Know How To Spot A Fake Columbian Art

Published: 09th April 2009
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Before the Europeans set foot in the Western hemisphere, people from Central and South America were flourishing in so many aspects especially when it came to architecture and other forms of art. Before any form of 'civilized world' was ever established, the inhabitants of what is now Guatemala, Mexico and the Andean region were the forerunners of culture and development. These specifically point to the populace of Aztecs and Mayans, the Inca, Moche and the Chibcha civilizations. And their works of art are now what we call the Pre-Columbian art.



Because of the rarity and uniqueness of Pre-Columbian art, the cost of owning even a piece of Aztec or Incan art could border the impossible for the average person. Primarily, the prices of these pieces of art have sky-rocketed because of their rarity. Another reason is, a person who is attempting to own real Pre-Columbian pieces should have keen eyes for detail. Fraud and forgery abound in the Pre-Columbian art trade and the inexperienced buyer could very well be on his way to purchasing a manufactured 'antique piece'.



One of the most celebrated forgeries in Pre-Columbian artifacts was the incident in April 1987 at the Saint Louis Art Museum. As the story goes, the people at the museum hadn't discovered that the display pieces that they had for the Morton D. May collection on Pre-Columbian Art contained at least three forgeries. If not for a certain Mexican artist named Brigido Lara, the museum personnel wouldn't have found out about the forgeries. This turned out to be really alarming because of the knowledge that even people from the museum weren't able to tell the fakes from the real ones. But can you?



Even experts agree that it is hard to tell the fakes from the authentic items. Even the trained eye will isn't able to immediately tell the difference between a fake and an authentic piece. In fact, there are some people who even intentionally buy forged works of art as they argue that it looks and feels the same as the originals. Some say that if a fake Pre-Columbian piece has the same passion and appearance as its real counterpart, then it is as good as the original.



But then, again, most people won't settle for anything less. If it's fake, then it's second-class. If you want the real thing, there are certain things that you can do to, at least, prepare yourself to detect what's real and what's not:



1. Read, read, and read. Read a lot about Pre-Columbian art and history. If you educate yourself with the ways of the past civilizations, then you are equipped with basic knowledge on how they came about with their works of art.



2. For pottery, it is common knowledge for the experts that ancient clay, when applied with a wet rag has a damp and very odorous smell. New clay won't be able to produce such an odor. Only earthenware that has been buried for many, many years will smell with a dank odor.



3. Get a hold of gadgets such as a black light or ultraviolet light. Most fake art pieces show a 'painted over' look once subjected under these powerful lights.



4. Have a thermo luminescence performed on the artifact. This is an archaeologist's way of dating the antique pieces. 5. Trust your gut feel. If something doesn't feel right, then you are most probably correct. Most collectors who have bought fake pieces have confessed that they felt that there was something wrong while inspecting the artifact but they ignored the feeling.



When it comes to illegal trade, the authorities have a lot of work. This underground trade has its clout in prime countries such as the Italy, the United Kingdom, and most parts of Europe. Since the market in Pre-Columbian art continues to thrive, more and more dishonest individuals act upon the market's need and provide alternate (but fake) items. Some have the authentic items on hand but obtained them in illegal means that they now sell at floor prices which kills the legal sellers.



There is no specific quantifying data on how rampant illegal trade is on Pre-Columbian artifacts but you can make a difference by pledging to support what's right and what's legal. It may be a small difference but it's a difference all the same.



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