Fake Out: British Art Museums Replace Famous Paintings With Frauds

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Tourists flock to Europe’s art museums to see famous masterpieces in person. However, research shows that they aren’t making the most of their visit. According to experts, the average visitor spends a mere 15 to 30 seconds in front of a work of art. So to make people slow down, stop, and concentrate on their surroundings, Travel + Leisure reports, a new British TV show called Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge has secretly swapped seven renowned paintings with forgeries in a handful of galleries across the UK.

Until August 1, keen-eyed art lovers can enter a contest to try to spot the fakes. They can examine the works in person, or online on a website created by Sky Arts, the television channel that hosts the show. Individuals who distinguish the forged paintings from real ones will be invited to report their findings through an online submission form. Two hundred of the most successful entrants will be selected at random, and the show will narrow this pool down to 10 finalists, who will appear on the TV series’ finale at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The grand prize winner will be gifted a commissioned replica of a renowned British painting, worth up to $6500.

Participating galleries include the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, the National Museum Cardiff in Cardiff, Wales, the Guildhall Art Gallery in London, the Manchester Art Gallery in Manchester, UK, the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, Wirral, UK, and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. As far as entrants go, there aren't any major prerequisites, other than a love of art and a willingness to appear on the TV show. (A full list of terms and conditions is available online [PDF].)

“You don’t have to be an art historian to have a go at this,” said Phil Edgar-Jones, the director of Sky Arts, in a statement. “All you need is a sense of curiosity and an eye for detail.”

“We wanted to tell the story of British art with a sense of fun, and in a way that would encourage us all to take a closer and more critical look at the works of great British artists,” Edgar-Jones continued.

If you’re not one of the finalists but still want to keep tabs on the competition as it unfolds, Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge is eventually slated to screen in 2017, The Guardian reports. Its hosts include journalist Giles Coren, a journalist for The Times of London, and Rose Balston, founder of Art History UK, a boutique London art tours company. Each episode will focus on a particular era in British art.

Inspired to channel your inner art detective? You can register for the competition online. Just keep in mind that it has a strict deadline: Monday, August 1, 2016, before midnight. And sorry, American art lovers: It’s only open to residents of the UK.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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