Previous Posts: May 2014
The vicar's Van Dyck
May 30 2014
A head study by Van Dyck discovered on The Antiques Roadshow, and which was originally bought by a priest in an antiques shop in Nantwich for £400, will be sold this summer by Christie's. The estimate will be £400,000-£500,000.
The picture was first spotted by Fiona Bruce on the show, who was up on all things Van Dyck after making an episode of Fake or Fortune? about Van Dyck's lost portrait of Henrietta Maria. She recognised the picture's Van Dyck-ian hallmarks, and then arranged for Philip Mould and I to see Father Jamie MacLeod's picture in London. The picture had been almost entirely overpainted by a later restorer, and over the next few months the later paint was gradually removed. The newly revealed, unfinished portrait was painted by Van Dyck as a study for his now lost group portrait, the Magistrates of Brussels.
Hope for at-risk Poussin?
May 30 2014
The above Poussin, sold to an overseas buyer by the Duke of Bedford for £14m, has entered its second period of deferral under the UK's system for exporting works of art. This means that someone, almost certainly a museum, is making a serious bid to buy it. If it is a museum, then it's interesting that no public campaign is being launched, at least not yet. The export rules allow for a private buyer to match the price, as long as they agree to show it publicly for at least part of the year, for ten years.
Update - a reader writes:
A note of caution regarding the fate of Poussin’s The Infant Moses trampling upon Pharaoh’s Crown. The lack of public campaign to save the painting (despite its undoubted quality and exceptional provenance) as compared to the highly effective appeal run by the Art Fund and The Fitzwilliam Museum for the same artist’s Extreme Unction 18 months ago suggests all does not bode well despite the painting’s continued deferral from export.
Indeed, 2013/14 is turning out to be an annus horribilis for at risk paintings. Of the eleven paintings export stopped so far only the van Dyck self portrait has been secured for the nation. One other case remains outstanding (a Lusieri watercolour) but nine important paintings have gone abroad. The most recent loss is Le Brun’s Portrait of Everhard Jabach and his family which the Art Tribune describes as ‘exceptional for its quality’ and notes ‘the National Gallery in London…should have done everything in its power to keep it in England where it resided since the 18th century.’ Unfortunately, the National Gallery (or indeed other galleries across the UK) did not appear to share this view.
The Jabach was certainly a fine picture, but I'm not sure I agree with this gloomy prognosis. As I mentioned frequently some years ago now, we find ourselves at a time when many historic collections are selling up, given the seemingly contradictory situation where we've had both a global recession and a massive rise in the value of the best Old Master paintings. And considering that, it seems to me that in fact the system for making sure the very best, nationally and historically significant paintings (we can never hope to keep everything) remain in this country is working well, especially now that the Heritage Lottery Fund is involved. As I have also mentioned before, I think those involved deserve our congratulations.
Meanwhile, another reader has this intriguing selection:
Her Majesty The Queen once commented in an interview regarding art that The Royal Collection was lacking a Poisson painting and appeared genuinely disturbed by the fact. This one would be an excellent addition to Her collection.
Update II - however, a reader adds re the above:
It wasn’t the Queen as such, rather Prunella Scales as HM – I remember the comment from Alan Bennett’s Question of Attribution.
Guffwatch - 'Art is Therapy' (ctd.)
May 29 2014
It's time for another of Alain de Botton's guffy gems (from his 'Art is Therapy' gig at the Rijksmuseum):
It looks terrible. How can they survive? But the boats were designed for this; the crew have practised. This is a homage to planning and experience. We should feel proud of humanity's competence and skill in the face of dreadful but awe-inspiring challenges. We're better able to cope than we might think.
I suspect the artist here, Ludolf Bakhuysen, was trying to convey exactly the opposite message. But never mind.
What's more certain is that the de Botton experiment has become a PR disaster for the Rijksmuseum, and has been universally panned. As Nick Cohen writes in The Guardian:
The critics have been unrelenting. In the Dutch press, Bianca Stigter put it best when she said the Rijksmuseum was presenting art as cod liver oil: the nastier it tasted the more good it did you. Her colleague Wieteke van Zeil made the essential argument that the job of a gallery was to give people the space to think, not to tell them what to think.
The British press has been no less condemnatory. I am not disagreeing. The moral exhortations and cautionary tales the Rijksmuseum offers are historically ignorant, visually illiterate and brazenly propagandistic.
Update - a reader tells me Art as Therapy has got to Canada, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. And there it seems also to be meeting with some derision, as David Balzier writes on Canadian Art:
[...] after reading the book and seeing the show, I now know that the art world hates “Art as Therapy” because it’s just plain awful. I remain comfortable with its intention; its tone and execution, however, are all wrong.
At the AGO, de Botton appears in videos activated by the push of a button. The first is embedded in a science fair–like stand after the gallery’s entrance wickets. A quote by de Botton and Armstrong tells us that “an art gallery should not only be a place to learn about art [but also] should be a place where we can learn about ourselves.” Five themed sections, placed throughout the AGO on multiple floors, are then identified with a map. In these sections, permanent-collection works are curated by de Botton and Armstrong alongside instructive and interpretive panels.
In every video, one for each section, de Botton urges us to express our feelings via doodling or writing on iPads, the results of which are displayed on screens. In addition, throughout the building, we see aphorisms with the #artastherapy hashtag and symbol, an apothecary’s cross. One garbage can reads, “Art is advertising, for what is good.”
This encouragement to engage immediately appears suspect and ironic. In the videos, de Botton is remote and supercilious. He uses British diction such as “trolley” (instead of “shopping cart”) and jokey-cute, sugar-coated phrasing such as “the whole ticklish subject” (to speak of sex). (In the book, he even uses the term “the gentle sex.”) The tone, consonant with previous de Botton books but obnoxiously amplified in speech, is best described as dumbed-down-patrician. Despite de Botton’s sentiments of aesthetic-humanist magnanimity, he looks wan, uncomfortable, even hateful in the videos, hunching forward and speaking through a wince, his eyes squinting, his voice echoing through a generic gallery setting. One imagines him bound to a chair off-frame.
'Making Colour' at the National Gallery
May 29 2014
Picture: National Gallery
The National Gallery has come up with a great idea for an exhibition, called 'Making Colour':
From lapis lazuli to cobalt blue, to dazzling gold and silver – travel through the story of colour with the National Gallery.
‘Making Colour’, the first exhibition of its kind in the UK, invites you on an artistic and scientific voyage of discovery. From sparkling gemstones to crushed insects, learn about the surprising materials used to create pigments and the incredible journeys made by artists in their pursuit of new hues.
Span hundreds of years from the early Renaissance to the Impressionist movement as you take in displays of paintings, mineral specimens, textiles, ceramics and glass.
Journey from lapis lazuli to cobalt blue, ancient vermilion to bright cadmium red, through yellow, orange, purple and verdigris to deep green viridian – in a series of colour-themed rooms. Finally, enter a dazzling central room devoted to gold and silver.
‘Making Colour’ is complemented by an interactive display that introduces a new world of contemporary scientific thought on colour. Designed to demonstrate how we perceive and register colour, the experiment will reveal how the eye and brain respond to colour in unexpected ways.
The exhibition opens on 18th June, and runs till 7th September. More here.
'Sea Beach, Brighton' to be sold
May 29 2014
Art Daily reports that the John Constable we featured on 'Fake or Fortune?', called 'Sea Beach, Brighton', is to be sold at Bonhams this summer. The estimate is £400,000-£600,000.
"Stolen Rembrandt discovered" (ctd.)
May 29 2014
There's more news on the 'Rembrandt' (which isn't by Rembrandt) that was recently returned to a French museum in Draguignan. It was stolen by an alarm technician who became obsessed with the painting. Artnews.com reports:
Patrick Vialaneix, 42, has become an improbable celebrity for beating the system—twice.
He first saw the Rembrandt, L’enfant à la bulle de savon (Child with soap bubble), at age 13 on a visit with his mother to the municipal museum in Draguignan, France. It reminded him of himself so much that viewing it was “like looking in a mirror,” he said. He became obsessed with the painting, returning over and over to behold its charms.
His fixation escalated until finally, at the age of 28, he decided he had to steal it.
As luck would have it, he was employed as an alarm technician, so he began with a painstaking study of the museum’s security system. He planned the heist for July 13, 1999, during the noisy celebrations on the eve of the French holiday Bastille Day. Just before the museum closed, he discreetly crawled into a large cabinet and waited. Later that night, as helicopters thundered overhead, he jimmied open the painting’s bulletproof-glass case, slipped out the work in a few seconds, and escaped just as the alarm sounded. By the time the police arrived, he was gone.
Now, because of a French statute of limitations, M. Vialaneix will face no charges.
Update - that is, no charges relating to the theft. He's still on the hook over his alleged attempt to sell it.
George Stubbs' 'Tygers at Play'
May 29 2014
Here's a fine Stubbs, coming up for auction in July in London (est. £4m-£6m). As Julian Gascoigne explains, they're actually leopards.
Tate on humour in art
May 29 2014
Gainsborough's cough medicine
May 29 2014
Picture: Royal Academy
The latest Burlington Magazine has an article by Gainsborough scholar Hugh Belsey on some previously unpublished documents by the artist. The article isn't online (curses) but The Art Newspaper reports that one of them relates to Gainsborough's home-made cough medicine:
“Take two calves’ feet, two quarts of spring water, two ounces of sugar candy, one ounce of hart’s horn shavings, and one quart of milk; put them into an earthen pan, and send them to the oven to be baked after the bread is taken out, and to remain all night in the oven.”
Yummy. The recipe was spotted by Chris Fletcher in the British Library.
Is this by Rembrandt?
May 26 2014
Picture: National Gallery
The painting, Old Man in an Armchair (above), was bought by the National Gallery in London in 1957 as a Rembrandt, but was demoted shortly thereafter as being by 'a follower'. It last featured in their exhibition 'Fakes and Mistakes' in 2010.
Now, however, the head of the Rembrandt Research Committee, Ernst Van der Wetering, says he thinks the picture (which is signed) is in fact by Rembrandt. The Guardian reports:
Professor Van de Wetering was the long-serving director of the Rembrandt Research Project, set up in the Netherlands to organise and catagorise research on the artist, and is in the process of writing the sixth and final volume overview of the painter which has meant travelling the world viewing works which have had the biggest question marks placed over them.
That includes London's Old Man in an Armchair which was purchased as a Rembrandt in 1957, but demoted in 1969 based on the views of then leading expert Horst Gerson.
Van de Wetering saw the work three years ago and will next week have his arguments published in the June edition of the Burlington Magazine. "I was amazed that the painting was rejected," he said. "Then I saw how it was and why it was rejected."
Van de Wetering said the demotion of the 1652 painting had been based on a fundamental misunderstanding. The judgment was based on connoisseurship – that if a painting did not look like Rembrandt it could not be Rembrandt. "That was a vast mistake and Gerson got many wrong."
Instead Old Man in an Armchair needs to be seen in terms of Rembrandt's experimentation, said van de Wetering. In 1651 the artist decided to start all over again, to reinvent how he painted – to both paint and draw with his brush, in what has become known as his late "rough manner".
The subject in the National Gallery painting is not a portrait, van de Wetering said. "This is a man posing to be studied ... it is a painting about painting."
Van de Wetering said it was one of a number of "paintings about painting" that Rembrandt made, but the National Gallery work was of huge importance because it was one of the earliest.
The National Gallery is, for the moment, sticking with 'Follower of Rembrandt'.
Old Man in an Armchair has always struck me as a tricky one. I couldn't always see why it had been rejected. But then again there were reasons to doubt it, I thought. Perhaps the wider problem is that Rembrandt's oeuvre has been so picked upon, and so wittled down to a core of (what were hoped to be) indisputably 'right' pictures, that anything slightly off the beaten track was regarded with suspicion. Maybe Old Man in an Armchair falls into that group.
It's widely believed that the previous incarnation of the Rembrandt Research Project was far too exclusive, and rejected many pictures that were indeed by Rembrandt. The version of the RRP that Van der Wetering now heads (but which is soon to end its publications, in fact) has tended to be a little more inclusive. And I think that's a good thing, for I've always found it hard to believe that someone of Rembrandt's longevity (63 years) and talent could only paint some 340 or so paintings. Van Dyck, who died when he was 41, has over 700 to his name.
For what it's worth - and I claim no expertise at all on Rembrandt, - I've always thought The Auctioneer at the Met to be unfairly downgraded. Is this another late work (it's signed, and dated 1658) along the lines of Van der Wetering's experimental category?
Update - this site has a handy guide on how the number of Rembrandt attributions has varied over time, from 688 according to Valentiner's catalogue raisonne in 1921 to 265 according to Tumpel's in 1986. Therefore, 1987 would have been a good time to buy 'not Rembrandts'.
Update II - a reader has pointed out that Old Man in an Armchair was not bought by the National Gallery, but allocated to them under the Acceptance in Lieu programme. The picture had been in the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth, and was one of three 'Rembrandts' then in the collection. The Devonshires were pleased that they got to keep the two genuine Rembrandts, and paid off a load of tax with a picture that turned out to be worth somewhat less than the Treasury thought. But has the Treasury now had the last laugh?
Update III - a reader writes:
To me the colours, the light, the proportions and the handling of the paint seem spot on for Rembrandt. I don't know of a forger who is that perfect and comes that close to him.
I had a quick look at the Met's picture The Auctioneer and I agree with you that the main painter is Rembrandt but it looks, from the photographs, as if another hand has touched-up parts of the hair, the shape of the hair on the shoulder looks mis-balanced, possibly causing the shape of the hat to change - the left-hand shadow on the face also seems too hard. I can understand why it was downgraded.
New Prado app
May 26 2014
Video: Museo Prado
Zoomable details, infra-red, x-rays, the lot. Highly impressive.
Disaster in Glasgow
May 23 2014
Picture: Apollo/@xdxxnx on Twitter
The Charles Rennie Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of art is on fire, after a projector exploded in the basement. Awful, awful, awful. Latest here.
Update: The Scotsman, which has the photo below of the fire-ravaged interior, reports that the rebuilding will cost up to £20m. Much of the building and contents were saved, but the famous library has been destroyed. There's not much more on the cause, but it's said that the exploding projector set fire to some nearby foam. Final year art students were installing their art projects at the time, and if I had to guess what happened, it's that someone was using one of those old-fashioned projectors that are de rigeur for contemporary installations.
Update II - further photos from inside here.
'New Dali discovered'
May 23 2014
Picture: AFP via Telegraph
Here's a story which at first sight sounds convincing, but then is in danger of soon falling apart. Maybe it's just the way the story is written. The Telegraph reports:
An oil painting bought for a mere €150 (£120) from a dusty antiques shop in northeastern Spain 26 years ago has been discovered to be the earliest surrealist work by Salvador Dali, art experts confirmed on Thursday.
[Art historian] Tomeu L'Amo suspected it may have been an early work by Catalan artist Salvador Dali but the shopkeeper insisted that was impossible as it bore an inscription with the date 1896, eight years before Dali was born.
Nevertheless, Mr L'Amo purchased the artwork for 25,000 pesetas - around £120 in today's money - and spent the next quarter of a century trying to confirm his hunch. [...]
A team of experts used a series of technological methods to help determine the painting's authenticity. Infrared photography of the canvas revealed lines made by the artist that were consistent with a style he used in later works.
Analysis of the paint used on the canvas proved it could not have been created before 1909 and comparison of the lettering of the inscription with hundreds of other known Dali works by a well-respected handwriting expert showed it was consistent with Dali's own hand.
José Pedro Venzal, the handwriting expert who regularly carries out analysis for Interpol, revealed that the inscription contained a corrected spelling mistake, one that Dali oft repeated in later life.
The ten word dedication in the lower righthand corner of the painting written in Catalan translates as "To My Dear Teacher on the day of his birth", with the date 27-IX-96.
Mr L'Amo believes Dali, who had a reputation for making outrageous claims and carrying out media stunts, used a numerology code to come up with date.
"Dali must be laughing in his grave at the thought that he managed to fool everyone for so many years," he said.
So the evidence at first seems to be pretty thin - and it might even be case of over-enthusiastic scientific interpretation. We have a few 'lines' in infra-red, and some handwriting analysis. On the former, it always strikes me as odd that we're still reluctant to trust old-fashioned connoisseurship, but if it's a question of analysing indeterminate brush strokes beneath the paint layers, via infra- red or x-ray, then it's alright. Especially if the verdict comes from someone wearing a white coat.
The "forensic" analysis of the handwriting reminds me of the similar story with the 'Rice' portrait of Jane Austen. There, another police-endorsed 'expert' was convinced they could see 'Jane Austen' written in the paint, when it was just an optimistic interpretation of craquelure. Such cases make me feel anxious about the level of forensic expertise submitted in our courts...
The Telegraph story ends thus:
The Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation, which runs a museum in the artist's birthplace of Figueres, has yet to recognise the work as a Dali original.
Update - a reader writes:
Nicholas Descharnes is standing next to the painting in the photograph - Robert & Nicholas are two of the most respected Dali experts, so as crazy as it might seem, it would suggest it has strong connoisseurial backing.
