Himalayan Art Resources

Painting: Fake Art (Forgery) Page

Confusions & Controversies

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Definition
--- Examples
--- Painting (below)
- Sculpture
- Dating of Art
- Provenance
- Confusions
- Others

- Fake Art: Part 1
- Fake Art: Part 2 (Paintings)
- Pilgrimage Art
- Pilgrimage & Temple Shop Art

A fake artwork or item is an object created and presented to deceive. The motivation is generally for financial gain or advantage. The word 'fake' is a human abstraction. There is no such thing as fake art from its own side - from the side of the object. Objects do not have a self identity of being fake or real. The term fake refers to how an object is presented by a seller, promoter or owner. A fake object is an item that is presented as something other than what that object is factually and historically known to be as understood by trained experts, scholars or witnesses.

Further to that, fake art is often described as an object created to deceive as to its date of production, provenance or quality. The word 'fake' is subjective. The human intention of deceit or fraud is the essential ingredient in defining a fake work of art. Sometimes suspect art, often of modern creation, is presented as old because of a lack of knowledge on the part of the owner, buyer, or seller, without any deceit intended or present. Sometimes it is just not possible to know if an art object was created as a legitimate copy or as an object of deceit. A new composition with obvious distress & painted on old cloth could be created as a copy or for deceit. Painted with Buddhist imagery, Human Skin Paintings are a good example of modern fakes created in the 1990s in Qinghai, China.

Examples: Paintings often Considered as Fake
- Pilgrimage Art Main Page
- Suspect Art (with certain qualifications)
- Temple Shop Art (with certain qualifications)
- Copies & Facsimiles
- Conservation & Over Conservation
- Restoration & Over Restoration
- Initiation Cards (Modern Fake Art Atelier)
- A new composition with obvious distress or painted on old cloth: HAR #1340
- Dali Fake Art
- Provincial Paintings (with certain qualifications)
- Poor & Bad Quality Art (with certain qualifications)
- Others...

Fake Art is Not:
- Low Quality Art
- Partially Mistaken Iconography
- Copy Art
- Quality Art with some Non-traditional Characteristics
- With Conservation
- With Limited Inpainting (Restoration)
Further Comment:
It can also be argued that undisclosed over restoration done to a certain degree constitutes a fake. The creation of secondary figures, designs and motifs not original to the work or time period could constitute a fake. It can also be argued that heavily over restored paintings with invented iconography could be understood as belonging to a new category of art called Himalayan & Tibetan Decorative art. An argument can possibly be made to describe very poor quality Temple Shop Art as fake.

A number of modern art ateliers are currently known to exist where the intention is to create new works that can be sold as old works for financial gain. There are also ateliers that acquire early - old - paintings that are heavily damaged and recreate a very distressed but intact 'new' version with the claim that it has had little or no restoration work done. These types of objects can also be taken to a second or third restorer for additional re-construction and in-painting. Can this also be a fake? How much restoration is over-restoration? When does an overly restored painting become a fake rather than just re-painted.

Paintings created in India, Nepal and Sikkim in the 1960s and 1970s have been found in the international marketplace and passed off as 18th or 19th century works. The original intention was not to deceive but as the paintings pass through different owners and hands the acquisition stories and provenance information can change or just become lost to time.

Just the topic of 'fake' Himalayan and Tibetan art is very controversial and belongs to a greater, and at this time, unresolved but ongoing conversation among scholars, art historians, artists, art dealers, collectors, art conservators and restorers.

Jeff Watt 3-2015 [updated 6-2017, 3-2024]
(The images below are only a selection of examples permitted by the owners or institutions where the objects reside).