Art forgery is a good subject for a TV documentary because the cameras can get right up close to a painting and show you how the fake was made and how its inauthenticity was determined. That’s what this edition of Nova does, showing us fraudulent art that fooled institutions including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum.
The Cleveland Museum example is particularly amusing, since its pseudomasterpiece by the 16th-century painter Matthias Grunewald was actually created by a contemporary artist, Christian Goller, who says he does this sort of thing for fun, not profit. Goller makes authentic-looking knock-offs of centuries-old paintings all the time — he shows us how he ages and dirties the canvas to get the right look. Goller claims that this particular Grunewald fell into the hands of an unscrupulous buyer who tried to put one over on the Cleveland Museum — and succeeded, for a while. In the case of Goller, Nova asks, when is a hobbyist a forger? Having chosen examples as engrossing as this, The Fine Art of Faking It is both instructive and entertaining. B+