Hoax Museum Blog: Art

The Rhythm of the Trees

After gaining a coveted place in the 1993 Manchester Academy of Fine Arts Exhibition, the creator of this painting was revealed to be 4-year-old Carly Johnson of Lancashire. Her mother had submitted the work as a joke. more…

Posted: Mon May 25, 2015.   Comments (2)

Sponge-Throwing Painters of the Ancient World

An ancient legend described the role of chance in art — a sponge flung in anger at a canvas accidentally produced the exact effect a painter had been striving for. The same story was told of three different painters, suggesting the tale was an urban legend. more…

Posted: Tue May 19, 2015.   Comments (1)

Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2014.   Comments (0)

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Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2014.   Comments (2)

Posted: Wed Jun 04, 2014.   Comments (0)

Chicago Minstrel Show Hoax — Chicago news outlets recently received a press release from one "Harry Slater," who claimed to be an AP English teacher and "dean of dramatic and movement arts" at Community High School District 94 in West Chicago. The release said that the school's Glee Club was going to be staging a charity minstrel show in order to "start a conversation about racial representation and stereotypes." Proceeds from the show would be donated to the school's Multicultural Sensitivity Club.

But when the school began receiving calls from people seeking more info about this show, it was exposed as a hoax.

The true author of the release was a local artist, Jason Pallas, who had been participating in an exhibit at City Museum in which artists created a new work based around a topic or artifact from West Chicago's past. Pallas had chosen a 1930 playbill for a minstrel show (directed by a Harry Slater) as his object of inspiration. His art for the exhibit was the hoax premise of a local school staging a commemorative performance of the 1930 minstrel show. So this was an example of "hoax as art".

Playbill of the 1930 minstrel show that inspired Pallas

City Museum has now removed Pallas from its exhibit, and the high school has posted a "Special Statement Regarding Minstrel Show Hoax" on its website. Also, the school doesn't have a "Multicultural Sensitivity Club." [mysuburbanlife.com]
Posted: Mon Dec 23, 2013.   Comments (0)

Bigfoot on the toilet — For the Bigfoot collector who already has everything... but this. Or for someone who has a Bigfoot-themed bathroom. Available on etsy. It comes as a print of an "original oil and digital painting." Though it would be better if it were a velvet painting.

Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2013.   Comments (0)

Hyperrealistic iPad portrait of Morgan Freeman —

This isn't a photo. It's a painting. Or so claims UK artist Kyle Lambert who says he made it using a fingerpainting iPad app called Procreate. He's posted a video showing the creation of the painting from start to finish.

Lambert based the painting on an existing photo (below) of Morgan Freeman. This has led skeptics (of which there are many) to suggest that Lambert simply traced over the photo, which doesn't take a lot of skill. But Lambert denies this. He sent an email to Gizmodo stating:

at no stage was the original photograph on my iPad or inside the Procreate app. Procreate documents the entire painting process, so even if I wanted to import a photo layer it would have shown in the video export from the app.

Headshot photo of Morgan Freeman (source: moviepilot.de)

But this hasn't satisfied the skeptics, who point out that the photo and the "painting" appear to be pixel-by-pixel identical. How can anyone achieve that kind of accuracy without having traced over the photo?

Another theory is that Lambert didn't create a painting at all, but rather used Procreate to reverse engineer or 'deconstruct' the photo, and then ran the video of himself doing this in reverse, to make it look as if he was painting it rather than slowly erasing it.

I don't know exactly what Lambert did, but I have to agree with the skeptics that it's hard to believe he could have created this without, at the very least, tracing over the photo.

To prove he did it, I suppose he could post a time-lapse video of himself actually working on the iPad. Rather than just a video export from Procreate.
Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013.   Comments (2)

Kazimir Malevich Rejected — Someone calling himself Michael Mikrivaz (his YouTube username) made charcoal reproductions of works by the early-20th-century Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich (whose art now regularly sells for millions of dollars). He then took these sketches to several art academies, claiming they were his own works, and asked for an opinion on his chances of getting in.

Two academies told him that, based on these works, he wouldn't get accepted.

This is an example of what I call the "Spurious Submission" type of hoax. (I've been trying to think of a better term for it for a long time, but nothing has occurred to me.)

