- a story by RICARDO TORRES
There used to be a lot of discussion about the actual artistic value of the cubist and abstractionist movements: not anymore. Nobody really cares except, ironically, those who are willing to pay millions of dollars for a Pollock.
The following is a true story, more or less. It is also an involuntary compilation on my part: the lead character has more than just one prototype. I can't remember which one of them gave the interview, which (the interview) is the most important part of the story (at least to those who have ears (in the biblical sense) and have a soft spot for the dramatic).
Anyway, there was this dude who lived in the Twentieth Century, and for all I know he may still be alive. He was Swiss. Or maybe he just owned real estate in Switzerland and spent his summers somewhere near Geneva; I can't remember; it doesn't matter. Let's just assume he was Swiss.
This Swiss dude discovered he was a very able technician - among other things. He didn't merely copy a Hals or a Goya: he copied them very, very precisely. It came naturally to him.
He locked himself up in his studio and painted a whole bunch of things after the manner of Titian, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Lebrun, and some of the other usual suspects. He did a few Turners, I think; and a few impressionists: Monet, Manet, Renoir, and so forth. And then a few cubists and abstractionists: Kandinsky, Picasso, Chagall, etc.
No, he didn't copy any of the existing works. He created NEW Rembrandts and NEW Manets. Because he was wealthy, he was able to pose as a collector, as well as a hunter for "lost" or "hitherto unknown" masterpieces. He aged his canvases accordingly, and did many other things to them - I'm not going to bore you with the details. He started selling them - to private citizens, and then to museums. He made a lot of money. I mean, A LOT of money. Really. Museums and auctions hired well-known experts who established beyond all doubt the authenticity of each canvas. There was a legend attached to each work. "This one languished in the cellar of a Sicilian farmer for three centuries," etc.
The money isn't important. The legends aren't very important either.
As expected, many museums that had bought "Rembrandts" and "Renoirs" from him refused to admit it, since admitting they had paid a few million bucks for a fake would reflect badly on them and the experts they employed and paid a lot of money to. This isn't very important either.
They didn't put him away for many years. He got off lightly (sort of), mostly because many of those who could testify (his former clients, purchasers of his product) refused to do so. Nobody wants to look like a moron.
Now comes the important part: the interview.
It was a fluke: a stroke of genius. The reporter who visited the Swiss dude at the Swiss dude's castle after the trial was imaginative enough to ask just the right questions; and got honest replies.
The first question was:
How long did it normally take you to do a "new" Hals or Rembrandt?
The answer: It varied. You have to factor in the size of the painting and the amount of detail. Anywhere from four months to a year.
And the next question was:
And a "new" Picasso or Chagall?
And the answer was:
About forty minutes...
”Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” - Vince Lombard