Alsop, Joseph. "Fake Art," The New York Review of Books, 23 October 1986, pp. 25-31.

 

Alsop, Joseph. "Fake Art," The New York Review of Books, 23 October 1986, pp. 25-31.

Alsop here reports on what has been emerging in the world of fine arts as a major scandal.
Exposures have been taking place since 1979 when Charles Truman first reported on a major
fraud, Reinhold Vasters, a German goldsmith of the 19th century. He faked, among other things,
the Rospigiliosi Cup. Now Dr. Yvonne Hackenbroch continues the work on Vasters and his
wonderful forgeries. Vasters was the greatest faker of the 19th century; his pieces were in the
major museums of the world.

Vasters' work was abetted by an enormously successful art dealer, Frederic Spitzer. The two
made a peach of a pair: the successful dealer and the accomplished fraud. They worked in tandem
for a full decade. Neither was found out in his lifetime. They were caught out later because
Vasters left drawings of his fakes, which were recently discovered in the Victoria and Albert
Library.

Museum directors around the world are now discovering that they are harboring "fake" works of
art. Their reaction: the fake is no longer beautiful, the fake is just a fake. The once beautiful
painting, the once gorgeous jewel, no longer has the attributes it once had. The new label has
destroyed the beauty of the thing. This is a fascinating example of labeling theory.