Art Forgery and Fake Masterpieces On The Rise


Forged pieces of art or fake paintings are becoming an increasing problem for museums and art galleries around the world.

Many of them found their way into exhibitions and art collections in the course of the 20th century. It has often been difficult for curators and art experts to recognize forged works because they did not have the technology that they do today.

For directors of galleries it is embarrassing to find out that one of the masterpieces you show in an exhibition is a fake. Such awareness can be expensive as well. A British museum, for example, paid £440,000 (about $700,000) for a forged Egyptian statue in 2003.


Why do professional forgers do it? Some just do it for profit, but many don’t.  Some of the best fakers tried to create great pieces of art themselves and failed, so they take another painting and copy it.

Most forgers are artists themselves but others are art conservators. They are very skilled and know the technology that is used to identify works of art. They sometimes produce documents that go with famous paintings or sculptures. Thus, forgeries may not be identified for years, or even decades.

Police admit, that, although they are looking into cases of art forgery more often, it is still very hard to tell if the numbers are rising or not. Art has become a way of investing money so the market for forgeries and fake works is becoming larger.


Forgers use the internet to help them sell phony works of art.  On the other side , since it is easiest to fake lost or missing works of art, the internet can give fast information on whether a painting or sculpture is missing or not. Some forgers are even brave enough to copy works of living artists.

In one of the biggest forgery cases in history, Scotland Yard arrested Shaun Greenhalg, who created over 120 paintings and sculptures worth £10 over the past 20 years. But many forgers may still be at large. Art experts say that, because there is such a demand in art, up to half of the art that is in circulation may be a forgery. Most of it is sold at auctions in London.


John Myatt was one of the biggest art forgers of the 20th century.  He went to prison for creating fake Picassos and Renoirs.  After he had got out of prison in 2000 he has started to create his art, which now sell at a rather high price.


"Skating in Holland" - A Forgery of a Jongkind painting


Related Topics


  • admit = to say that something is true
  • although = while
  • art = a painting, drawing or sculpture that expresses a certain idea
  • art conservator = a person who protects art and can preserve it
  • art gallery = a building where paintings are shown to people
  • at large = here: someone who has not been caught yet
  • auction = place  where objects are sold to people who pay the highest price
  • awareness = knowledge, understanding
  • brave = bold, with a lot of courage
  • case = example, situation
  • century = a hundred years
  • circulation = here: movement, moving all the time
  • collection = set, group
  • create = make
  • curator = someone who is the director of a museum or gallery
  • decade = period of ten years
  • demand = many people want to buy something
  • embarrassing = to make you feel ashamed or nervous
  • exhibition = show, display
  • fail = to be unsuccessful
  • fake = false, not real
  • forge = to copy something illegally and make people think that it is real
  • forgery = imitation,  illegal copy of something
  • identify = recognize, to know what something is
  • in the course of = here: as something goes on
  • increase = to get bigger
  • masterpiece = a work of art that is of high quality, and probably the best that an artist has produced
  • missing = lost
  • phony = fake, not real
  • prison = place where people who have done illegal things are kept
  • produce = create, make
  • profit = money, income
  • rather = pretty, quite
  • recognize = know, be aware of
  • sculpture =  an object made out of wood, stone, metal or clay by an artist
  • skilled = talented , trained at doing something
  • statue = an image of a person or an object made out of stone, metal or other materials
  • technology = know-how, knowledge, special skill
  • thus = that is why
  • whether = if