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Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2021)Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2021)

Producer and Director Barry Avrich's Netflix crime documentary is exactly what the clever subtitle of the film says: a true story about fake art. And what a story — the largest art fraud in American history. For 165 years, the Knoedler Gallery in New York City (founded 1846) was one of the most prestigious art dealers in the world. J.P. Morgan and the Louvre were only two of its many celebrated clients. In 2011 Knoedler closed its doors after 10 lawsuits had documented that it had sold more than 60 forged paintings worth $80.7 million. That the paintings were fake is now beyond dispute. How and why the massive fraud could have happened, and who is responsible, are a tangled tale of mystery, reciprocal recriminations, and a study in human nature. At the center of the story is Knoedler's former director Ann Freedman, who bought the forgeries from a shadowy figure for bargain basement prices and then sold them at huge mark ups. Was she complicit, stupid, ambitious, or even a victim? But Freedman was not alone; numerous and famous experts that she consulted about the authenticity of the works agreed they were real (which was embarrassing for them on the witness stand!). There are many more players and layers in this story, and Avrich lets them all have their say: dealers, gallerists, mega-wealthy private collectors who were duped, critics, forensic experts, lawyers for all sides, and the obscure Chinese artist who painted the fakes. Was this scandal an unfortunate exception, or merely the tip of an ominous iceberg? The film begins with someone asking the director of the Metropolitan Museum how many fakes might be hanging in his august hallways.  "I have no idea," he responded.

Dan Clendenin:

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