Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Netflix Picks: Made You Look

After I graduated from college, one of the first things that I wish I could do for a living was to be a museum curator or someone who worked in an art gallery. The arts was one of my two majors in college and it was something that I was passionate about. Unfortunately, life happened and I went on a different career path.  The closest I’ve been to art now has been visiting museums and watching documentaries on TV like Made You Look on Netflix.

Made You Look tells the story of fake art, particularly how one person was able to dupe one of the oldest art galleries in New York in a span of ten years into certifying works of art from artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock despite the lack of provenance (proof of history and ownership).

The way that the documentary was presented it seemed that the gallery director, Anne Freedman. was in on the con perpetrated by a certain Glafir Rosales. I can’t blame the accusation. After all, how could a prestigious gallery just certify works of art without any proof of ownership and simply go by the opinion of “experts” on the artist? As someone who has been in the industry for years, how could she have easily been fooled in that way?

Then again, after seeing another documentary/program called Fake or Fortune by the BBC (some seasons are also on Netflix), I can’t blame her. There are several works of art featured in the BBC show that do not have provenance as well but are almost certainly works of the artist in question. One that I remember was a Monet that a certain French art institute refused to certify despite being widely accepted by other experts to be a true work of the artist. It seems that it sometimes comes down to the point of view of certain experts and institutions and the feeling of exclusivity and ownership that people in the art world have. The excitement that people have when discovering works of art that have never surfaced before must have encouraged them to certify without the provenance needed. 

It seemed that this story of Rosales and Freedman was a big scandal in the art world during the time that this happened as these works of art were exhibited and even sold to collectors, who were equally duped by these amazing copies. The gallery even shut down in 2011, which seemed to be a result of this scandal as well. 

It is later revealed in the documentary that the artist who was painting these fakes was a Chinese man who was a painter and math professor. He was doing copies for fun, as it seemed that doing copies of works of art was a normal thing in China. It was the con artists who sold the paintings who really made money from passing them off as originals. 

With this documentary came the question of when is art valuable? Is it because of its message or its beauty? Or is it because it is rare or is it because certain groups of people say so? Just because a work of art is a copy, does it make it any less beautiful or valuable? Just what exactly makes a work of art valuable? 

For me, works of art are really subjective. It depends on the eye of the beholder. I could find one work of art beautiful and someone else might think it’s ordinary. In the same way, one could, as the Fake or Fortune show presented, find a Monet unexpectedly but not have it called a Monet because one expert says based on his point of view that it isn’t (despite other experts and scientific proof saying the contrary). 

As beautiful as many works of art may be, I don’t think I can ever be a collector. I would love to appreciate these works in galleries and museums (which can properly take care of these masterpieces) than have them in my own home. Even if I had the money, I’d rather not be duped into buying a fake at such excessive amounts (unless I had an idea that they were and I really liked it for its aesthetic value). 

If you’re interested in art, this is a show you may want to watch. It’s too bad that Fake or Fortune only has a couple of seasons on Netflix because that is a similar show that is such an eye-opener into the art world as well. 


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