Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Stolen Art, Fake Art, Is It Art? -- Lots of great documentaries on Netflix

Art makes for great stories, and sometimes the story is a piece of art unto itself.

That's certainly true on Netflix lately with the premiere of Made You Look: A True Story of Fake Art. This documentary look at one of the largest art fraud cases in contemporary history is a fascinating look into the world of high-priced contemporary paintings. The question of "what is art" is always present when talking of the abstract expressionists like Rothko and Pollack, but that question becomes more intriguing when suspicion of art forgery enters the picture, and the question becomes not what is art, but how do you know for sure that art is authentic. 

Made You Look is a great piece of investigating filmmaking with a cast of characters who entertain as much as they beguile. One of the best is a young millennial art critic for the New York Times who opines about Ann Freedman, the curator of the esteemed Knoedler Gallery which bought and sold numerous fraudulent works, something to the effect of, "She either knew and was in on it, or she's just incredibly stupid." And that's not even the most shocking statement of the film. As one critic says, "You couldn't make this stuff up." The film is filled with an incredibly entertaining cast of characters, including the forger, the victim, the authenticator, the curator, and a seemingly endless list of experts who weigh in. It's simply a rich and colorful story that will beguile and amuse anyone with even a passing interest in the art world. 

And from a grand fraud scheme that was eventually uncovered to the greatest unsolved art heist of all time, Netflix also features a fascinating limited series, This Is a Robbery, which attempts to unravel the story of the 1991 theft of the Gardner Museum in Boston, a baffling crime the netted nearly a half billion dollars' worth of paintings, none of which have ever been recovered. The stories behind the stories behind the story of the Gardner Heist will mystify nearly anyone, especially because it seems impossible not only that the heist ever happened, but also that it's never been solved. 

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