Art of fake, fake in art and in the art market

  • What is it

    Meetings, database design, workshop

  • Who it’s for

    Foreign and Italian Scholars

  • When

    November 2020 - June 2021

Prof. Donatella Biagi Maino, Department of Arts – DAR
Prof. Massimiliano Castellani, Department of Statistical Sciences "Paolo Fortunati",

The existence of fakes affects universal rules concerning the production and trade of artworks, thus raising deep problems about authenticity criteria that seem to be timeless. Fake and forgery are notions that are difficult to define since they are applied to very different cases over time, they depend upon the diverse historical and cultural contexts, but also upon the particular motivations and purposes of the forger, which not always are exclusively economic. Trying to reduce the concept of artistic fake to a commonly adopted definition that considers deception alone would be reductive and would not allow us to understand the cultural, sociological, and historiographical values contained in it. Fakes and forgeries are items that characterized the art sector since the birth of the art market. Artwork copies, fakes, and forgeries (almost) freely circulate in the art market and affect the way price is formed, the way the discourse on artists takes place, and the way art market institutions and agents choose their strategies. This effect consists in an increase of the uncertainty about the authenticity value of the artworks, a value that is part of the cultural value, which in turn affects the artworks’ economic value. This makes the existence of fakes an important issue, which should be analyzed by means of an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach. Art market scholars, including economists, art historians, archaeologists, sociologists, management and marketing scholars, historians, restorers and conservators among the others, studied the influence of fakes in the market under different points of view, but the requirement to link together these views in a holistic analysis of the issue of fakes in the art market is now needed.

The categories of the fake are therefore many, from counterfeiting to copying, from subjective to objective forgery, from the true fake to the false revealed, and this proposal intends to start a critical census with the collaboration of an international network of scholars in different fields of research, in order to create a permanent and continuously updated multimedia database (including texts, images, movies, critical analyses, bibliography etc.), accessible on the net through a website specially designed and to be developed during the project. The process of database construction will cover the whole 2020/21 academic year and will continue even after the end of the present ISA initiative. It will involve Italian and foreign scholars who will participate in the project also holding remote online seminars, i.e. webinars that, once recorded, will expand the database. In this way, all the research and development of the system and training/teaching and scientific dissemination will take place remotely, avoiding all the problems related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first step in this process of creation of an interdisciplinary framework of analysis of the art fakes and its market consist in a preliminary meeting to discuss and share the arguments of the different

fields, in order to enucleate the differences and similarities in the approaches used in these fields. The meeting will be held in November 2020.

As a second step, starting from the considerations that will emerge there, the census and the recovery of the information to be inserted into the database will begin. In the meantime, the implementation and validation of the database computing structure will start, to be completed in April/May 2021.

Finally, a workshop with national and international experts from several fields of the art and art market studies will be organized in June 2021 and will be held on a digital platform (Microsoft Teams or Zoom), to avoid risks for the participants linked to the sanitary emergence. The workshop will host both invited speakers and national and international researchers who want to present their works and findings about the topic, selected through a call for papers; the workshop will cover a whole day, with the morning dedicated to the invited speakers and the afternoon dedicated to the presentation of selected applicants from different fields.

The main goal of an event like the one we propose is to strengthen the already-existing international network of art-market scholars and to create a specific network of all the experts focused on the fakes and their role in the art market, so to start potential new interdisciplinary research projects among the participants and their institutions, in order to publish scientific articles and policy reports.

The organizing group from University of Bologna will be headed by Massimiliano Castellani (Dept. Statistical Sciences "Paolo Fortunati"), with the collaboration of Lorenzo Zirulia (Dept. Economics) and Francesco Angelini (Dept. Statistical Sciences "Paolo Fortunati"), and by Donatella Biagi Maino (Dept. Arts).