Paris museum's fakes exhibition condemned for 'vampire' plagiarism

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A major Paris exhibition featuring forgeries and copies of works by Picasso, Matisse and other 20th century masters has been condemned by the artists' heirs as "vampire" plagiarism that will encourage counterfeiting.

"Second Hand" aims to "explore an issue inherent to the history of art: the copy as the basis of artistic apprenticeship and as a constant of artistic creation", according to the museum of modern art in Paris.

The show offers what it dubs "look-alike" works claiming to be by Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti Mondrian and Modigliani, among others.

The forgeries are hung between original paintings in the museum's permanent collection. Thus, an original Picasso is confronted with "NOT Picasso", by Mike Bidlo, an American "appropriation" artist, who has painted a near-exact replica of the cubist master's "Girl with a Cock", 1938.

What appears to be a perfect "Modigliani" is in fact a work by Elmyr de Hory, one of the greatest forgers of the twentieth century who is immortalised in the Orson Welles' film F for Fake.

But while the prospect of a forgery usually strikes fear in the hearts of museum workers, Fabrice Hergott, director of the museum of modern art, relishes the challenge presented in "Second Hand". He warned: "this hanging may disorient those who expect to see only 'real' Picassos and Matisses rather than their avatars."

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