According to those working on the frontline in the fight against art crime, the greatest future challenge will not be theft, but forgeries. ‘Stolen artwork has a limited market straight away because it can’t easily be sold on,’ says Det Sgt Vernon Rapley, head of the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) Art and Antiques Unit.

‘But a forgery is attractive to criminals because a new work is created, which is harder to detect, and which can often be sold at market value. This type of crime can cause significant financial loss to collectors and dealers, and even has the potential to distort the historical study of art and cultural property.’

To raise awareness of the problem, the MPS is staging an exhibition at the V&A, ‘Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries’ (until February 7). In a UK first, it will showcase the methods used in detecting and preventing art crime, and will include a re-creation of the workshop of Shaun Greenhalgh, who produced fake ‘masterpieces’, from Egyptian sculpture to Lowry paintings.

More than 100 fakes will be on display, including ‘Banksys’ and ‘Hepworths’, which, if real, would be worth in excess of £4 million. (See Country Life’s Collectors number, March 3, for a feature on art crime and safeguarding your collection.)


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