I am delighted that Fake or Fortune the investigative arts programme presented by Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould is back this summer. Yesterday I watched a repeat of a programme I missed featuring three L.S. Lowry paintings. One had a stock number and label of dealer Lefevre and was readily traceable and authenticated. The other two were more problematic as the current owner, who had inherited them, had no records at all to establish provenance.
To make matters worse the forged Lowry market is fertile and he is an easy artist to copy. By a stroke of luck a documentary on Lowry revealed the two pictures on his studio wall and a panel of 4 Lowry experts authenticated the three.
Fiona Bruce also presents Antique Roadshow. Both programmes end with the revelation that will determine whether the owner has a work of value or not though few will readily admit to money being their driver. The unraveling is part detective work part forensic on the paint and canvas. Bendor Grosvenor, an eminent art historian, is the consulted expert.
The programme, now in its fifth series, attracts 5 million viewers on the most popular tv night of the week. I like it best for the discussion on the artist. Lowry is in the Hockney, Vettriano, Howard mould: popular but not rated by the cognoscenti. The denser impasto paintwork of Frank Auerbach is more likely to make the top five of twentieth century British Artists in the critics’ list. The 5m. viewers cannot all be art connoisseurs so its universal popularity is in itself one in the guts for the highbrows.
The point is that successful northerner, say Albert Finney, is much more likely to buy a Lowry than an Auerbach – just as Jeffery Archer, Eric Clapton and John Cleese are keen Howard collectors. The shrewd dealer knows what will sell too. Lowry in his depiction of northern industrial scenes and landscape is pretty much assured of his place in art history. True to form, the owner said he was most pleased for his father for getting it right but his face was counting the pennies. It was a picture.