Keeping up to date: Fashion & Fakes; random thoughts

I think it was the great Salvador Dali who said something along the lines of ‘ being contemporary is the one thing an artist cannot fail to be’ It always intrigues me how so many forgeries, a few decades after they were made, are so obviously forgeries. It is often possible to spot these in major museums and art galleries, particularly in the USA where there are tax incentives which encourage the collection of fakes and forgeries. Greek and  Roman sculptures are a prime example. This is simply because many of the fakes, become dated in the same way as all other forms of art. The artist subconsciously reflects the era in which the art is created. But of course this only applies to the fakes that are detected. Good ones remain undetected and there are almost certainly thousand of them, many in museums and art galleries. The Romans copied Greek sculptures extensively, and this was a tradition that thrived throughout the Renaissance, through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and into the twentieth. While it is more difficult to introduce new fakes into the market, there are still plenty sloshing around. And because of the turmoil in the Near and Middle East, there is now a flourishing market in fake antiquities from those areas.

Fakes and forgeries have been a longstanding interest of mine, and I have been attempting to write a book on the topic for several years. But always get side-tracked. The books started as simply an account of fakes and fraud of nature. But like Topsy, it just grew. The Hastings Rarities, Archie Belaney, Richard Meinertzhagen, Basra Reed Warbler — then  Walt Disney films of the 50s, and finally nature reserves and ‘rewilding’.  All forms of fake nature. To a greater or lesser degree. But in each case, one thing led to another. Archie Belaney (a.k.a Grey Owl), led to another fake Indian, Chief Long Lance.  Disney led to a reconsideration of BBC documentaries. Minsmere led to the Rio Bravo Conservation Area and so on. Where did one draw the lines? Then finally fashions and attitudes to wildlife are constantly changing and evolving.  I have been around long enough to see dramatic changes in attitudes.  But that is another story. Enough rambling for today.


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