Two forged "Monet" paintings have been pulled from an Auckland auction today after they were discovered to be inferior imitations of a famous forger.
The fake fakes purportedly by legendary art forger Elmyr de Hory surfaced last month, offered for auction by an Auckland-based descendent of London bookmaker Ken Talbot.
Talbot was said to have paid 4500 for the paintings in 1980, and they were due to go under the hammer at Cordy's auction house today with reserves of $1000 each.
But a de Hory expert spotted the auction online and contacted Cordy's to claim the two paintings, In the Woods at Giverny and At Giverny, were rip-offs painted by Talbot himself.
"Talbot himself was a conman who established a robust cottage industry of fabricating phony works by de Hory," said Mark Forgy, de Hory's friend, personal assistant and sole legal heir.
De Hory was the 20th century's most prolific art forger, selling more than 1000 forgeries worth an estimated $60 million, including fake Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and Cezanne works, to reputable art galleries and top collectors around the world.
Even after de Hory's apparent suicide in 1976, aged 70, as Spanish and French authorities were trying to extradite him from Ibiza, his fake works continued to sell - albeit at greatly reduced rates. Talbot claimed to own more than 400 de Hory works that adorned every wall of his plush Regents Park townhouse.
But Forgy, who authenticates de Hory's works, says Talbot tried to cash in on de Hory's notoriety.
Forgy wrote about Talbot's copycats in The Forger's Apprentice: Life with the World's Most Notorious Artist.
Talbot met de Hory in Ibiza and bought "a handful of works" before procuring two fake de Hory passports.
"Talbot fabricated an oft-told story that he acquired hundreds of works by Elmyr in exchange for unpaid loans. All this is just nonsense," Forgy said yesterday. Forgy now monitors online auction sites for fake de Hory works and has added the latest pair to the collection.
He said the irony of the famous faker himself being copied "is never lost on me".
"The subject of others forging his works came up only one time. We both contemplated that for a moment and then laughed at the far-fetched notion," he said.
Auctioneer Andrew Grigg confirmed their withdrawal from today's antique and art sale.
"Of course it is never our intention to deceive and we were not aware that the faker's works were faked," he said.