Update II - another reader writes:
You are dead right to be wary of so-called forensic experts. Some years ago when I was a trainee solicitor in England I was in court when a defendant pleaded guilty to charges of fraud involving forgery of cheques. However this was only after another completely innocent person some months before had been convicted of these offences based on finger print and handwriting evidence which in the event was wrong. The judge's passing remark in the later case "It makes you think, doesn't it" was to me the understatement of the century.
The label 'expert' is too easily acquired these days.
Art Detective (ctd.)
May 22 2014
Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy
Some impressive sleuthing has already emerged from Art Detective, the new website designed to help solve various picture mysteries in the UK's national collection. The above unattributed picture was submitted to the site by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, who were keen to know the artist. User Toby Bettridge soon recognised that the picture was a study for a larger work, in the Imperial War Museum, by Arthur David McCormick (below), for a picture called 'Valve Testing: The Signal School, RN Barracks, Portsmouth'. Excellent!
US National Gallery new online catalogue
May 22 2014
Picture: US National Gallery
More good online art history news from the USA - the US National Gallery has begun to put its authoritative, in depth catalogues online. Called Online Editions, the catalogues are in an easy to use format, with zoomable images and so on. The first offering is Arthur Wheelock's Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. Says the NG:
Available for the first time on the National Gallery of Art website, NGA Online Editions (œ) presents the most current, in-depth information on the Gallery’s collections by the world’s leading art historians along with rich capabilities for exploring that information. A customized reading environment and toolkit for managing text and images are intended both to provide scholars with a useful workspace for research and to encourage the study and appreciation of art.
NGA Online Editions launches with Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century by Gallery curator Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and will ultimately document more than 5,000 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts in the nation's collection. Editions include an introduction by the curator, illustrated scholarly entries (each preceded by a short overview), artists' biographies, technical summaries, and a complement of rich media, educational materials, and appendices related to the featured collection. Formerly known as The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue (a printed series of authoritative volumes on the Gallery’s permanent collections), NGA Online Editions puts this same detailed information—and more—at the fingertips of students, scholars, and anyone eager to learn more about the treasures of the National Gallery of Art.
500 Rembrandt etchings online
May 22 2014
Picture: Morgan Library & Museum
The Morgan Library & Museum has uploaded 500 Rembrandt etchings, all in lovely high-res. Says the Morgan:
This online feature makes almost five hundred images from the Morgan's exceptional collection of Rembrandt etchings available for the first time. The images presented here celebrate his unsurpassed skill and inventiveness as a master storyteller.
Pierpont Morgan laid the foundation for this collection—the finest in North America—when he acquired his first Rembrandt etchings in 1900, with another major purchase in 1906. The Morgan holds impressions of most of the three hundred or so known etchings by Rembrandt, as well as multiple, often exceedingly rare impressions of various states.
Renowned in the history of printmaking, Rembrandt's etchings are famous for their dramatic intensity, penetrating psychology, and touching humanity. Through these images you can explore some of the central and often recurring themes of the master's work, including portraiture, the Bible, scenes from everyday life, the nude, and landscape.
The images can be used gratis for scholarly and non-commercial applications. Bravo Morgan!
Where are the women in art? (ctd.)
May 21 2014
Picture: Philip Mould
Following my post yesterday on the question of women artists, I wonder if (plug alert) you would allow me to mention a recent, home-grown discovery of the above work by Mary Beale. It turned up in some rural sale recently, as 'English School'. Beale can be said to be Britain's first commercially successful female artist, and secured a quite a wide circle of patronage. She was encouraged by Sir Peter Lely, among others.
The above picture, a Penitent Magdalene, was mentioned by Beale's husband, Charles Beale, in a list of her paintings 'done from the life', and was painted in the early 1670s. The art historian George Vertue (praised be him) noted that the sitter was 'Moll Trioche - a yong woman'. Moll was doubtless related to Kate Trioche, who was one of Beale's models and assistants, and who is thought to appear in this painting at Tate Britain.
The picture relates to two intriguing drawings at the British Museum, which are today attributed to Mary's son, Charles Jr. (also an artist), though previously the drawings were thought to be by Mary (personally, I think some of them still might be). One of the drawings seems to suggest that when sitting for this picture, Moll Trioche must have fallen asleep, for a little urchin is seen sticking something up her nose.
