Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2020)
March 6, 2021 7:59 PM - Subscribe

A woman walks into a New York gallery with a cache of unknown masterworks. Thus begins a story of art world greed, willfulness and a high-stakes con.

"In a sly way, “Made You Look” shows you that to be enthralled by a fake painting is to exist in an innocent state of foolish grace. It’s to believe nothing but your eyes."—Variety
posted by bcwinters (18 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I should note that this is streaming in the US on Netflix.

I thought the cast of interviewees were delightful and largely eminently guillotineable.
posted by bcwinters at 8:01 PM on March 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

I liked this a lot. Though, I was really hoping we’d get a little more insight into the artist’s techniques and whatnot. Forgeries are kind of a fascinating thing.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:01 PM on March 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Just added this to my Netflix list, and then happened to see it here. The summary mentioned "fake Rothkos", and given the bit I know about his technique, I'm going to be very excited to see if these fake ones are just giant blocks of color or if they actually involve layers of paint.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:10 PM on March 6, 2021

I thought this was good, and it is amazing that like literally everyone in it is totally dislikeable. Also I just saw somewhere that one of the pictures they used of Pollack's studio was fake, which is pretty funny.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:19 AM on March 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Mrs. W and I watched this yesterday and were enthralled, but amazed at the lack of closure at the end. (Also, one of the lawyers keeps several of the fakes in his office, which seemed weird...)
posted by wittgenstein at 4:00 AM on March 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Here's the photo of not-Pollock that was mistakenly used in the documentary—it's literally a diorama, ha.
posted by bcwinters at 6:42 AM on March 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

There was a great Reveal episode on this! ( The benefit of listening to that is the people presenting the story area all very likeable.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:21 AM on March 7, 2021

As if there are Rothko paintings that aren't fake.
posted by surlyben at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2021

As if there are Rothko paintings that aren't fake.

Can we just please not?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Can we please just not?

That's fair. I definitely am too willing to hate on Rothko. Let me rephrase without that particular bugaboo. For me the context and the delight of the show is the idea that "my kid could do it," or at least the (not uncommon) notion that those works would be easy to fake, and therefore those are fake artists.

I think there's something to that notion. Here's a sketch of an argument: This documentary suggests that the main value of the paintings rests in the authenticity of those paintings, and not, say, how they look, or how they make a person feel, or the skill that went into creating them. Those paintings are entirely *about* authenticity, or at least that's the modern reading of them. Given the prices involved, it's no surprise that people continue to make art about authenticity (e.g. NFT art, or that horrible banana.) [Insert wild leap here. Look, I'm just having a laugh, please don't take me too seriously.] All of those artists are just making forgeries of Duchamp's work circa 1917; they are all fakes.
posted by surlyben at 11:12 AM on March 7, 2021

I may do a double feature with this and F for Fake. But then, any excuse to rewatch F for Fake...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:17 PM on March 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

YES. F for Fake is the masterwork we always need in these, and all, times.
posted by jettloe at 8:22 PM on March 7, 2021

This is of professional interest to me, in a way that I should probably not disclose. My whole office is watching it. To me, the people who want it to be a story about morality (e.g. "why does anyone pay this much for these particular artists, the people who were taken in deserve what they get") miss the mark. There is real harm, in my opinion, in admitting fakes like these ones to the oeuvre of the artists they imitate.

Real work by Rothko, Pollock, Kline, Motherwell, Diebenkorn, etc. has an actual presence and reality that is diminished by the acceptance of bad imitations. It fools people who should know better, yes, and the venality at the center of this particular group of works is contemptible and awful. But we shouldn't assume that there is no larger consequence than some rich people losing money.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:40 PM on March 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

A cool how-to series on art forgery by Tom Keating, although not concerning abstract expressionists.
posted by jabah at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2021

The whole time Ann Freedman was on, I was imagining Meg Ryan delivering those lines with just a teeny bit more of a comic spin and mugging and grimacing almost exactly the same way, but it would be pure Meg Ryan.
posted by BibiRose at 3:03 PM on March 8, 2021

I was imagining Meg Ryan delivering those lines with just a teeny bit more of a comic spin and mugging and grimacing almost exactly the same way

I may or may not have played out a scene in my head where Allison Janney was trying on curly wigs and monochromatic tops while talking agitatedly to her agent on speaker.
posted by bcwinters at 3:51 PM on March 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

I love anything to do with a con, so I really enjoyed this (and I also downloaded the book about con artists by the psychologist featured in the documentary - Maria Konnikova). I can see why this artistic genre appears to be so easy to fake, but I was surprised that so many of the experts were either fooled or, if they weren't, were unwilling to state definitively that this wasn't a real Rothko, Pollock, etc.

If you like this kind of thing, also check out Sour Grapes, which is about wine fakery.
posted by essexjan at 5:55 AM on March 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

I watched this last night and while I was hoping for a discussion of "who decides if a splatter of paint" is expensive art, it makes sense that experts would know to check for the age of Masonite and other unique attributes and that therefore fake pieces would need to consider that. The whole thing about provenance was something I didn't know about but was very interesting.

The two little sidebars of "Is she an idiot or a criminal?" and "Is this fake painting upside-down?" were both fun things to consider.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2021

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