Maurizio Scudiero Alerts Art Police to Futurism Fraud
Art police said Friday they had busted a counterfeiting gang that created thousands of faked works and letters signed by Italian Futurist artist Osvaldo Bot.
Police seized some 5,000 counterfeit works and revealed that the gang had also created around 100 letters signed by Bot in an invented correspondence between the artist and an Italian aristocrat, when in fact the two had never met.
A 70-year-old art expert from Piacenza, an art collector and an artist caught by police in the process of counterfeiting a painting are under investigation in relation to the scam.
Among the gang’s alleged victims is a Piacenza bank which organised an important Bot exhibition in 2006, displaying dozens of counterfeit works which the show`s
catalogue described as “totally unseen before, and until now not even known to exist”.
Italian art critic Maurizio Scudiero was the first to alert police after he became suspicious about the number of Bot works in circulation.
The gang bought blocks of plain drawing paper from antique shops, copied onto it works of other Futurist artists including Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero but also from other art movements, and then added Bot`s ‘Terribile’ signature.
“The plan was hatched in a scientific manner, but like many such operations it had feet of clay,” Scudiero said. “The first time that I saw the works I noticed that it wasn’t the artist’s style: it was immediately clear that many sketches had been wholly copied with some variation from other Futurists, something that a Futurist would never have done. The worst thing of all was that so many of these sketches signed Bot were copied from artists working prior to Futurism, a movement that rejected the past,” he added.
The gang’s creation of letters by Bot to the Marchese Vittorio Spreti, the curator of an encyclopedia of Italian nobility in the 1930s, was said to be a driving force behind the 2006 Piacenza exhibition.
“No experts on Bot have ever mentioned the name of the Marchese Vittorio Spreti, but that the two were friends is clear from the mountain of documents from a relationship that lasted for more than 20 years,” the catalogue said. According to police, the Bot exhibition had been due to travel to New York.
Born Osvaldo Barbieri in Piacenza in 1895, Bot began painting landscapes after the First World War before turning to the Futurism movement in 1929, working as a sculptor, designer and artist. He died in 1958.
El Universal (Venezuela)