[FOUNTAIN]Celebrate forgeries with own museum

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[FOUNTAIN]Celebrate forgeries with own museum

The history of fake art is as long as the history of art itself. The debate over the authenticity of the “Wounded Bison” in Altamira Cave in Spain started as soon as the Paleolithic mural was discovered. People found it hard to believe that primitive men from 15,000 BC could paint such a vivid naturalistic depiction. The suspicion over the authenticity of the painting’s heritage cleared only after similar primitive cave paintings were found elsewhere decades later.
The most famous forgery in human history is the Shroud of Turin. The linen cloth that was supposedly wrapped around the body of Jesus after his crucifixion was made known to the world when a French nobleman displayed it in his chapel. In medieval Europe, fabricated holy objects were common as forgers could make money from pilgrims who visited to see the sacred objects. The Holy See declared the shroud to be not genuine. Pope Clement VII permitted the exhibition of the Shroud, but only if a priest declared in a “loud and intelligible voice” that it was not the real shroud of Christ, but only a painting made to represent it.
Despite the scientific proof, the controversy over the authenticity of the Turin Shroud continues. The shroud is a special example, but the soul of a fake is just as good as that of the real one. Han van Meegeren stirred Europe after World War II. He was charged with treason for having sold the works of Vermeer, the national treasure of the Netherlands, to the Nazis. The frightened van Meegeren confessed he forged the Vermeer himself. No one believed him because the painting had been highly praised and authenticated by an authority and then a prestigious museum had purchased it at a high price. Mr. van Meegeren had to paint another Vermeer work in court to prove the painting he had sold to the Nazis had indeed been forged.
In Korea, fakes are not only in good quality but large in quantity. All 58 questionable works by Lee Joong-Sup and Park Soo-keun were proven to be fakes. A rumor circulated that 80 percent of Lee Joong-Sup’s supposed works and 40 percent of Park Soo-Keun’s were forgeries. A few years ago, an exhibition of Jeong Chang-mo, a painter who went to North Korea, was canceled because only six of 50 selected works turned out to be authentic.
Korea should have a museum of fake art, such as the Museums Vledder in the Netherlands which only displays forged art. If the work of a master forger can fool a professional art critic, it can serve visitors to the museum, who enjoy art for its beauty, not as an investment. After all, the sculptor August Rodin admired the beauty of the sculpture of Tanagra Venus, even knowing it was a fake.


by Lee Hoon-beom

The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.
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