New York’s Science of Us blog has a post summarizing some academic research that shows art experts are more likely than lay persons to be misled by the imprimatur of a prestigious institution like MoMA.
The story is presented with a misleading frame about fakes but that’s not what the study measures. The question here is what is art, especially when there are many recognized works of art that do not seem to rely upon overt skill.
Here’s Science of Us on the study:
To test this experimentally, the researchers presented art experts and students with a series of bland, expressionless photos of womens’ faces, taken with a simple passport-style exposure and plain white backdrop. The art experts were volunteers recruited through a European art museum and tested using a quiz to select only those with the highest artistic knowledge. The images were shown to the volunteers among a series of similar decoy artworks taken from New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The experts, as it turned out, were just as bad as the students at spotting the fakes and in fact were more likely to say that the genuine MoMA works were fake than they were to call out the fakes.
The researchers discreetly placed a “©MoMA” watermark at the bottom of some of the photographs and asked the volunteers to rate the quality of the various pieces of art. While the laypeople weren’t swayed by the watermark, the art experts were, preferring the fakes if they had the prestigious stamp. The finding suggests that art experts are particularly inclined to agree with what has previously been deemed prestigious, rather than evaluating work solely on its own merits.
One can easily extrapolate from this study to the broader art market where legitimate validation like a well-respected provenance can easily elide into an understanding that buying works at auction make them more important.
It Is Pretty Easy to Get Art Experts to Fall for Fakes (Science of Us)