How to Spot Fake African Art

African art is becoming a larger and larger target. Fakes are flooding the South African market and while a range of artists is affected, it’s mostly the black modernists (1960 – 1990) whose legacy is suffering. To illustrate: If you use Google images to search for the work of Lucky Sibiya, the artist being used as part of a yet to be published study at the University of Pretoria, you’ll find that 30% of all the works yielded in the search are fakes. It’s the same with his contemporaries, among them George Pemba, Welcome Koboka, Nat Mokgosi, Martin Tose, Dumile Feni, Julian Motau and Eli Kobeli. They are just eight of a list of 21 artists identified as being forged. In the ongoing work researchers have traced the bulk of the fakes we’ve studied to a group we call the African Modernist Fake School – a trained artist or group of artists working together to create fakes on demand. The demand is created by an equally well organised group of “galleries” and auction houses.


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