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October 04, 2009, 2:30 PM

Imposters, Forgery, Fraud, and Illusion

Participants: George Bisacca, Mark Mitton, Laney Salisbury

"A good confidence man could pick his mark out of a crowd as easily as a spotted hyena could tag a sick wildebeest."
-from Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
 by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Trust is the foundation of human society. Impostors and forgers win our confidence—our trust—and then use it to take what they want. Even the good guys, who try to protect us from confidence men, use similar techniques. It is said that the only secret of a con is the fact that it is a con. So taking a closer look at cons is a way to study believable contexts. This roundtable will examine questions such as: What does it take to convince another person that something is real and above question? What makes an impostor effective? How can forgeries fool experts? What makes a fraud work? Is there any way to spot impostors and forgeries and avoid getting caught in a fraud? The panelists will attempt to uncover the imaginative areas of deception.

George Bisacca has worked in the Paintings Conservation Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for 26 years, specializing in the structural conservation of panel paintings. He has been invited to work on paintings at Palazzo Pitti, the Prado, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Getty Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum, among many others. Bisacca is frequently asked to examine paintings for authenticity by museums, auction houses, dealers, and collectors, and worked with a forger of paintings before going into conservation.

Mark Mitton (moderator) is a professional magician who is fascinated by using magic and crafts as a way to better understand how we all see the world. He entertains at private events around the world, and creates magic for film, television, and the Broadway stage. He recently made Carolina Herrera magically appear at Saks Fifth Avenue for Fashion Week, and taught John Travolta sleight-of-hand for the movie Old Dogs. Mitton is also a contributor to Cirque du Soleil's upcoming vaudeville show at the Beacon Theater.

Laney Salisbury is a journalist and co-author of Provenance, the true story of a struggling artist and a flamboyant con man who pulled off one of the most elaborate scams in the history of art forgery. Not only was the art fake, but the impeccable documentation supporting it was a bold string of lies. Published this July, Provenance was listed on Oprah's Summer Reading List. Salisbury's previous book, The Cruelest Mile, is being made into a major motion picture.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


Discussion Board

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Amier Carmel says:
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