Playing with “Fire”

You may have heard the story about an art dealer in New York who sold several fake abstract expressionist paintings for about $80 million.  It isn’t the first time someone forged an artwork and fooled the art world, but it’s interesting it happened just this week, because we’re supposed to live in an era when information is so plentiful it’s hard to put anything over on anybody, and also that it was abstract expressionists that were being copied, since I often hear from students that these works seem like they require the least skill.


Jackson Pollock, “Free Form,” 1946 and Mark Rothko, “Untitled” (Gray, Gray on Red), 1968

In an interview I heard on NPR (Art Dealer Pleads Guilty To Selling Fraudulent Paintings, NPR Weekend Edition, September 21, 2013), New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz said the forger was skilled at imitating the artists, which included Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell.  But, he explained, that doesn’t mean the forger is just as good as the original artist:  “In a way, you have to think about Pollack as inventing fire, as inventing something that’s been with us… since the beginning, the drip.”


Willem de Kooning, “Fire Island,” 1946 and Robert Motherwell, “Wall Painting with Stripes,” 1944



One thought on “Playing with “Fire”

  1. michelle

    So then, is it REALLY about art at all? If something passes as the real thing, and it’s an actual painting (ie. not a fake plastic Prada handbag) is there value in the image at all? Does art stand alone or must it always be filtered through the lens of comparison and capitalism?


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