How to Spot a Fake Painting, According to Forgery Experts

A visitor photographs 'Mural' by Jackson Pollock.
A visitor photographs 'Mural' by Jackson Pollock. / Adam Berry, Stringer

Even for the most educated art lovers, spotting forgeries isn't an easy skill to master. In this video from WIRED, forensic scientist Thiago Piwowarczyk and art historian Jeffrey Taylor share some of the strategies they use to weed out fake paintings from the real thing.

Making a career out of identifying art forgeries means learning to recognize the tricks scammers use to make their works seem authentic. In the case of the alleged Jackson Pollock painting Piwowarczyk and Taylor examine in the video, tea bags have been dabbed onto the canvas and nicotine has been sprayed over it to make it seem older than it actually is. The experts also catch a few incriminating details that the forger missed, like staple holes, which you wouldn't find on a painting produced in the 1950s, and a missing signature. X-ray fluorescence analysis, microscopy, and documents of past ownership can also reveal clues that either prove or disprove a painting's legitimacy.

There are many ways to spot a fake painting, but this doesn't stop forgeries from slipping into famous art collections. The Terrus Museum in France recently learned that more than half the paintings in its collection were fakes, and in 2017, art experts argued over the provenance of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi when it became the most expensive painting ever sold.

Jackson Pollock's seemingly random style is hard to authenticate, but as the experts show in the video below, it is possible. There was even a computer program created a few years ago that identified Pollock works with a 93 percent success rate.

[h/t WIRED]