The idea is to discredit some gatekeeper of the art or literary world by demonstrating their poor judgement. So the hoaxer takes an acknowledged masterpiece, disguises it a bit, and then submits it to a critic for evaluation. Typically the critic will fall directly into the trap, dismissing the masterpiece as amateurish.

The earliest example of this type of hoax that I've found dates back to circa 1892, when a hoaxer sent disguised copies of a work by John Milton to publishers, most of whom rejected it.

The most famous example occurred in 1982 when Chuck Ross retyped the script of Casablanca, changed its title to "Everybody Comes to Rick's," and submitted it to movie agents as a script supposedly by an unknown writer, "Erik Demos." The majority of the agents promptly rejected it.
Posted: Wed Nov 27, 2013.   Comments (0)

Canine Artist Sells Work on eBay — Canine artist "Jack" is selling a work titled "Half-Chewed Cole Haan Wingtip" on eBay. So far bidding has reached $368, with 1 day of bidding remaining.

This description is offered of the artist:

Jack has been active for some time in the world of artistic defacement popularized by prominent figures such as Banksy. However, only recently have his works received critical acclaim through public notoriety and the rise of social media. He is a two-year-old Dalmatian mix who started his life on the streets of rural Virginia before being detained by a county animal control facility and then adopted by his current owner, whose many possessions have become blank canvases for Jack's defacement techniques. Some of his earlier performance and mixed-media works include Berber Carpet Removal, 400-Thread-Count Sheet Shredding No. 1, A Million Pieces of a Bluetooth Headset, Exposing the Mysterious Innards of a Couch Cushion, Urinating on My Owner's Sister's Bed, Freeing of the Garbage from the Shackles of the Glad Bag, and of course, the well-known 400-Thread-Count Sheet Shredding No. 2.

This isn't a hoax. The artist is clearly identified as canine, so the buyer knows what he or she is getting. But it did remind me of the Unraveled Weaving Hoax from 1974, in which the owners of an Afghan hound dog entered an old mitten he had chewed (below) into a local art contest, and it won a prize.

And, of course, the most famous animal-art hoax was 1964's Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist, in which critics raved about Pierre's work, before they realized that he was a chimpanzee.

Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2013.   Comments (0)

Another million-dollar art fraud — Never fails to amaze that there are super-rich people out there willing to shell out millions of dollars for "newly discovered" works by famous artists, even when the providence is so shaky. In this case, they were told the paintings came from an anonymous private collector referred to as "Secret Santa" or "Mr. X."

Of course, now the artwork of Pei-Shen Qian, who's alleged to be the actual painter, should go up dramatically in value.

Struggling Immigrant Artist Tied to $80 Million New York Fraud

Over a period of 15 years, court papers claim, the painter, working out of his home studio and garage, churned out at least 63 drawings and paintings that carried the signatures of artistic giants like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell and Richard Diebenkorn, and that Mr. Bergantiños Diaz and Ms. Rosales boasted were authentic. They were not copies of paintings, but were sold as newly “discovered” works by those artists.
Ms. Rosales told the dealers that the vast majority of the paintings came from a collector who had inherited the works from his father and adamantly refused to be identified. Over time, this anonymous owner came to be referred to as “Secret Santa” and “Mr. X.”

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013.   Comments (1)

Fake Crystal Skulls — The latest issue of Chemical & Engineering News has an article that reviews the history of how the crystal "Aztec" skulls that began showing up in the mid-19th century were eventually found to be fake. The take home is that the following pieces of evidence led researchers to conclude the skulls were modern forgeries:
  • The skulls didn't come from documented archaeological sites.
  • The skulls' teeth were suspiciously linear and perfect, whereas the teeth in other Aztec art reflected the lack of Aztec dentistry.
  • Microscopic analysis revealed that the crystal skulls had regular etch marks, such as would be made by modern rotary wheels and hard abrasives, not ancient hand-held tools.
  • Spectroscopic analysis showed that the rock crystal had "green, wormlike inclusions" characteristic of rock crystal from Brazil or Madagascar, not Mexico.
  • And finally, X-ray diffraction revealed that some of the skulls were coated in deposits of silicon carbide, "a synthetic abrasive used in stone-carving workshops only starting in the mid-20th century."

