By Colette Loll Marvin
Recently, I had the honor of being invited to speak at the first ever International Conference on Counterfeit Art, sponsored by Interpol and held in Lyon, France. The two-day meeting (October 23 and 24), gathered nearly 70 representatives from law enforcement, private institutions and international organizations from 22 countries, and focused on the need for increased information exchange and for enhanced public and government awareness of art forgery and related crimes. This global trade in illicit art runs into the billions of Euros each year. Link to press release.
The most exciting part about participating in this conference was meeting law enforcement officials from all over the world, many presenting specific case studies about organized art forgery rings they have been successful in stopping and prosecuting. The German police summary of their work on the Beltracchi case was especially impressive! Also, it was important to hear from several artist foundations and artist right’s holders about their ongoing challenge to protect the cultural legacy of modern masters from the dilution caused by the massive influx of forgeries, many from online sources. The economic, legal, aesthetic and scholarly implications of this crime are far reaching. I presented a lecture entitled “Fakes, Forgeries and EBay” detailing some of the challenges of investigating Internet art fraud. I was joined by a materials scientist and an art historian from an art forensic laboratory.
This cultural heritage conference culminated with a collective draft of a very specific set of conclusions that the delegates worked together to create and refine. Ultimately, the collective hope of the delegates is that this rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and intentional misattributions of art and objects of cultural heritage can be reversed with increased educational awareness and corresponding increases in law enforcement resources dedicated to this specific criminal phenomenon.