BBC Fake or Failure! Mould doesn't grow on experts
Philip Mould and Bendor Grosvenor know there is something wrong with the way Old Master paintings are evaluated and valued. However, despite having been at it for a combined total of around thirty years, and with many favourable outcomes, they have been unable to change the System in any lasting or effective way. In other words, although they have had individual successes, that is, being able to change what wasn’t a valuable Old Master to what is now a supposed valuable Old Master, the System itself remains the same, relying on the considered international expert to nod approval.
These final arbiters in the Old Master art world, the “judges of names,” continue to use methodology first developed in the early nineteenth century. Indeed, it is not even really methodology; it is the vicarious power to authenticate gained from long experience and/or employment, mostly with a relevant degree at the beginning of this career. These are the so-called experts or connoisseurs, in front of whom Mould and Grosvenor must place their case at the end of every programme.
Nevertheless, almost to a man and woman these experts do not take even the slightest notice of the research and forensic investigation that has been so carefully put together by Mould’s team, and at some considerable cost. These experts believe, almost to a man and a woman, that for the most part they can tell in a snitch what name can be ascribed, or what painting is or isn’t a copy or a fake or the genuine article. They use the blink method: being able to tell at a glance, be it from a photograph or confronting the actual object, what is or isn’t an original artwork.
Of course, blinking in this instance is not instinct, but the momentary flash achieved through rapid comparative analysis of pictures and information housed in the brain, and is a combination of observation and experience gained usually over decades. Needless to say, the bold assumption is that this observation and gained experience is in fact still relevant. More importantly it is the even more bold assumption that it is foolproof. And it is, indeed, a method that is polar opposite to what Mould and Grosvenor promote, and to the whole ethos of what Fake and Fortune promotes. Yet, time and again, they call in these experts, as it would appear that without their nod everything is lost.
In the preamble to each programme Philip Mould and his co-presenter Fiona Bruce tell the viewer what their method is:
“We use old-fashioned detective work and state of the art science to get to the Truth,” says Fiona Bruce. Mould states that “science can enable us to see beyond the human eye,” and Bruce confirms that “the problem is not every painting is quite what it seems.”
But at the end of the programme they call in the experts, who by letter or in person or via Internet hookup, and with just their human eye, deliver their verdict without reference to the programme’s methods. None of them look at an Rx or an Infrared, or consider the research, or do any research of their own. Mould and Bruce are like courtiers to the king: and the king can be intelligent or stupid or foolish or wise because he is the king.