WINTERTHUR, DELAWARE -- Grab your detective hat. Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library is opening Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes, a major exhibition offering visitors a Sherlock Holmes-style investigation of some of the most notorious fakes and forgeries of our time, April 1, 2017 - January 7, 2018. Revealing new insights from conservation science, Treasures on Trial includes 40 examples of fakes and forgeries associated with masters such as Henry Matisse, Coco Chanel, Paul Revere, Antonio Stradivari, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and others, drawn from the Winterthur Collection and public and private sources.
“Treasures on Trial presents a broad range of works that provide a rather startling view of the scope and sophistication of the counterfeiting market, from fine art to sports memorabilia, couture clothing, wine, antique furniture, and more,” said Linda Eaton, John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles at Winterthur. “Visitors will be able to see a fake Mark Rothko painting that was part of the Knoedler Gallery scandal; sports memorabilia fraudulently associated with Babe Ruth; counterfeit fashion and accessories masquerading as Chanel, Hermès, and Dior; wine purported to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson, as featured in the book Billionaire’s Vinegar; and fake antiques associated with Paul Revere and George Washington, among other fascinating works.”
Eaton co-curated Treasures on Trial with Colette Loll, Founder and Director of Art Fraud Insights, LLC, a Washington, DC, based consultancy dedicated to issues of art fraud.
Some of the fakes and forgeries are exhibited alongside authentic objects and are accompanied by new and rarely seen scientific insights from Winterthur’s own Scientific Research and Analysis Lab. Winterthur’s conservators and scientists are leaders in the field of scientific analysis of fine art and antiques, with a curatorial team renowned for their expert knowledge and historical detective work. The exhibition shows how a combination of provenance, research, connoisseurship skills, and scientific analysis are used to expose a broad range of fakes and forgeries that have fooled collectors and experts alike and reveals fascinating stories about the forgers themselves.
“In my work with law enforcement nationally and internationally, the time-tested tools of meticulous investigative work together with scientific analyses and connoisseurship help solve even the toughest cases involving fakes and forgeries,” said Loll. “Treasures on Trial goes a step beyond traditional exhibits on this topic by uniquely presenting analyses performed at Winterthur’s and other leading labs.”
Eaton said the exhibition is designed to both inform and entertain visitors and even provides them with the opportunity to judge for themselves whether some objects are fake or genuine.
“We’re particularly interested in showing the connection between art and science. Even though these disciplines are often considered separately, they’re both firmly at the center of all efforts to determine authenticity,” Eaton said.
Treasures on Trial features four sections - Intent, Evidence, Proof?, and You Be the Judge. It features film and video clips plus interactive opportunities.
Intent. The first section of the exhibition explores the motivation of makers and sellers of fakes with examples of some of the most outrageous scandals of our time.
- Rothko painting that Glafira Rosales, a Long Island art dealer, sold to the Knoedler Gallery, one of the oldest and most reputable galleries in New York.
- Forgery created by Han van Meegeren which has only recently been confirmed. Van Meegeren was found guilty of forging old master paintings and selling them to the Nazis during World War II.
- Watercolor purported to have been painted by Andrew Wyeth, which had been circulating on the art market for many years.
- Violin with a label claiming that it was made by Antonio Stradivari (1644-1738), whose instruments are considered to be the best ever made. Visitors can listen to recordings made by world-renowned Xiang Gao, the Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Delaware and Founding Director of the Master Players Concert Series, to hear the difference between a fake and a genuine Strad.
- Silver purported to be by Myer Myers, the first Jewish silversmith in America.
- Examples of work by Mark Landis, whose career creating fake works of art and donating them to many museums was featured in the Emmy-nominated documentary Art and Craft.
- Baseball memorabilia purported to have been autographed by sports legend Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle.
Evidence - Using a wide variety of types of objects from postage stamps to weathervanes, this section hones in on the combination of provenance, connoisseurship, and scientific analysis used to determine whether something is fake or real.
