museum of Modern Art refused the donation of a painting by this painter on the pretext that it was not a painting, which led Tarica to think that having too soon reason was pointless.

In 1959, Fautrier was invited to the Venice Biennale at the despair of Gildo Caputo, then president of the French union of art dealers, who wanted to present Manessier but to whom the members of this union preferred Hartung. In the end, Fautrier shared the Grand Prix with him thanks to Tarica. The dealer thwarted a conspiracy of merchants against him by convincing the Polish juror to vote for the artist of German origin that the jury was made up of capitalists united against an artist who did not have a gallery owner to represent him.

Regarding Yves Klein, Tarica one day tried to get him a loan from millionaire Gunter Sachs. The latter accepted but during a lunch, he told him the story of the "Zones of immaterial pictorial sensitivity" relating to the notion of nothing. It was then that Sachs recanted and said, "What, you want to make me buy nothing ... I don't do the loan anymore." Like what, nothing in art is not nothing.

© Adrian Darmon