BULL STREET - The art of the Con

Columbian Art….

If you want to get into a field that is not overcrowded and that will give you a substantial income while doing arts and crafts to your heart’s content, why not try forging artifacts. Artifacts come in all colors and sizes and while paintings have been for the most part cataloged literally to death along with the fact that they come with someone’s name embodied upon them usually along with that person’s history and style, it makes their forgery a real iffy proposition. However, in the more virginal field of antique artifacts, almost all of those sometimes-sticky issues are literally non-existent.

Pottery is pottery in that world, it is not so important who did the work but that it represents a style of that particular time period. The older it seems to be the more it is worth. Most natural history museums along with some of the bigger art museums have substantial collections of artifacts covering most of man’s existence, while they continue attempting to collect the better pieces originating from the more well known cultures. Finding artifacts are more an issue of using a shovel in the right location than they are of thinking great thoughts and putting the resulting idea on canvas. While most countries have banned the exportation of these symbols of their heritage out of their countries, there has always been a black market in these trinkets that have attracted the wealthiest of collectors and the largest of museums.

Interestingly enough, if you happen to be lucky enough to find an original aritficat, no one can ever say that you stole it because in reality no one knew it even existed until you found it. While getting the piece out of the country may be a tad more difficult, the risk may well be worth the reward because really nice pieces can sell for substantial sums. Each piece is literally one of a kind and there is no price on something unique whose author has been deceased for 5,000 years or more. However, finding these little lovelies is a hit-or-miss proposition at best and your time could probably be spent more profitably at the local race track taking your chances there. The odds are probably much better there. Forgery, however is a great business requiring only a basic knowledge for materials, some handicraft skills and some patience. Brigido Lara was such a man.

Brigido it seems was a big fan of pre-Columbian artifacts and studied them for a number of years. Moreover, during his formative years he was already an accomplished artist and was interested in getting more closely acclimatized to his target market. He took a job at a museum specializing in this type of artifact and studied it assiduously. Eventually he came to the conclusion, “I can do that”, and he did. He turned out excellent pieces of workmanship and he told perspective purchasers that they had originated in his native Mexico. Being under no obligation to disclose just where he came by this large quantity of magnificent works, because it is the character of the business not to necessarily disclose your source. However, whenever Lara needed money he would return to his workshop and become extremely creative. Presto chango, another great piece of pre-Columbian Art.

He eventually produced so many pieces that they became stylized and were attributed by expert to a particular time period. Schools were established to study this period and expeditions were mounted to search for other examples of this unique art form. Moreover, much was written about the particular civilization that had created these objects. These scholarly works went into the type of people that produced the artifacts and how they had migrated into this region from Peru.

Brigido Lara sort of laid back and laughed at the world, he had come to forge a few artifacts and had created an entire civilization with a history. However, in 1987, the prestigious St. Louis Art Museum announced that their Morton D. May collection had been compromised. No one had discovered this on their own, Lara himself while talking to a couple of writers visiting his native Vera Cruz got to talking about art and the like and Lara just blurted out the fact that his own works were in many museums throughout the world. Stunned, the writers asked him where his works were on display and god only knows, Lara probably had to much Tequila to drink and was probably was bombed when he had opened his mouth, naturally he regretted this elaboration but it was already far to late.

In reciting this fact to the writers he was neither ashamed of what he had done or did he think that it was wrong. He believed that he had created great art that people could look at and enjoy and thus was providing a valuable service. An investigation was begun into his statements and it appears that the Dallas Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art were also proudly displaying Lara’s version of what he though pre-Columbian art ought to look like. As opposed to paintings, there are always enough experts and there is a substantial history on almost any painting that can provide some idea if a work is real or if it isn’t. The fact that Lara confessed does not necessarily mean that he isn’t lying one more time. It seems that no one can tell what the truth is in this matter and there are a lot of embarrassed faces walking around the art world today. No one can imagine the number of other Brigido Lara’s there are out there churning out artifacts for fun and profit and creating whole new civilizations while they do it. Even when they admit what they have done, either they are not believed or the folks that bought the silly stuff are so embarrassed that they don’t even want to talk about it anymore. Sounds a little like an early electronic game my son had which allowed you to create your own civilization and go to war with whoever you liked.



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