With Art and Antiquities, Sarah Pickering tackles the theme of authenticity, which is so crucially important in the art world, in her exhibit on the two rooms on the ground flour and in the videobox. In a meticulous installation of objects, books, a video and photographs, Sarah Pickering lifts the veil on the fraudulent practice of British forger Shaun Greenhalgh. Following on from an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (The Metropolitan Police's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries, 2010), and two TV programmes shown on the BBC, Sarah Pickering displays various objects which featured either in the exhibition or in the TV programmes.
In the right-hand room she shows from nineteen viewpoints a sculpture of an Egyptian goddess that Greenhalgh
photographed in the hope of receiving valuations from specialists, so as to be able to sell to an antique dealer or a museum. In the display case, various books reproducing a false 'Faun' by Paul Gauguin show just how successful a forger can be in fooling the greatest specialists. In a wicked mise-en-abîme, Sarah Pickering herself photographed the Greenhalgh forgeries and printed her photos using an old technique reminiscent of the appearance of the photos of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) or of Roger Fenton who assiduously documented the collections of the British Museum. We can see the Armana Princess sold to the Bolton Museum in northern England for the sum of 440,000 pounds in 2003.
She also develops her arguments by showing two replicas made by the producer of one of the BBC programmes about Greenhalgh. These are copies of fakes, in a museum-like presentation.
On its own on a wall, visitors will discover a reproduction of one of the posters adorning the garden shed in which the forger plied his art. An advert for a copying machine, the image shows the scars, the stigmata one might say, of what brought about Greenhalgh's downfall, Egyptian hieroglyphs.
In the left-hand room, Sarah Pickering has arranged several photos of the inside of the garden shed, an identical reconstruction of the exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Visitors can see a cubist painting as well as some sculptures. Taking the loss of points of reference and the nesting of reality and reconstructions of reality still further, Pickering then went to the secure premises where Scotland Yard keeps seized forgeries, to take yet more photos. Which is a way of showing the copy of a copy of a forgery.
Adopting a strategy of re-appropriation, Pickering makes visitors completely lose the plot, ending up totally unable to tell what is
'really genuine'. The Assyrian-style bas-reliefs, like the princesses seen earlier, are replicas made for television. The contact sheet
nearby, on the other hand, is a real contact sheet made by Greenhalgh on which we can see the amusing detail of a leg in front of the lens.
In the videobox, Forger's Palette shows a totally computer-generated sequence of a painter's palette turning round and
round. Perhaps shown as evidence, shown from every angle, this video work illustrates very well the treachery of images which is so fascinating to the artist.