You’ve got to love folks who get “snookered.” Even those who get snookered into buying fake works of art.
Who would have thought that the thousands of visitors flooding the Art Institute of Chicago to worship Paul Gauguin’s “The Faun” were actually adoring a fake made by a family of fakes (the Greenhalgh family) holed-up in England? The Dec. 17/07 issue of the New Yorker details the catastrophe surrounding Marion True, a former curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, who got caught in a web of intrigue when she bought an “Aphrodite” (of dubious origin) to the Getty. The courts have unsnarled the web, and Aphrodite is returning to Italy, but wouldn’t it be fun if True’s acquisition turned out to be not only of dubious origin, but also a fake? An earlier New Yorker feature unearthed a scam behind the sale of “vintage” wines, wines which were blends blended recently. If you have enough money, and don’t mind playing the game, well, it’s real easy being snookered these days. Such was the case at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, the brainchild of R.Crosby Kemper, Jr. He launched the museum by purchasing “Canyon Suite” for five million. Alleged to be the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, it turned out they weren’t, but before that was discovered, the 28 watercolors went on tour. The Kansas City Star broke the story, Kemper got his money back, and the fakes were sent packing. The Milwaukee Art Museum’s new Executive Director, Daniel Keegan, was the Kemper’s Executive Director at the time, but according to extremely reliable sources, he had absolutely nothing to do with their purchase or their promotion.
To be on the short-end of the cue, or left holding the bag, isn’t a new phenomenon. It is as old as mankind. Take for instance the Atomic Bomb sent to blow people to smithereens. Sub-primes have snookered us and YouTube snookered us big time in the debate debacle, when a virtual face asked the politicians “What Would Jesus Say?” I feel personally snookered when Oprah endorses Obama, when Huckabee comes off as a regular guy, when John Edwards lays on a honeyed “southern” accent dripping with biscuits and red-eye gravy, when McCain plays to his war record, when angry Alan Keyes rambles angrily as if we expect black men to be angry. Hil and Bill are experienced in the art of snookering. I take issue that Iowa is open-season on folks standing around in billed caps and overalls and plush sweatpants … rubes, waiting to be snookered. Perhaps YouTube should be re-named YouRube.
In light of what our politicians are up to, the Faun forgery at the Art Institute of Chicago seems positively wimpy. Face it: the thousands who adored it honestly thought they were getting the Real McCoy instead of a carefully researched fake. What harm is there in that? The bigger harm by far is opening our mouths (like turkeys in a rain-storm) and drowning in the deluge of words thundering across our political landscape. The politicians have bought into this scenario, drummed up by the media who themselves are drummed on by powers in search of the next big thing. Are we living in a world of genuine fakes? Ask yourself.