Top UK gallery head - "I wish we had more fakes"

Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:32am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The head of the National Gallery in London, one of the world's leading collections of art, said on Tuesday he would welcome more fakes.

"I wish we had more fakes," said Nicholas Penny, who is also a respected art scholar.

"It's worth having some in a collection," he told reporters at the gallery's annual press conference. "Not having them on display for what they pretend to be ... but for what they are -- as fakes or imitations."

Among the shows unveiled for 2010 is "Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries" which explores forgeries, copies and paintings made by students of the great masters.

Penny said that the study of the true origin of a painting, through increasingly advanced scientific methods, was an important part of scholarship that could help people understand the art of painting better.

"All serious coin collections include fakes," he said, before adding: "We'd certainly only be interested in really interesting forgeries."

According to Penny, there were likely to be very few fakes in the National Gallery's huge collection, although "you don't know for certain."

He said many paintings considered fakes started off as "perfectly honest imitations," where the painter had no intention of passing the work off as by the original artist, but dealers or other intermediaries may have done so for profit. "Their falsity has been imposed on them," he said.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows London's National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square in this file photo from May 5, 2006. REUTERS/Rob Dawson</p>