sol wrote: ↑January 12th, 2023, 2:07 am
Between zzzorf nominating a talk-heavy documentary and Matthew nominating a Netflix doco, you guys have inspired me to have a go at re-nominating:
15. Made You Look (2020, Barry Avrich, Canada)
https://www.icheckmovies.com/movies/mad ... +fake+art/
https://letterboxd.com/film/made-you-lo ... -fake-art/
Currently streaming on Netflix and CBC Gem CA
Preferred slate: Documentary ---
Alternative slate: English Language Indi
The absurdities of the art world come to light in this documentary about art forgery and a gallery director who spent a decade buying forged paintings and reselling them, apparently unaware of the con. As various interviewees talk about being unable to tell the paintings apart and how "beautiful" the forgeries looked, the film poses the interesting question of how much authenticity matters if something indeed looks beautiful. The majority of the film though is spent on the conflicting testimonies of the former gallery director and others involved, with her constant claims of innocence cleverly cut against other interviewees stating how she could not have possibly been unaware. The film has a great throbbing music score too that adds oodles of tension, making this anything but a conventional 'talking heads' affair. This is a really compelling look at cons, deception and the denial often involved when one is conned.
But don't just take my word for it.
The types of people in this documentary were unlike any I've come across in real life and it was interesting to see this whole new world and the kind of characters that inhabit it. In hindsight any scam seems insanely obvious and it's hard to believe the people involved could be so gullible and convinced and it's insane how long this scam went on and just how much money was involved. Entertaining story about something I'd probably never have heard about otherwise.
- Lauren in her Letterboxd review
Fergenaprido, because he appreciates a good Canadian movie. Also, Matthew and zzzorf since their nominations inspired me to give promoting this film another go.
I watched Made You Look this evening. One of my first loves was paintings. I was a lonely kid and the school library had Sotheby art catalogues, both the annual reviews and some seasonal previews. I had my first wow moment when I saw a picture by John Singer Sargent called Cashmere:
I had actually got really good at one point at telling who the painters were and what the prices would be, if my brother hid them from me. I remember actually walking into a gallery in the Louvre with him when I was I guess 20, and he was pointing at pictures across the room and telling me to tell him who did them, and I correctly predicted that a painting I'd seen before was by two artists, and in fact who they were, I knew that one was an expert with flowers and the other with figures, and I knew they had worked together in the 17th century on some pieces. I got my mum to drag me round galleries all over the UK, then Paris, Florence, Madrid, Amsterdam. I was always fascinated that she couldn't tell the difference between one with cheap market value and one that was expensive, between great effects and mediocre workmanship.
All of which is by way of saying, this world isn't massively new to me, I've never been to an auction, or bought any art for much more than $100, but I was fascinated by art in the era a lot of the documentary is happening. I guess from my work in finance, I'm also familiar with rich people. It's not amazing to me that they would get bilked. One of the departments at my firm researches investment managers for clients, and we took no hit at all from Madoff. Because anyone who analyzes funds professionally would have red flagged it. Instead with something like Madoff it was all word of mouth amongst the rich people network. Remember that two thirds of them have inherited wealth, they're not very worldly and can be really gullible and skewed in their thinking.
As to the question of fakes being beautiful, well that's fine, if a fake's beautiful it's beautiful, you didn't get "fooled" by that, the bit where you get fooled is if you didn't look at the provenance, chemical analysis, brushstrokes etc. There was a very nice fake Rothko in the film, and well it was an original in some sense, it wasn't a copy of a pre-existing work. Fakes are not necessarily worthless, as it was kind of suggested in the movie, if you get a 19th century fake of a 17th century artist, it's still an antique and still skilful. The problem I guess with abstract expressionism is that there is some level of emperor's new clothes going on, sometimes a Rothko is really just some cruddy colour patches. I can't recall ever really having a massive reaction to one in a gallery setting, although some of it is contextual, I would quite like to visit the Rothko chapel. In terms of picking out a fake from amongst a bunch of Rothkos it's difficult, you can't necessarily do it on the basis of quality, because some of the real ones just aren't good. I remember being shown some reals and fakes of John Anster Fitzgerald paintings, where someone had tried to create new compositions essentially, instead of copying pre-existing ones, it only took 30 seconds or me to separate out the reals and the fakes, but that's because there's a lot going on with those paintings, lots of details, lots of compositional elements, recurring motifs, all sorts.
Often part of being successful in business, it's about being effectual. It's about optimism. There's lots of money and so you get frauds. Blockchain is where a lot of the fraud is at the moment, it's mostly nonsense, but there's lots of people busy getting busy with it. Positive mental attitudes are usually good, but they're also ripe for exploiting. Ann Freedman, the dealer in the movie, is just one of those people, keen to get ahead, keen to build relationships, positive, showy. I consider two of my own best accomplishments at work to be turning down two big ideas. I was put under quite a lot of pressure to approve both of them, I said no, they've since gone badly. I didn't make any friends, it was difficult during the evaluation period, and no-one likes the "I told you so guy" afterwards, plus I didn't make any money for our clients, I saved them from problems that had never been put in front of them. You only really get taken seriously for greenlighting something that was a good idea, that's when all the gears are oiled.
I guess that's just a long way of saying nothing much in the movie surprised me, I even fell asleep at one point even though it was still early evening and had to rewind half an hour. In terms of style the movie is not really anything remotely innovative, it's a bog standard talking faces documentary. I don't really regret watching it, but I can't support it for the festival.