(CNN) – With the price of fine art doubling in the last decade, the art market offers rich pickings for forgers and high risks for dealers. Following a series of high profile forgery cases netting Sotherby’s and the Prince of Lichestein, collectors are turning to science to keep their old masters safe.
Old masters and iconic art from Italy. Pictures like those have always been coveted by collectors, but in today’s 63 billion dollar art market, they’ve also become a lucrative target for forgers.
To highlight the increasing incidence of fakery, curators at this London gallery once replaced one of their works with a $100 copy made in china.
Ian Dejardin, of the Dulwich picture gallery said, “The idea was we commissioned a copy, by simple means. You can order them over the internet. And anyway we took the replica, put it in this frame.”
When they challenged visitors to spot it, ticket sales doubled. Yet only 11% of viewers got it right.
Dejardin said, “The art world has always, always, been plagued by forgers. It’s not new. It’s always there and that’s because of the art market, obviously where there is big money involved criminals, which is what it is, criminals will follow.”
With the value of fine art doubling over the past decade, the threat of forgery has also risen, netting some the biggest names in the art world. Like Sotherby’s which had to reimburse a client $10 million after it sold a Frans Hals which wasn’t what it first seemed.
So, while buyers used to rely on the eye of the expert. The eye of the x-ray now offers the ultimate guarantee. Meaning big business this authentication lab in South London.
Francis Eastaugh, general manager of Art Analysis & Research Ltd said, “what we do here using science and forensics to uncover these fakes and forgeries is not common in the art market but it is becoming more so and that just means inevitably a little more is coming out and you’re finding these cases of forgeries, but that’s just the nature of investigating this stuff and having a new tool at your disposal.
We’re really looking at the material that makes up the paintings so the paint the stretcher, the canvas all of the different constituent parts. We’re looking to try and find information about who created the painting, when it was created, where it was created.”