Listening Topic: Visual Art – Conversation about art forgery

A. Listen to the conversation. Then answer the questions.

 What was the TV program about?

 why is it sometimes difficult to tell the difference between an original piece of art and a forgery?

B. Listen to the conversation again. Write T for true or F for false for each statement. Correct them to make them true. Listen again if necessary.

1   Buyers should learn as much as they can about the artist’s style.

2   Buyers should talk to the painting’s previous owners.

3   Holding a black light to a painting may reveal if it is a copy.

4   The chemical composition of the paint may help determine if a painting is real or not.

5   Comparing fingerprints left in paint helps in detecting a forgery.

6   It’s always possible to identify a forged painting.

7   Most public and private collections have no forgeries at all.

8   Some forgeries have become valuable themselves.



1   Art forgery and how experts detect forgeries

2   Art forgers have developed very sophisticated skills and techniques.


1 T   2 F   3 T   4 T   5 T   6 F   7 F   8 T


A= Michael, B = Janet

A:   I saw this fascinating program on TV last night.

B:   Really? What was it about?

A:   It was about art forgery. About how artists paint copies of famous works of art, and then try to sell them as originals.

B:   That sounds pretty interesting.

A:   Yeah, it was. They also talked about how art buyers can take certain precautions to make sure that they don’t accidentally buy one of these fakes. For example, they said it’s a good idea to become very familiar with an artist’s style before you purchase one of their pieces. You should have a sense of what colors, material and subject matters the artist usually preferred, as well as what his or her brush strokes look like.

This one gallery owner said that signature location and mounting and framing techniques can also alert you to poor copies. He also said that at his auction house, all pieces must have a provenance. He said if auction houses and galleries come across a piece of artwork without one, they will not sell it.

B:   Provenance. I’ve heard that word before, but I’m not exactly sure what it means.

A:   A provenance is a ‘paper history’, or documentation of an artwork’s life. Who bought it from whom, when, and for how much. Reputable art dealers insist on being provided with a provenance when a prospective client wants to sell of a piece of artwork. If an auction house does accidentally sell a forgery, it can be held liable for the selling price.

B:   So, if I’m interested in a painting, the seller should be able to produce this paper trail.

A:   Absolutely. Don’t buy it otherwise.

B:   Ok. But I don’t think I’ll be buying any famous paintings anytime soon.

A:   Me neither. But, you never know. Anyway, what I really found interesting in this show was the part about how experts-scientists-use different techniques to try and tell the difference between real works of art and fakes.

A:   For instance, very often, if you hold a black light to a painting, the signature may jump out and look like it is resting on top of the painting. That means it’s probably a fake. Also, an x-ray of the picture might show if the painting has been altered in any way. And let’s say you’re examining a painting that is supposed to be several hundred years old. Well, an analysis of the paint-its chemical composition-can tell you if it matches the kind of paint that was normally used back when the piece was supposedly painted.

B:   Wow. That’s pretty impressive

A:   Sometimes, experts have been able to see the artist’s fingerprints in the paint itself. If they find fingerprints in the paint, they might be able to use them to determine who really painted the work.

B:   Did they show any examples of forgeries on this show. I mean, did they show any forgeries next to original paintings?

A:   Yes, and to the untrained eye, it was impossible to tell the difference. Some artists who have had their artwork forged are Vermeer, Dali, and Picasso among many, many others. They showed a few of these forgeries on the show.

B:   So with all those ways of authenticating a painting, is the buying and selling of forgeries common?

A:   That’s really hard to say. As techniques for detecting forgeries have become more sophisticated, so have the forgers. Some of these forgers have become so good, in fact, that experts simply cannot tell the difference between their copies and an original work. So in some cases it may be impossible to authenticate a painting. Get this: some experts say that 40% to 60% of some private and public collections may actually be fake.

B:   Really!?

A:   Yep.

B:   That’s incredible. It’ll make me think twice the next time I’m in an art museum.

A:   And apparently some forgers have become famous for their forgeries and their work is now considered valuable even though everyone knows they’re forgeries.

B:   Wow. That sounds like a pretty interesting program. I wish I had seen it.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This