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Modern Art Forgery – Beltracchi and beyond


In the 21st century, the announcement of an art forgery scandal in the media is generally expressed by a well-worn set of clichés, often portraying the forger as a clever rogue, who tricks greedy collectors, causing no real harm. The history of art forgery is rarely viewed in a historical sense and individual cases are forgotten as quickly as they arise. This is regrettable as art forgery is a practice with a long history that has had, and continues to have, a very significant impact on the art market, an impact that endangers the serious study of the artists commonly forged. Knowledge of its history and tropes can make us better able to spot new forgeries when they arise. 

While the case of Wolfgang Beltracchi is one of the most spectacular in recent times, in terms of approach and techniques, it conforms to the “typical” practice of art forgers. This talk will examine the case in a wider context, to explore why the historical context matters, and to suggest challenges and solutions for forgery detection in the future, with a focus on the need for more rigorous scientific investigation. 

The speaker, Dr Jilleen Nadolny, is the Principal Investigator for Art Analysis & Research (AA&R), London, a private art laboratory providing analytical services to the art community worldwide. AA&R provided the evidence that first identified Beltracchi’s work, allowing for his successful prosecution. In this role, she has had the opportunity to examine many of the most sophisticated forgeries circulated in the art market and has published extensively on the history of the forgery of paintings.