Fakes & Phonies

Lat night I watched an interesting movie on Netflix called Made You Look, about a string of art forgeries sold for unbelievable sums of money from the late 1980s till 2018.

Actually, I have only one quibble with the show, in that it should have been entitled Made You Look Foolish — because not only were art collectors taken in by the fakes, but art authenticators, catalog printers, auction houses and of course, art dealers (who are to the art business what agents and managers are to the music world — i.e. a bunch of venal rogues, thieves and manipulators).

Spoiler alert (although anyone with a brain could see this coming):  when works of art sell for bajillions of dollars, the incentive for forgery increases exponentially.  In the case above, all the forgeries were created by one man — some little old Chinese (quelle surprise ) artist living in Long Island NY — who had a real talent for painting in the style of most of the American abstract artists of the 20th century.  He handed them over to a guy who faked the paintings’ condition (so they’d look as though they were painted in the 1950s, say, instead of 1986).  Then the paintings were given to a shady art dealer with absolutely no history of art dealing (!!!!!) who then told a gullible art dealer in (where else?) Manhattan that the paintings came from an anonymous collector of unknown name and no history (!!!!) — and then the fun ensued, when the dealer purchased a painting by Jackson Pollock for, say, $950,000 (!!!!) who then turned around and sold it to some rich asshole for… $9.1 million (!!!!!!!!).

What astonished me is that this didn’t happen back in the 18th century, when nobody knew nothin’ about art authentication;  no, this happened during a time when a paint’s age (and even the age of the canvas) could be determined by chemical- or spectrographic analysis.  Even when this was done and the forgery exposed, nobody did anything, because there were so many reputations at stake:  those of the collectors, of the art dealers, of the art critics, and so on.  Nobody likes to look a fool, but untold hundreds of people were.

I’m going to make one statement here that was never mentioned in the movie.  Frankly, the abstract style of art is such that I’m amazed that there haven’t been millions of forgeries, all done in middle-school art classes.  Think I’m joking?  Take a look:

(Longtime Readers will know of my utter loathing for Pollock’s art, for all sorts of aesthetic reasons, but the others are no less awful.)

Never mind the sneers you get when you say that your 4-year-old granddaughter could paint a Rothko;  maybe she can, and maybe she can’t — but a 70-year-old Chinese artist of no particular artistic merit could, and did:  fooling all the above pretentious assholes into going into raptures about this kind of dreck, and paying lots of moolah for it.

By the way, I have no problem with people owning copies — even great copies — of masterpieces.  I happen to have a dozen or so scattered around my house myself.  Here are some, for example:  Monet’s Blue House At Zaandam :

…Winslow Homer’s A Wall, Nassau :

…and Childe Hassam’s Lower Fifth Avenue :

The big — giant — difference between me and those rich suckers is that I paid about $80 (eighty) each for my copies (including shipping), and I cheerfully admit that they’re not originals.  (They come from iCanvas.com, by the way, and they’re created by machines using acrylic paints which look so like the original oils that it makes little difference.)

They’re also Impressionist paintings (none of that abstract splashing and daubing for me, no thank you).

I have to tell you that even if I won a huge lottery, there is no way I would ever pay millions for an original, no matter how much I may love the artist.

Especially when the “original” may turn out to be a fake, painted by a little old Chinese guy in Long Island.

Now And Then

Sometimes, I wonder why we bother trying to create any new art at all, when it’s not only been done, but been done better.  In my wanderings along the Intertubes, I happened upon this little Art Deco piece:

It’s called The Swing, and was painted in the 1920s by Georges Barbier.

Alert Readers may recall that there’s been another artwork on the same topic (and title) featured on these pages, to whit, the one painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard back in 1767:

Sorry, but I prefer the rococo playfulness of the later over the spartan coldness of the former — and I love Art Deco, generally speaking.  (For those interested, I talked about the Fragonard piece here — note the post date.)

That’s not to say that Barbier is a bad artist, of course.  Note La Jambe  (“The Leg”), for instance:

I’m not generally into sketches, but I’d have that one on my wall in a heartbeat.  And his Le Grand Décolletage  (“The Backless Dress”) is absolutely brilliant (and the man’s expression is priceless):

See what I mean about Now And Then?  That “fashion” is very popular nowadays with celebrities;  but they did it back then too, and better withal.

The Midi

Everyone owes it to themselves to visit the South of France, especially the Provence and Louberon areas.  There’s something different about the place, and not just the architecture and scenery:  even the light is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been.  When you see artwork as painted by Cezanne and Van Gogh, you look at the light and think that the golden tint that diffuses the scenery is unrealistic or even fake, but it isn’t — it really does look like that.  (It’s best visited in summer, by the way:  winter has a different light altogether, as I discovered when I toured the area with Longtime Friend Knob a couple years back.)

Anyway, all that is to introduce an artist I’ve never seen before (introduced to me by New Wife, by the way), who apparently specializes in painting scenes from the Midi:  Laurent Parcelier is his name, and here’s an example:

Painting Artist Laurent Parcelier at WOoArts

This one serves as the wallpaper on my laptop as we speak.

