Regardless of the art origin, knowledge of simple details to use in collecting art work were presented by Diane Pelrine, IU Art Museum’s Raymond and Laura Wielgus Curator of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas Tuesday evening.
An informal, small gathering, of area residents interested in art attended a special event at the home of Steve and Sally Springer, Northshore Drive, Syracuse. The evening included information on how museum curators identify fakes or forgeries as well as information about the IU Art Museum.
Curt Simick, president emeritus of IU Foundation, stressed the importance of the arts needing advocates and the jewel the IU Art Museum is to not only Indiana University but the state. “With the arts falling off the table — music, art programs — it is making us not as rich in culture.”
Prior to Pelrine’s presentation, Heidi Gealt, director of the museum, noted a few highlights of the IUAM including a brief history. It was noted more than 40,000 items of art, worth more than $200 million are displayed in the museum with more than 70,000 visitors a year. She also explained how the IUAM is used for educational purposes for not only college students but elementary and high school students — Indiana history, world history, math geography, geology, world culture, biology, cognitive science and business. “We are a major cultural resource across the discipline for the county, state and region.
“If African art is not your first love, I will give you ideas to use if you collect art generally or ideas to think about,” said Pelrine, who noted the items she brought to demonstrate were all fakes. “Authenticity is important in art. Art costs a lot of money and people want to know … .”
She suggested collectors ask experts about the art being considered but also “use your eyes to look carefully” and do your homework.
Pelrine highlighted objects which were altered, discussing at what point did an object start to be authentic then transformed or modified, at what point is it no longer authentic and how objects not starting as a fact or forgery but end up as one. Using her knowledge of African art, Pelrine described what authentic art objects would contain from specific regions using a flute, bell, plaque and mask in her demonstrations. She explained how using knowledge of the region can be used such as look for incomplete carvings, detail, material component of the art item, wear marks on masks to name a few.
One example of a copy being made into a forgery was given with the lower Niger bells. She explained how in the 19th century when the British came to the lower Nigeria, they liked the bells, had hundreds made in a foundry in England to replicate the lower Niger bells. These foundry made bells were exported to Nigeria as copies more than forgery, However, the foundry identification and numbers on the bells were removed and covered with a similar surface, making the copies now forgeries.
Those present were encouraged to share information about the arts with others in the community and all were encouraged to learn more about IUAM and to encourage friends and neighbors to visit.