New exhibition at Carlos Museum unmasks 'great fakes' of antiquity

A new exhibit at the Carlos Museum will explore the history of forgeries of antiquities. "Discovery and Deceit: Archaeology and the Forger's Craft," which runs Feb. 8 through May 18, will feature more than 80 works of genuine and forged sculpture, reliefs, plaques and jewelry, primarily representing ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures.

The exhibition's organizer, Robert Cohon, curator of ancient art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo., where the exhibit was first mounted, has explored the many different methods available for scholars to determine whether a work of art is authentic or forged.

Some of the methods shown in "Discovery and Deceit" are standard art historical procedures that focus on style, connoisseurship and iconography. Other methods of authentication are more scientific and include dating by thermoluminescence and carbon-14; examining the manufacturing techniques and the chemical composition of materials; and looking for the presence of natural aging processes, as opposed to their absence or simulation.

Gay Robins, faculty curator of ancient Egyptian art, will serve as the onsite curator of the Carlos Museum exhibition. With the assistance of the museum's other curators, Robins will display objects from the museum's collection that have had their authenticity questioned. She is also working with the museum's Office of Educational Programs to develop a symposium that will explore a number of issues underlying the authentication of ancient Egyptian objects.

"Discovery and Deceit" has been designed to allow visitors to experience first handsome of the scientific methods used to date artwork. For example, one example shows the difference that results when fake and genuine objects are exposed to ultraviolet light.

Sometimes, however, scientific evidence is in conflict with art historical opinion. The presentation includes several objects on which a final decision has not yet been reached. In addition to these problematic works are examples of objects that have been reworked either in antiquity or in recent times to increase their financial value.

Robert Cohon and Kate Garland, object conservators at The Nelson-Atkins Museum, will present a lecture on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. titled "Fakes, Frauds and Scholars." The lecture is free and will be held in the Museum Reception Hall.

-Joyce Bell

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