Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images
Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images

French Art Museum Discovers More Than Half of Its Paintings Are Fakes

Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images
Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images

If you can't tell a priceless work of art from an imitation, don't be discouraged—even experts at the world's top museums have been known to mistake a forgery for the real thing. That's a lesson the Terrus Museum in Elne, France recently learned the hard way when it found that 82 of the 140 paintings in its collection are fakes, as Co.Design reports.

Elne, a village in the South of France, is the hometown of painter Étienne Terrus, a late-19th century artist known for depicting local landscapes. The village has spent roughly $200,000 over the last 20 years buying the painter's supposed works for its art museum, which recently completed extensive renovations.

Ahead of its grand reopening, Terrus Museum guest curator Eric Forcada noticed something fishy about the collection: Some paintings contained landmarks that weren't supposed to be there. In one painting, Forcada spotted a building constructed in 1958, 36 years after Terrus's death. After calling in a panel of experts to examine the paintings more closely, the museum discovered that dozens of them were frauds.

The incident is a reflection of a larger trend troubling the art world. By one estimate, as much as 20 percent of artworks in major museums in the UK weren't made by the painters they're attributed to. Elne's expensive oversight shows just how hard it is to keep inauthentic paintings from ending up on gallery walls.

Forensic studies can shed light on a piece's origins, but older paintings caked with varnish are harder to examine. In some cases, researching and verifying a painting's history can save museums and art collectors buyer's remorse down the road, but this becomes an issue when buyers are looking at a rare piece that someone else might snatch up if they don't act fast. Rushing into an art purchase can lead to enormous financial loss. Last year, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi was purchased for a record-breaking $450 million at auction, even though some people in the art world believed it was fake, and therefore worthless.

When forged paintings do sneak their way into museums, they often go unnoticed by visitors. The difficulty of spotting fake paintings was even the subject of a game show that aired in the UK in 2016. Research by the show's creators found that people are particularly bad at identifying forged landscape paintings.

[h/t Co.Design]

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John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

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Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
60 Years Later, a Lost Stanley Kubrick Script Has Been Found
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images

A “lost” screenplay co-written by famed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been found after 60 years, Vulture reports.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret, which Vulture describes as a reverse Lolita (plot summary for those who forgot high school English class: a man enters a relationship with a woman because of his obsession with her 12-year-old daughter). In Burning Secret, a man befriends an adolescent boy in order to seduce his mother. Zweig’s other works have inspired films like Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (which the director claims he "stole" from Zweig's novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl).

Kubrick’s screenplay adaptation is co-written by novelist Calder Willingham and dated October 24, 1956. Although the screenplay bears a stamp from MGM’s screenwriting department, Nathan Abrams—the Bangor University professor who discovered the script—thinks it’s likely the studio found it too risqué for mass audiences.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams told The Guardian. It's worth noting, however, that Kubrick directed an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1962, which MGM distributed, and it was also met with a fair share of controversy.

Abrams said the screenplay for Burning Secret is complete enough that it could be created by filmmakers today. He noted that the discovery is particularly exciting because it confirms speculations Kubrick scholars have had for decades.

“Kubrick aficionados knew he wanted to do it, [but] no one ever thought it was completed,” Abrams told The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Abrams found the screenplay while researching his book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film. The screenplay is owned by the family of one of Kubrick’s colleagues.

[h/t Vulture]

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