Crystal Skulls Deemed Fake

Humans seem to have a predilection for fake quartz-crystal Aztec skulls. Since the 1860s, dozens of skull sculptures have appeared on the art market purporting to be pre-Columbian artifacts from Mesoamerica, that is, created by the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America prior to Spanish exploration and conquest in the 16th century. Three such skulls have graced the collections of major museums on both sides of the Atlantic: the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the British Museum in London, and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.
As early as the 1930s, some experts began to have doubts about the authenticity of the skulls, says Margaret Sax, a conservation scientist at the British Museum. But for a long time researchers "didn't have the scientific means to follow up" on their hunches, she adds. Over the past two decades researchers at all three museums have capitalized on analytical science innovations to show that these peculiar skulls are not unusual Aztec artifacts but post-Columbian fakes.

Posted: Fri Mar 08, 2013.   Comments (1)

Miniature Amityville Horror house — Artist Tracey Snelling has created an installation which she calls Last House on the Left. It consists of 4 miniature houses from horror films (The Birds, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and the Amityville Horror. It's the Amityville Horror Dutch Colonial that caught my eye. If I ever did have a brick-and-mortar hoax museum, it would make a great addition!

Snelling's miniature houses feature sound effects as well as tiny LCDs that play clips from the films when you look through the windows. The installation is currently on exhibit at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

The Stark Insider blog has posted a video of the Amityville house on display:

Update: According to Tim Farley, today (March 6th) is the 37th anniversary of Ed & Lorraine Warren investigating the Amityville Horror house with a TV news crew.
Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013.   Comments (0)

Banksy Arrest Hoax — A press release posted yesterday on PRLog.com announced that not only had Banksy been arrested (on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting), but that his identity had been revealed—his real name supposedly being "Paul William Horner." The press release was a hoax, but a number of media outlets ran with the story before cottoning on to the deception. A humor site, IYWIB.com, appears to be behind the hoax.

How a Fake Press Release Convinced the Internet Banksy Had Been Arrested

The release stated that Banksy is a 39-year-old Bristol man named Paul William Horner, and he’d been arrested during a police sting. But the document is riddled with inconsistencies, including quotes from fake CNN and BBC stories and an incorrect identification of the London Chief of Police, who the press release claims to quote. (City of London Police Commissioner is named Adrian Leppard, not Wayne Leppard, as the release stated.) Furthermore, the email address for the press release is at the domain name IYWIB, a little-known humor site. As it turns out, a man named Paul Horner is the editor of Super Official News, a site that appears to be part of the same family as IYWIB. Super Official News was the first site to publish a post saying Banksy had been arrested.

And here's the text of the fake press release (since PRLog has removed it):

Banksy Arrested In London, Identity Revealed
London, England — The England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter that for years has gone by the pseudonymous name of Banksy, was arrested yesterday by police in London.


PRLog (Press Release) - Feb. 22, 2013 - London, England — The England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter that for years has gone by the pseudonymous name of Banksy, was arrested yesterday by police in London. After hours of questioning and a raid of his London art studio, his true name and identity have finally been revealed.
London Police say Banksy's real name is Paul William Horner, a 39-year old male born in Bristol, England. The BBC has also confirmed this information with his PR agent Jo Brooks and the website that acts as a handling service on behalf of the artist, Pest Control.
London Police Chief Wayne Leppard held a press conference to answer questions about how Banksy was finally apprehended. "We had a 24-hour Anti-Graffiti Task Force monitoring different groups known to have associated with Banksy. We received word that around 2am a group of individuals left a flat speculated to be one of Banky's art studios. This group was followed by agents and once vandalism had occurred, we then arrested the group, 5 men total. These individuals all had ID on them except for one, and that is the one we believed to be Banksy," Leppard said. "We then raided the studio where this group was last seen leaving from. Inside we found thousands of dollars of counterfeit money along with future projects of vandalism. We also found a passport and ID of a Paul William Horner who matched the description of the man that we are currently holding." Leppard continued, "Horner is currently being held without bail on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting. We are also holding the other four individuals whose names we are not releasing at this time."
After today's arrest it is unclear who else will be sought in connection with Banksy's arrest. CNN spoke with Kyle Brock who is a project manager for Banksy says he is now worried that charges could be brought against him also. "If they spent this many man-hours and brought this many charges against Banksy, I can't imagine that he'll be the only one to go down in all of this," Brock said. "All the beauty Paul Horner brought to this world, and the London Police can only see it as vandalism. It's such a shame."
The graffiti artist that goes by the name Space Invader told reporters he does not agree with the arrest or outing of Banksy's identity. "He's just doing art. That's what he was doing and that's what he'll continue to do," Invader said. "For the London Police to setup some 24-hour task force just to catch Banksy is ridiculous. I hope we hear plenty of noise from the good tax-paying citizens of London about this."
Banksy's identity was long speculated to be Robin Gunningham, a man born in Bristol, England in 1973. Known for his contempt for the government in labeling graffiti as vandalism, Banksy displays his art on public walls and even going as far as to build physical prop pieces. He does not sell his work directly; however, art auctioneers have been known to attempt to sell his street art on location and leave the problem of its removal in the hands of the winning bidder.
London Police are not releasing any pictures of Horner or any further information at this time.

