June 30, 2003
How paintings are copied now

This seems to me to be a logical business:

If you want a Manet, a Van Gogh, a Renoir – then Christophe Petyt is your man: he has turned exact copies of masterpieces into big business; down to the last wormhole in the frame. He talks to William Langley.

Fresh back from the Riviera, his dark hair glossy and his toned body snug in a black Versace suit, Christophe Petyt is sitting in a Paris cafe, listing the adornments of his private art collection; several Van Goghs, a particularly good Rembrandt, a pair of cherished Canalettos, a Modigliani, a Miro abstract and a comprehensive selection of the better Impressionists.

"I can," says Christophe quietly, "have any painting I like."

Then he looks up from the frosted rim of his tall chocolat froid and murmurs, "and so can you."

I love the suggestion of illicit passion, of the love – in this case of faked old masters – that dare not speak its name. And made possible for you by one of those dubious citizens who always make such things possible. Dark glossy hair. Toned body. Black Versace suit. Chocolat froid. Not one of us is William Langley's clear implication.

Well, I think it's very sensible. I mean, if I owned one of these multi-million-dollar paintings, I'd bury it in a bank vault and hang an exact copy of it on my actual wall. And then, I think I'd sell the multi-million-dollar painting, because what is the point of it spending its entire life in a bank vault? In fact, I think I'd have lots of copies made, one for each of the people who ever owned it. They'd each want one. As a souvenir. As would many others, I expect.

I've been spilling a lot of electrons here wondering when computer screens will be able to fake all those grand masters to perfection. Meanwhile, here's the plan: have painters fake them to perfection. With paint.

That's all I have to say for now. This is the small hours of Monday, and I haven't had anything here since Friday. Sorry and all that. I did a couple of semi-cultural blog postings elsewhere, namely here (which happened because of this posting here) and here. Try to think of these as your daily Brian's Culture fixes for the weekend.

I met someone this evening who described himself as a fan of this blog, so I'm suddenly feeling conscientious again.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:18 AM
Category: Painting