More details on the picture can be found here on the Philip Mould website.
PS - I see from the provenance of the Tate picture that was discovered by Philip in 1991.
Update - Richard Stephens, creator and editor of pioneering site The Art World in Britain 1660-1735, sends this interesting information:
In the 17th & 18th century Britain there were plenty of women in the art trade, just not always as painters. Jacob Simon wrote a blog entry about female frame makers and gilders, which is here:
And you could make much the same points about picture dealing. In the early modern period it was not at all uncommon to find widows carrying on their late husbands' trade as picture sellers - their families still needed money to eat, after all. Working was hardly ever a matter of personal fulfilment like it is so often nowadays. Indeed, so far as the evidence allows for such a generalisation, I'd say it was even normal for women to sell pictures after theri husbands died and doubtless they played their part in the business while their husbands were still living. Some women dealers whose names spring to mind are Elizabeth Turner (d.1732/3), wife of Captain Henry Turner who was based at the Palace of Westminster in the early 18th century; Elizabeth Davis (died 1714), wife of engraver and dealer Edward Davis; Margaret Hay, wife of painter/dealer Andrew Hay; and the widow of copyist and picture seller Henry Peart (died 1700), who ended up selling her stock to the 1st Earl of Bristol in return for an annual pension. The Pearts were neighbours of the Beales in Pall Mall as you know.
In the records of the Painter Stainers company at this time one finds women-only workshops too, although it's never clear what trade they were carrying on.
The Joseph Wright Institute
May 21 2014
Picture: Derby Museum
Here's a Good Thing; a new research centre devoted to Joseph Wright of Derby, in the Derby Museum. The Joseph Wright Institute will (says the website):
[...] improve access to and raise awareness of Joseph Wright and his work, locally, nationally and internationally. It will offer research opportunities, produce exhibitions and publications as well as a programme of activities catering for all audiences including schools and families, university academics and casual visitors.
Comprising of the Joseph Wright Gallery containing the largest collection of Wright oil paintings in the world; The Study Centre with drawings, prints, letters and other supporting information relating to Wrights life and work; Exhibition space that will host temporary exhibitions of Wright’s work and placing Wright in context two exhibitions open in May as part of this launch “Wright Inspired”, looking at copies, fakes and work inspired by Wright and “Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond” an exhibition jointly developed with The Holbourne in Bath.
Freud's Auerbachs acquired by the UK
May 21 2014
Picture: Arts Council
Lucien Freud's collection of 15 oil paintings (and 29 works on paper) by Frank Auerbach has been acquired by the UK through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. The pictures, including Head of Gerda Boehm (above), will be on display at the Manchester Art Gallery first, and then Tate Britain. Then, decisions will be made as to which institutions will get them on a permanent basis. So - curators - get your bids in, if you're interested... More details here.
The inheritance tax foregone by the Treasury amounts to £16.2m, and this makes it the biggest ever deal done in the 100 year history of the AIL scheme. Happily, the government recently increased the annual limit on works that the AIL programme can handle (along with the new Cultural Gifts scheme), to £40m. The deal is more evidence, despite the frequent complaining one hears, that the public acquisition process in the UK is in unusually rude health.
US pastor jailed for selling fake Hirst
May 21 2014
Picture: Manhattan District Attorney
Not much more to add to this story - the headline says it all really - but Jonathan Jones in The Guardian says that Hirst is the real fake here:
Damien Hirst's paintings are talentless and phoney as hell. Hirst is the fake. His efforts to do "proper" paintings have revealed his total lack of artistic accomplishment. This exposure of his fundamental inability means that it is impossible to take him seriously any more, especially as a painter. While the best of his early animal vitrines have some kind of place in art history, his paintings – spin, spot or realist – are cynical stunts by a man who cannot actually paint. So how on earth can they be of value and why should it be a big deal to fake them?
Update - a reader writes:
I cannot follow the reasoning of Jonathan Jones; he thinks Hirst's work is without merit, and therefore no crime worthy of punishment is committed in passing off a fake. Even if that is so (and no doubt there are other opinions) it is hardly the point; anyone laying down their hard earned for a Hirst, is entitled to receive a Hirst (whatever it's artistic merits) and not a fake, and they have been deceived if they don't. With the greatest respect to Jones, the sin lies in the deception, and not in any necessarily personal and subjective assessment of quality of the item copied, or indeed in the item used to deceive.