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013.   Comments (3)

The Fake Beggar of Gothenburg — Over in Gothenburg, Sweden, locals were puzzled by a homeless person begging for money at the train station, who, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a doll. Police thought it might be some kind of fraud (i.e. a homeless people using a mannequin to beg for him). But it turned out to be the work of a 13-year-old kid, Adam, who created it as "something fun" for a school art project. Brings to mind Alan Abel's Omar the Beggar hoax.

The english-language article didn't have a picture of Adam and his "fake beggar," but I found one at a swedish-language site.

Gothenburg teen behind 'homeless beggar' hoax

Adam told GT that he made the life-size doll out of cardboard and second-hand clothing. He then placed the doll at the city's train station, before carrying it over to a park near the central thoroughfare Avenyn. The mysterious "fake beggar" went on to garner national media attention after national news agency TT wrote about the doll, quoting a police spokesman who theorized it could be a case of fraud. The doll, which even had a beer can in its hand, even attracted the attention of several passersby.
"I was standing a short distance away and filming how people reacted, that's part of the project," he told GT, explaining that the entire installation is part of a school art assignment. In the end, a passer-by had placed seven kronor ($1.10) next to the mock-up, a sum that Adam eventually chose to gave to a real life person asking for money on the street.

Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013.   Comments (0)

Are the Bush bathroom paintings a hoax? — A week ago, news broke that a hacker (calling himself 'Guccifer') had broken into George W. Bush's email account. The hacker sent some of the emails and photos he found there to the Smoking Gun, which promptly published them.

Three of the leaked photos showed works of art, apparently by Bush. Two of the works were self-portraits in the bathroom — Bush taking a shower and a bath. The third showed Bush working on a more traditional scene of a seaside chapel.

It's the bathroom self-portraits that attracted all the attention. Understandably, since they were so odd. Art critics from the New York Times and New York magazine (among others) reviewed them, treating them as if they were serious works of art.

But Lee Rosenbaum (aka CultureGrrl) asks an interesting question. How do we know that the bathroom paintings aren't a hoax? After all, information is only as good as its source, and the source of these paintings — the hacker Guccifer — isn't very credible. Rosenbaum notes, "If you get into bed with hackers, you may end up taking a bath."

An email from New York conservator Lenora Paglia first prompted Rosenbaum to wonder about the authenticity of the paintings. Paglia points out that it's odd the bathroom paintings are displayed on cheap wooden easels, whereas the chapel scene (the one we actually see Bush working on) stands on a top-of-the-line metal easel. Paglia's email:

Are we certain these paintings are actually by George W. Bush?
I notice that in the photo of him actually at work, he is shown in his home, painting on a nice new metal easel, which I would expect. However, the two bath pictures are displayed on two different beat-up old wooden easels, which are covered with paint marks, like a poor art student's. Would the former President be using such an easel? Also, notice how tentatively W paints—and yet at least one of the wood easels shows hasty-handed marks.
I wonder if the paintings are a hoax!

Of course, if the paintings have been falsely attributed to Bush, the obvious question is why wouldn't Bush deny they were his? One possibility is that the Secret Service has advised him not to comment in any way on the leaked material, beyond admitting that his account was hacked.

The other possibility is that Bush hasn't said anything because the paintings really are his. They're so strange that I'm kind of inclined to think this must be the case. But I think Rosenbaum and Paglia are justified to be skeptical. After all, the source of the paintings is a pretty dubious one.
Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2013.   Comments (0)

A Case of Art Plagiarism — Art fraud typically involves the copying or imitation of famous artists. For instance, Han van Meegeren made millions by claiming that his paintings were actually newly discovered works by Vermeer. But the recent case of Rashidi Barrett shows that it's also possible to make money by copying the work of relatively obscure artists.

Rashidi Barrett (image posted on his website)

Barrett's work generated positive buzz when he began showing it in Norfolk, Virginia around 2011. He used his job DJ-ing to promote his work — he called himself DJ Cornbread — and soon he was having exhibits at local galleries where he managed to sell some pieces, earning himself a few thousand dollars. He described his own style as "comic and pop-iconistic."

But trouble began brewing for Barrett in early 2013 when a rival artist was looking at one of his paintings on display in Harrisonburg's Artful Dodger gallery — an image of a child in a swing hanging from the fingers of a giant hand — and realized he had seen it before. Some searching on the internet revealed it was nearly identical to a work by a Brazilian artist, Matheus Lopez Castro. The rival artist told the gallery manager who then began investigating Barrett's other pieces and soon found a dozen more that were rip-offs of works by other artists. Barrett, in other words, was guilty of art plagiarism.

When confronted with the evidence, Barrett admitted what he'd done and posted an apology on his website (which is now offline):

I have recently been cited for fradulence in a recent artshow regarding some of my works. I have profitted from someone else work both finacially and in reputation. The originator of the aforementoned works has been contacted by me personally disclosing a voluntary settlement, the issue in its entirety and the dialogue has been nothing short of awesome.

It was concluded that what was done was clearly a mistake and that this will certainly make me a better painter. I offer my apologies to the people involved that have been affected by this. This affects my reputation as an artist but more importantly as a man. I temporarily suspended my site to address this matter as I do not take it lightly. A new portfolio will emerge once the site is restored.

Barrett returned some of the money he was paid. Apparently he's also now decided to give up art and music and try to remake his life in another field. Based on the grammar and spelling of his apology, I'm guessing that field won't be writing.

Examples of some of Barrett's derivative works are below.

Barrett's version (left); the original work of Matheus Lopez Castro, aka Mathiole (right)

Barrett's version (top); the original of Polish artist Adrian Knopik (bottom)

Barrett's version (left); the original of Brazilian artist Rubens LP (right)

Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2013.   Comments (2)

An Exhibition of Invisible Art — London's Hayward Gallery will soon be hosting an exhibition of invisible art. It's the kind of art where you basically have to take the artist's word for it that there's something there.

Included will be works such as Warhol's Invisible Sculpture, "which consists of an empty plinth, on which he had once briefly stepped." Also, 1000 Hours of Staring, which is "a blank piece of paper at which artist Tom Friedman has stared repeatedly over the space of five years."

I wonder how copyright pertains to invisible art. Can you sue someone for copying your blank canvas? Link: telegraph.co.uk.

Below are some examples of invisible art.

1000 Hours of Staring by Tom Friedman (purest of treats)

7 Days of Death/At the Grave/People Looking Down, by Bruno Jakob (kunsthausbaselland)

Invisible Sculpture by Warhol (artnet)

Posted: Wed May 23, 2012.   Comments (4)

“Why Boys Need Parents!” Is this a photograph or a painting? —

This image (which appears on a lot of humor and weird picture sites around the web) is often captioned, "Why boys need parents." And try as I might, that's the only information I can find out about it. Where it came from and who created it, I have no idea.

I'm not even sure whether this is a photograph or a painting, though I suspect it's a painting. The low resolution makes it difficult to tell, and I can't find any higher-res copies. It's the boy's legs, in particular, that make me suspect it's a painting. They look slightly unrealistic.

So I'm posting this here in the hope that someone, at some point, might come along who knows something about the source of this image.

Update: Thanks to pazuzu for quickly identifying the source of this painting. (Yes, I was right. It's a painting!) It's an oil on canvas by Ron Francis titled "Skateboarding". Francis writes: "This image was inspired by a childhood memory. The suburb was somewhere around the north side of Sydney harbour and I was the boy on the skateboard."

Posted: Mon May 07, 2012.   Comments (2)

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