Forensic Focus Spring 2015

Spring 2015 SCHOOL OF GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL STUDIES 3.2.15 Is That Painting a Picasso or Fake-casso? Art forgery is a growing threat. An art dealer was recently charged by federal prosecutors for paying an artist to duplicate a Pablo Picasso pastel called “The Woman in the Blue Hat.” The forged piece was painted for $1,000 and then sold by the dealer for $2 million. After examining the piece and finding it to be a forgery, the buyer reported it to the FBI. In cases such as these, qualified forensic professionals are called in to investigate and detect art fraud as well as to assist in the legal process when forgeries are detected. CONTACT INFORMATION Thomas Coogan Associate Dean, Forensics 443-352-4075 Angela Scagliola Reynolds Director, School of Graduate and Professional Studies Recruiting & Admissions 443-352-4414 Art forgery has become so rampant that some experts suggest that the amount of fake art produced by forgers actually exceeds the number of legitimate artworks. One especially prolific forger was Wolfgang Beltracchi. CBS News reported that Beltracchi’s career as a forger made him a multi-millionaire. His forged paintings went undetected in museums, galleries, and private collections all around the world for more than 40 years. In fact, Beltracchi was such a proficient forger that he even created new works under the pretense that these discovered paintings were lost or forgotten. Art masterpieces are regularly sold for millions and tens of millions of dollars—and in some cases, even more; "When Will You Marry," a painting by the famous French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin, sold in early 2015 for nearly $300 million. Given the rise in art forgery and the enormous amount of money at stake, forensic professionals are making efforts to stem the tide of this epidemic. The FBI has an Art Crime Team that is comprised of special agents who receive comprehensive training in art investigations. Recently, INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, gathered nearly 70 representatives from law enforcement agencies, private institutions, and international organizations from 22 countries to combat the increasing global trend of art forgeries. Forensic science is being used to identify forged artwork. Crime laboratory professionals use chemical tests to confirm whether a forger has used modern materials to create a copy of an older piece. X-rays allow forensic scientists to examine layers of paint and verify if a new painting has been forged on top of an old canvas. Laboratory personnel also use ultraviolet and infrared lighting to determine whether anything was added to the painting after it was originally finished. Students in Stevenson’s forensics graduate degree programs learn investigative and scientific techniques like those used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute art forgers. With the possibility of making massive profits from selling $1,000 paintings for $2 million, art forgery is bound to continue and, therefore, the need for qualified forensic professionals will continue as well.