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Truths and lies in art

Posted February. 08, 2014 04:56,   


Tom Keating, a British painter of copycat paintings, had strong painting skills because he graduated from an art school, but lacked creativity. He painted more than 2,000 copycats of original paintings by great painters such as Rembrandt and Francisco Goya. When caught due to persistent investigation by a reporter specializing in art with The Times, he made an excuse by saying, “Only painting dealers made money with counterfeit works that I made, and I have never sold counterfeit paintings by myself.” Usually when paintings are found to be forgery, their price plunges, but his counterfeit artworks rather encouraged art collectors to seek them. When he died, the price of his paintings soared.

A Japanese composer known as Japan`s Beethoven for composing classical music despite loss of his hearing, has been caught for fraud. The composer, named Mamoru Samuragoch, only proposed structure and image of music, and hired Takashi Niigaki, a college lecturer who majored in composition, to compose music. The lecturer’s excuse is similar to that of Keating. “I was hired by Samuragoch to compose music for orchestra 18 years ago, and I just composed the music, and Samuragoch publicized it as his work that was composed 100 percent by him.”

One can listen to “Symphony No. 1 Hiroshima,” which Samuragoch requested Niigaki to compose 18 years ago, on YouTube. Someone posted comment, reading “I like this music. Whoever wrote should not be a problem,” while another noted, “This is only repetition of cliché, and cannot be considered Symphony.” If I were to comment on it, well, I would rather not do it. However, I am wondering what Pianist Sohn Yeol-eum who held her first concert in Yokohama, Japan last year felt when she played “Piano Sonata No. 2,” which Samuragoch reportedly composed to pay tribute to victims of the earthquake in Japan.

Fraud in the art enterprise is peculiar to some extent. American movie director Orson Welles produced the documentary movie “F for Fake” dealing with Elmyr de Hory, a Hungarian painter of counterfeit paintings. The movie includes dialogue: When de Hory says “Modigliani died young, and he left not many paintings. It would not harm even if I add several more to his production,” to which Welles replies, “Beautiful. But can we call them art?”