Fake or Fortune?

It sounds as if it belongs to a game show however Fake or Fortune is the new BBC show presented by Fiona Bruce that investigates art by analyseing evidence and clues.

In the first episode of the series Fiona and the team investigate the validity of David Joel’s claim to owning a genuine Monet.

David Joel  has spent the past 18 years trying to prove the authenticity of a Monet he picked up locally for £40,000. If the sinister Wildenstein clan, whom the art world accepts as adjudicators in matters Monet, had deigned to include Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil into the artist’s catalogue, then Joel would have sold it. He was, after all, 82. Yet for him it was not about the fortune, but rather vindicating a long-held obsession. As his wife, Jennifer, discreetly put it: “I can’t tell you how much time it has taken up.”

High drama when the normally preternaturally calm Bruce lost it at the Gare du Nord where customs officials abruptly confiscated the “fake”. “I am so angry,” she said, her French becoming more fluent with every encounter with Parisian obduracy. She and the Joels had been in France to put the painting under a 240-pixel scanner and to find where Monet had painted his river scene.

The clinching evidence lay, however, in a private collection in Cairo where the records of a previous owner revealed that the painting had hung in a French gallery in Monet’s lifetime. “I’m feeling pretty confident,” said Bruce’s Antiques Roadshow sidekick Philip Mould, as he arrived at the sliding gates of the Wildenstein HQ. So, presumably, was the production team. They had been on a journey, Bruce explained. “You always hope you’ll come up with a ta-da end.” But they did not. Guy Wildenstein, backing his late father’s connoisseurship rather than the evidence, delivered a resounding “Non”. “The man’s mad,” said the delightful Mr Joel, far less aggrieved then Bruce.

This gripping programme took us to a very dark place: the art world.

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