Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
Do you like my title? I bet it grabbed your attention. That’s because even though forgeries of art are bad, and terrible, and bad they are also kind of cool and compelling. We’ve all seen movies or read books about master forgers slyly passing of their work as real and attempting to fade off into the sunset, until a scrappy young police officer/detective/Sherlock foils them by pointing out the inconsistencies. Well, a very clever museum in VA has decided to capitalize on this mystique by creating an exhibit with a deliberate forgery included. How fun!
The idea is to have museum go-ers look through a collection of 20 paintings, and then identify the one that is not an original Butterworth (who apparently painted water, and boats, and stuff). The only way from a person to do so is to analyze the paintings closely to determine the style and tropes of the artist. Maybe this painting doesn’t feature the characteristic light pattern? Or, ooh, that one right there doesn’t have the same brush style! Can’t you imagine this being so much fun?
This is an incredibly, amazingly intelligent move on the part of this museum. Not only does it promote audience engagement for regular attendees, but it’s also encouraging new attendees who are drawn by the allure of being the one to figure it out. They are also collecting information from people who come to the exhibit by using touch screens to deliver valuable information to ‘solve the case’, as well as get audience feedback on the initiative. I would go to this museum just to experience this.
I think taking what might be conceived as a threat and spinning into an opportunity is brilliant. Furthermore, it really shows that this museum is thinking outside the box in terms of determining what museum attendees might be interested in. It doesn’t detract from the exhibit, or minimize the integrity of their mission, but enhances the overall experience by making people look closer. Count me in!