Fake or Fortune is back for a series on a peak time of 8pm on a Sunday. For an arts programme this is unusual programming and speaks volumes for its popularity and quality. A viewer is requested to submit a painting whose provenance and genuineness are in question and the presenters Fiona Bruce, art dealer Philip Mould and expert Dr Bendor Grosvenor investigate whether it’s real or a forgery. This they do by investigating the provenance of the picture, consulting experts on that artist and forensic tests on the paintwork.
Sunday’s programme centred on a Lucien Freud portrait undertaken whilst he was at art school in the late 1930s . The difficulty in establishing that Freud was the artist as he himself denied it. However, as Philip Mould pointed out Freud was a tricky contrarian personality who disliked the previous owners of the portrait. As investigations developed it seems likely that Freud had painted most of it. This was confirmed by an attendance note of his solicitor. The subject of the portrait was traced as a scholar from Winchester and the facial similarities were established from a photograph though this did not prove that Freud had painted him. A panel of three experts o Freud reviewed all the evidence and verified Freud as the painter.
The programme has its weaknesses. The three presenters are often filmed conversing. The camera on the wall technique is contrived as the filmed parties know it’s there and conduct a conversation on that basis. Fiona Bruce is a slick, handsome, experienced presenter but her enthusiasm can grate. Philip Mould in his coiffeured hair and pressed jeans is the male smoothie though acknowledged expert on portraiture. As you build to the denouement when all is revealed this again is contrived as the owner ‘s main aim- understandable enough – is whether the picture is worth 500,000 GBP or nothing. The art market is unregulated and horror stories and scandals lie in waiting for the uninitiated .The latest are third party guarantees whereby art dealers support an auction price for a share in the profits ,a practice that the stock exchange would ever condone . This programme takes you into the murky wolrd of forgery and provenance .
Finally as art lover I would be more interested to know more about the expert analysis, namely what it is in the picture that is said to embody the style, content, brushwork of that painter.
St9ill for all these faults I find the programme compulsive viewing and worthy of its peak slot.