Here’s another:

Painting Artist Laurent Parcelier at WOoArts

Yes, that’s exactly what the sunlight looks like in Provence — I’ve seen several places that could be carbon copies of the above.

You can find some of Parcelier’s other works over here.  Unusually (for me), I like just about every single one of them.

Enjoy browsing.  And the website, WOoarts.com, has some other interesting artists as well.

Friday Night Music: The National River, And A Bat

For those who don’t know the music I’ll be talking about here, a brief exposition.

The Moldau (Vlatan) River is regarded as the Czechs’ national river.  Read about it here, then listen to the music here (not the one embedded in the article).

The young conductor, Nejc Bečan, is one I’ve never heard before, but his direction of the orchestra is absolutely stunning, and the rendition of Bedrich Smetana’s Vlatan is the best I’ve ever heard.  It’s about a 15-minute piece, and it’ll make your evening.

Switching gears, here’s an old favorite, Strauss’s overture of Die Fledermaus.  But instead of an energetic young conductor, we have the old maestro Georges Pretre, and instead of a young orchestra, we have a performance from the seasoned pros of the Vienna Philharmonic.  It is probably my favorite rendition, and I’ve heard plenty.  It lasts about ten minutes.

Take, therefore, less than half an hour from your hectic routine, sit back, and enjoy.

Oh, And By The Way: Fuck You

If anything can bring on a RCOB Moment, bullshit like this would be in the Top 3:

NPR Advises Readers to ’Decolonize” Their Bookshelves by Removing White Authors

If I did that, all I’d be left with are books by Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.  Just so we’re clear on what’s being discussed here:

Since that pic was taken, quite a few have since been passed out to the Ungrateful Wretched Children (e.g. the Great Books collection on the right, snatched up by the Son&Heir, and on the top right, the Classic Novels, appropriated by Daughter).

If those motherfucking Commies at NPR think I’m going to “decolonize” my book collection to rid myself of “the colonialist ideas of narrative, storytelling, and literature”, I have news for them.  What they call “colonialist”, I call “classical” — they can’t just change the language to fit their little politically-correct narrative.

Well actually, they can — I just don’t have to go along with it.  And I won’t.

Here’s a thought.  If we’re going to get all purge-y and such, let’s not fuck around with bookcases.  Let’s get serious:

Pub Culture

Tom Utley (one of my all-time favorite columnists) waxes rhapsodical about the revival of pubs in Britishland:

This week’s cheering news is that after years of precipitous decline, the number of pubs and bars opening in the UK has outstripped closures by 320 in 2019. So says an analysis of labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Indeed, as I may have written before, my idea of heaven on Earth is an English village pub — ideally at least a couple of centuries old, with a thatched roof and a low ceiling supported by gnarled oak beams. On winter evenings, there should be a blazing log fire to greet us (sorry, Greta Thunberg) and a labrador stretched out on the hearth (‘just taking the dog for a walk, dear’).
On summer afternoons, there will be trestle tables out at the front, from which customers can watch the cricket on the village green or just listen to the drone of the bees in the roses above the door.

Of all the things I miss about being in the UK (and one of the very  few things I miss about living in South Africa) would be the weekly evening visit to the pub and / or the daily lunchtime visit thereto during the work week.  Lest anyone has forgotten, this was my “local” when I was variously staying with Mr. Free Market and The Englishman:

I desperately want to have a “local” Over Here, but we don’t have a pub culture:  ours is more a “get wasted after work” culture (not that this is altogether a Bad Thing, of course, but people don’t generally cluster around the pub (okay, bar) around these parts as a social venue).  The closest I’ve found is the Londoner in Addison, and it’s not close at all — a 20-minute drive away, assuming no traffic.

There is the Holy Grail a few steps from my apartment, which has excellent food but a somewhat patchy collection of ales — from week to week, they’re likely to be out of whatever I had the previous  week, which gets old very quickly — and as the website pics will show, it’s too damn big and very noisy.  (Aside:  why are  Americans so loud?  Is it because they have to shout to be heard above the earsplitting music/game on the TV?  Never mind:  that’s a rant passim.)

One thing, though, about Utley’s article:

It is run not by an ever-changing cast of managers on their way up the career ladder but by permanent fixtures in the community — landlords and landladies who have lived on the premises for years, know all the local gossip and are ready with their regulars’ preferred tipples, without having to be told (‘The usual, Tom?’).

Yeah, but that’s also a double-edged sword.  While an independent innkeeper can occasionally be persuaded to whip up a makeshift plate of sandwiches outside regular food-service hours, he could also be a cantankerous old fart, as per this story of Mr. Free Market, who arrived at his local one afternoon with a crowd of business friends and associates, and begged that the pub be opened to accommodate over fifty thirsty customers, to be met with the withering response:  “Fuck off;  I’m watching Corrie!” (Coronation Street).  Not yer model of customer service, innit?  And as the owner, he wasn’t going to get fired, either.

So there ya go.

All that said, I miss having a real local — but a place “where everybody knows your name” seems to have become a figment of TV fiction, hasn’t it?

I envy Tom Utley.