National Gallery Director: I Wish We Had More Fakes


Nicholas Penny unveils exhibition of famous forgeries set for next year

National Gallery Director: I Wish We Had More Fakes.

NATIONAL GALLERY director Nicholas Penny wants his museum to show more fake paintings.

"I wish we had more fakes," said Penny, by way of introducing next year's programme for the National, which includes an exhibition called Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries.

"The National Gallery is a place where we show off masterpieces, and also study the history of art in all its complexity," Penny explained.

Among the forgeries are An Old Man in an Armchair, sold as a Rembrandt and Man with a Skull, supposedly by Holbein, bought by the National in 1845, exposed as a fake, but not in time to save the job of the gallery's director.

"The history of mistakes encourages extreme caution and extreme humility. I'm not worried about the reputation of the institution," said Penny.

Possibly he is worried about sneaky people getting their three-year olds to dash off a crayon version of the Mona Lisa before flogging it to the National, so Penny was quick to add:

"Of course, we would only be interested in really interesting forgeries."

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries - a collection of 40 famous fakes from the National's stock - forms part of a new policy for the gallery as the recession bites.

"People all over the world are revising their exhibition policy," said Penny.

Suddenly hard-up American galleries have pulled back from international lending partnership schemes and the fall in the pound has made renting paintings held abroad more expensive.

As a result the National has dropped one of its usual three international shows for next year, specifically the summer one, which is where the fakes exhibition comes in.

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries will be on show at the National Gallery in June 2010.

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