Caveat Emptor

Backside of Rembrandt van Rijn’s “Saint James the Greater”

A group exhibition of confiscated art forgeries from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's holdings. This project is in collaboration with Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Art Crimes New York office. All works courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The artists purportedly exhibited were: James E. Buttersworth, Marc Chagall, Willem de Kooning, Tsuguhara Foujita, Juan Gris, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Maurice Prendergast, Rembrandt van Rijn, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Andy Warhol, and Hale Woodruff

Caveat Emptor brings together a cross section of confiscated art forgeries on loan from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s holdings. The works and time periods represented in the exhibition are anachronistic and the exhibition’s cohesion is further challenged by the tension between the paintings’ initial renown and their true makers’ anonymity.

These contested works have historically occupied a limbo in which the very criteria for determining what is authentic and what is a forgery have been in a constant state of flux. Numerous works have been classified and reclassified, even after the passage of many years. At times it becomes unclear where many disputed works actually fall in the ever-changing continuum. At first inspection, Caveat Emptor presents blue-chip works that could potentially be seen in a group exhibition at any museum, institution, or private collection; yet in truth, one is essentially viewing legal evidence.

Beyond the complexities of forensic evidence that serve to authenticate works, numerous additional issues arise when the competing interests of artists’ estates and legacies intersect with institutional acceptance or denial and countless legal issues. During the second half of the exhibition the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency set up their central registration office in the gallery in conjunction with their conference being held at the same time. The forgeries on the walls served as the backdrop for their office during the conference and the gallery remained open to the public.

New York Times

Art in America

Huffington Post


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Fordham Magazine

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