Art Jargon Explained: Fake or Forgery

Ever wondered what the difference is between a fake and a forgery in an art context? The two words are often used interchangeably but there is a subtle difference. A forgery was created with the intent to deceive, oftentimes with a monetary motive. A fake can be an item that was misrepresented but criminal intent is not necessarily present. Let's look at two examples.

A case of clear-cut forgery came into play in the Knoedler case, where a Chinese artist in Queens forged a number of Abstract Expressionist masters (Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem De Kooning). Read more about the Knoedler case here.

The 19th Century, on the other hand, is known for harking back to ancient cultures for inspiration, in particular for the reproduction of ancient sculpture. When young English aristocrats traveled to the continent for a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe as a part of their education, they made drawings of Greek, Egyptian and Roman sculptures. Contemporary craftsmen in England would reproduce the sculptures from the detailed drawings that the travelers brought home.