F for Fading

Thieves, Forgers & Mad Mothers:
The Age of Disappearing Masterpieces

‘Do you think I should confess? To what? Committing masterpieces?’ says Elmyr de Hory on ‘F for Fake,’ Orson Welles’ meditation on the relevance of art in a world that seems no longer moved by it. A world where de Hory thrived as its biggest forger.
We thought about that this week, when experts said that the mother of a thief of a collection of masterpieces has likely burned the irreplaceable works to protect her son. And that Amazon ‘reviewers’ seem to care as much about art as they do about a banana slicer.
Suddenly, Picasso’s quote, about art being a lie that enables us to realize the truth, sheds as much insight about the artistic craft, as it does about our disturbingly self-deluded drive to constantly interfere and ‘improve’ reality, so the outcome serves us a little bit better.
Picasso’s Tete d´Arlequin, Monet’s Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge, and Gauguin’s Femme Devant Une Fenetre Ouverte Dite la Fiancee are among the paintings now believed to be lost forever. They join a copious list of works of art that got stolen, destroyed, or simply misplaced by a long string of idiots.
Of course, there are reproductions of most of the known ones, but heaven knows how many others we never got to admire and count as some of our species’ greatest achievements. Chances are that, even if mankind were to start all over again, from the very beginning, it’s unlike that the ones lost would be recreated.
Perhaps it’s all the ugly by-product of pricing the inestimable, and an overinflated art market that allows them to either become toys of the super rich, or vulnerable to the security vagaries of decrepit museums. And then there is another world, the one de Hory ruled in his time.
A world that makes the FBI a curator. Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyers Beware), a current New York show of anonymous forgeries confiscated by the bureau, is a novelty and a triumph of sorts. The ‘Chagalls,’ Continue reading

Eye of Beholder

Eyes of Mona Lisa May Hide
Leonardo’s 500-Year Secret

So it turned out that, while we were being captivated by her smile, the real enigma of the Mona Lisa was hidden in her eyes. It’s just the latest mystery surrounding one of the most famous paintings of all time, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, of which we know close to nothing.
In fact, our five-century old fascination with La Gioconda, as it’s known in Italy where it was painted in 1503, bears pure obsession. Throughout the years, scientists have engaged in heated contests as to why she didn’t have eyebrows, whether her smile had something to do with high cholesterol, and who on earth was she. Was this the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife Continue reading