Fake Sculptures Found in Public Art Collections

Are the Sculptures in Your City Illegal Knockoffs?

Counterfeit Sculpture Steven Bennet

Public Art collections are growing across the country. This is normally a good thing, but in some cases the “art” that is being purchased may include counterfeit sculptures.

This is bad for everyone. Artists are ripped off, receiving no compensation for their original design. Cities and towns are taken advantage of, and tax dollars are misspent, when what they believe to be a one of a kind or limited edition is in fact, mass produced in Asia. Art lovers in the area see a lower quality of artwork.

Add to that, once discovered, the governing body must then decide whether to keep the offending work or have it removed. All of this costs money, and reduces the funds available to promote real artists.

Golden, Colorado is a city that learned about their own counterfeit collection. Art Management and Planning Associates, a Denver firm, was hired to ascertain the public art collection. Some pieces were found to be inappropriate for the collection:

“The sculpture is of low quality, and mass-produced in China with no said artist to contact or documentation to this work.”

The firm’s evaluation continued: “Many times these sculptures from China are illegal reproductions of original artwork.”

The sculptures are slated for possible removal as a result. All were said to be by Steven Bennett.

The question remains about what makes quality artwork, especially in the eyes of cities, towns, and the people who live in them.

Should public art collections consist only of verifiable, quality art? While no one is saying that direct rip-offs should be tolerated, what about pieces that were closely inspired by another artist’s work. Is there a place for works of a lower caliber or mass-production in a public art collection?

It is important to keep in mind that most bronze sculptures are not one of a kind works of art. The process to create the work is quite expensive. So just because you see the “same” sculpture in more than one location does not mean it is a fake. Consider The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin. The iconic piece was part of a larger sculpture when Rodin took “the Poet” (as he was originally dubbed) and separated him. At least 28 of the monumental works are exhibited around the world, in addition there are smaller bronze versions and even plaster casts, all officially sanctioned.

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

Even some artists feel that it may be acceptable to have lower quality works on display near theirs.

Others strongly disagree and have worked hard to see that illegal copies of their works do not make it to the public.

Jane DeDecker is an internationally acclaimed sculptor who lives and works in Loveland, Colorado. She knows the struggle first hand.

“On the foundry floor, there were 600 copies of this sculpture,” she said of one knockoff, as reported to her by a friend who visited the foundry. “It was just kind of discouraging.”

Counterfeit Sculpture Steven Bennet

And many people find these works, like the Two Deer above to be “cute.” While perhaps not art quality they do not see the need to remove them.

This isn’t the first time we’ve reported on the impact fake sculptures have on sculptors. You might be interested in reading how one sculptor beat a billionaire in court for ripping him off!

Tell us what your thoughts are: we’d love to hear from artists, citizens, and public art committee members!

Thanks to Josie Klemaier, The Denver Post for the original article which can be read by clicking here (as it appeared in the Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Photo credit: Victorian Dress Up, and Two Deer, Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Photo of The Thinker,  from the Musée Rodin, Paris