- Materials analysis that proved that a painting could not have been done by Jackson Pollock, whose genuine work is highly valued and widely collected.
- Postage stamps that were not originally intended to deceive but which have been modified over time to fool collectors.
- Recent analysis that will help identify the work of Elmyr de Hory, who created thousands of fake works of art, many of which have yet to be discovered.
- Porcelain purported to have belonged to George Washington showing how one creative forger added decoration featuring the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati to genuine 18th century Chinese export porcelain to fraudulently increase its value.
- A collection of silver collected by Arthur Lenssen, a collector who was targeted by two dealers who sold him fakes attributed to Paul Revere and other important early American silversmiths.
- Folk art by Robert Lawrence Trotter, a struggling artist in Kennett Square who resorted to forgery as a way to make a living.
Proof? - This section of the exhibition discusses some of the difficulties associated with proving whether something is fake or genuine.
- English ceramics which were clearly proved to be fake but whose maker was acquitted.
- Windsor chair that was examined by three “experts” who provided differing opinions in court.
- Painting bought online which is thought to be an early example of the work of Willem de Kooning that shows how it can be equally difficult to prove something is genuine as it is to prove it is fake...
- “Genuine fakes” created by John Myatt, the painter who made a large number of fake paintings associated with a major scandal in Britain whose work today is widely collected.
You Be the Judge - This final section invites visitors to evaluate works whose authenticity is unresolved and to determine for themselves whether the works are real or fake.
- Painting purported to be by master forger Elmyr de Hory (whose fakes have themselves become highly collectible).
- Oil painting whose owner has been trying for many years to prove it a genuine work by Winslow Homer.
- Vampire killing kit brought to Winterthur for authentication by the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
“We hope this exhibition will inspire everyone to ask the question: ‘Is it real?', and provide them with the methodology to get an answer,’” Eaton said.
The public is invited to attend the variety of public programs organized in conjunction with Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes and to schedule a tour of the house, where objects with “issues” are being highlighted in conjunction with the exhibition.
Treasures on Trial is presented by DuPont. Funded in part by Freeman's.
Visit winterthur.org for more information.
TREASURES ON TRIAL PROGRAMMING
Hands on History Cart
Saturdays, April 1, 2017-January 2018, 1:00-3:00 pm
Explore the theme of our exhibition Treasures on Trial through hands-on activities. Galleries Reception Atrium. Members free. Included with admission.
Treasures on Trial Documentary Film Series
Art and Craft
May 19, 1:00 pm, Copeland Lecture Hall
The story behind one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. history, Mark Landis.
Followed by a Q & A with Mark Landis and Colette Loll, Treasures on Trial co-curator. $10 per Member. $15 per nonmember. Reservations suggested.
Treasures on Trial Lecture Series
Evening Lecture: "A Silver Lining: How Fraud in the Fine Art Photography Market Catalyzed Groundbreaking Research and Scholarship"
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
6:00 pm, Copeland Lecture Hall
Paul Messier, Pritzker Director, Lens Media Lab, Yale University Institute for Preservation of Cultural Heritage, will discuss issues of fraud and authenticity in the fine art photography market. $10 per Member. $15 nonmember.
Evening Lecture: "The Hermès Birkin Bag in a Counterfeit World"
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
6:00 pm, Copeland Lecture Hall
For more than 20 years, the Hermès Birkin bag has been the iconic symbol of fashion, luxury, and wealth. Michael Tonello chronicles the unusual ventures that took him to nearly every continent—and from eBay to Paris auction houses and into the lives of celebrities and poseurs alike—on the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur and Robin Hood to thousands of desperate rich women. Along the ride, we'll learn the secrets to authenticating designer handbags. $10 per Member. $15 per nonmember.
Image: Fake bookplate; Artist unknown; before 2005; Gift of Don Olson 2015.29. Courtesy of Winterthur Museum.