ExhibitionArt and Forgery

28 February 2024

A show in the Kurpfälzisches Museum deals with faked artworks and the question of how to recognise them

Usually, exposed and confiscated art fakes disappear in the storerooms of state criminal investigation bureaus. Now they are the subject of an unusual show mounted by the Kurpfälzisches Museum in cooperation with the Institute for European Art History of Heidelberg University. Under the heading “Art and Forgery – Learning What is Genuine from the Fake”, the two institutions are, for the first time, presenting multiple forgeries, including supposedly original paintings, drawings and prints by outstanding artists such as Cranach, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Modersohn-Becker, Dalí or Picasso. Supplemented by different originals, the exhibition enables both a search for clues and a comparison between “genuine” and “fake”. It can be viewed in the Kurpfälzisches Museum from 29 February to 30 June 2024.

Ausstellungsplakat: Kunst und Fälschung

The allegedly “genuine” works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Salvador Dalí or Pablo Picasso entered the art trade in different ways. The machinations of art forgers are extraordinarily diverse, according to exhibition curator Prof. Dr Henry Keazor. They range from deceptive interferences to invented provenances and expert opinions, right up to concocting non-genuine artist biographies or even complete forgeries. The exhibition offers visitors the unique opportunity of viewing exposed fake objects for themselves. In some cases, they are compared with authentic artworks – stemming from Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin and Heidelberg itself – for example, two forgeries by Wolfgang Beltracchi, which were produced in the manner of Heinrich Campendonk and Johannes Molzahn. A special highlight of the exhibition is the picture “The Next Rembrandt” – a portrait of Rembrandt generated with the aid of artificial intelligence and a 3D printer that arose in the context of a research project in Amsterdam (Netherlands).

The forged artworks mainly come from the storerooms of the state criminal investigation bureaus in Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart. They were brought together in the “Heidelberger Fälschungs-Studien-Sammlung” (HeFäStuS) – a collection of forged artworks compiled for study purposes – at the Institute for European Art History of Heidelberg University. Prof. Keazor is responsible for the collection. With its assistance, students of art history are trained to recognise fakes as quickly as possible. They delve into questions also raised at the show in the Kurpfälzisches Museum: What forms of art forgery must be distinguished? What happens if different forgers imitate one and the same painter? What needs to be considered when appraising artworks? Many of the findings presented in the exhibition go back to the research of students, undertaken in connection with classes in the “Heidelberger Fälschungs-Studien-Sammlung”. However, the visitors are also invited to set about looking for clues themselves and so to learn how to recognise the genuine from the fake, says Henry Keazor.

The exhibition “Art and Forgery – Learning What is Genuine from the Fake” is accompanied by a comprehensive side programme. The speaker at the opening on 29 February is René Allonge, detective inspector in the department of art crime at the Berlin criminal investigation bureau, on “The art of investigation – how German investigation authorities deal with art forgeries”. The talk, introduced by Henry Keazor (and starting at 7pm) is the curtain-raiser of a series of lectures dealing with different aspects of forging art. Likewise part of the programme is a film series in the Gloriette cinema along with thematic guided tours of the exhibition. The Kurpfälzisches Museum, Hauptstraße 97, is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm.