Déjà Vu - Art, Artifice and Avarice | Documentaries | DW | 19.02.2013
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Déjà Vu - Art, Artifice and Avarice

The practice of copying is as old as fine art itself. But what distinguishes the original work of art from mere replicas? A documentary about the big business of art reproduction.


A Picasso or hand-signed Chagall as an investment: at first glance, this is an attractive option for the wealthy in the light of the banking and financial crisis. But it’s not without its risks. It is hard to calculate the future value of an investment in art. Skilled forgers such as Wolfgang Beltracchi from Cologne further add to the insecurity on the market. Even experts can be taken in by their work. So how is the amateur art lover supposed to know when buying an artwork is a safe bet?

The business of art forgery continues to boom. The Fälschermuseum (Museum of Forgeries) in Vienna documents spectacular copyright infringements from down through the centuries and reveals the tricks of the trade, as applied by famed forgers like Elmyr de Hory, Konrad Kujau or Tom Keating. In the 1980s, the Briton Keating forged masterpieces by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci on a grand scale.

The Madonna of the Cherries by Titian. Original or forgery? The exhibition “Doppelgänger” at the Kunsthistorische Museum Wien runs until 07 April 2013.

The Madonna of the Cherries by Titian. Original or forgery? The exhibition “Doppelgänger” at the Kunsthistorische Museum Wien runs until 07 April 2013.

The Kunsthistorische Museum Wien (Museum of Art History in Vienna) is currently showing an exhibition dedicated to the topic, entitled “Doppelgänger”. It displays work such as the Madonna of the Cherries by Titian in three versions: the original from the 16th century, a forgery from the 19th century and a modern art print. Visitors can take up the challenge of trying to figure out which one is the original. “The copyist often tries to produce a more perfect work of art than the master, but he lacks the creative strike of the artist putting his idea to canvass for the first time”, says Dr. Sylvia Ferino, director of the Gemäldegalerie.

The business of legal art reproductions is booming, too. We visit the Hamburg-based company kunstkopie.de, which prints copies of works by the great masters by the thousand, on canvass, wood or acrylic. That allows everyday art lovers to decorate their homes with famous paintings and drawings at a price they can afford and without breaking the law.



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