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4 July 2008

Spot the fake

By Heather McRobie

After admitting that around one third of its Coptic art collection was fake, the Brooklyn Museum of Art hasannounced plans to display them in an unusual exhibition next year, in which Coptic works still considered to be genuine will be deliberately placed alongside those which have now been deemed counterfeit. The Independent reports that the exhibition will serve to alert other museums of possible fakes in their collections, but it also questions the motives behind our desire for authenticity in art. Others have argued that the differences between the fakes and the genuine Coptic artefacts reveals to us what later generations have hoped to see in a period of history, or how they’ve wished to characterise a civilsation. The Art Newspaper reports “the fakes…place a greater emphasis on Christian iconography than the authentic works. This reflects market demand for such imagery in Europe and North America”.

The wisdom of crowds

On a similar theme, a new exhibition, ‘Click! A Crowd-Curated Museum’, attempts to answer that perennial question: is it art? Using the idea of aggregate intelligence – that a group will, collectively, reach a more “accurate” estimation than they would as individuals – the Brooklyn Museum asked 3,344 members of the public to select photographs on the theme of Brooklyn, by mixture of professional and so-called amateur photographers. The top 20 per cent were then displayed at the museum. Reactions have been mixed: Ken Johnson at the New York Times writes “the exhibition itself is not very interesting to look at, but the issues it raises are fascinating.”

Hungarian horror stories

Two new films will explore the life of notorious Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory, but it is unclear whether either will separate myth from fact. The seventeenth century aristocrat has long been the subject of historical rumours and an inspiration for Hammer’s 1971 film Countess Dracula, after reports that Bathory used to torture and murder her female servants before bathing in their blood. More recently, however, historians have tried to reclaim her reputation, arguing that the gruesome stories were invented after her death. After surveying the existing books on Bathory, Tony Thorne at the Telegraph concludes “it’s just not possible to say for certain whether she really was a depraved monster…or an innocent victim of male jealousy and greed.”

In brief

Irina Baronova, the celebrated ballet dancer of the 1930s and 1940s, died earlier this week. The Herald Tribune praised her for her “indelible classical style and virtuosic technique.” Meanwhile, Screen Actor’s Guild members seem due to go ahead with their plans to strike despite last-minute negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The Times reported that the average SAG member earns only around £26,000 a year before agents take a cut of their earnings, in contrast to the stereotype that the actor’s strike is being pushed for by Hollywood millionaires. In the UK, Tartan films, theinfluential distribitor of independent films such as Battle Royale and 9 Songs, was moved into administration last Thursday, and it seems unlikely it will be able to resume trading. Screen Daily reports that “distributors are clamouring to buy the back-catalogue,” which also includes 2002’s Irreversible and the acclaimed Korean film Oldboy.

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