Lonely Planet Writer

British art galleries are filled with fake masterpieces this July; can you find them?

If you find yourself wandering through one of Britain’s top galleries this July, keep a close eye on the walls. Several priceless artworks by famous British artists were secretly removed from galleries all around the country at the start of the month and replaced with fake masterpieces for a month-long competition which hopes to foster a deeper appreciation of art.

SkyArts presenter Giles Coren gets involved in the heist.
SkyArts presenter Giles Coren gets involved in the heist. Image by Sky Arts

The ‘heist’ is part of a new SkyArts TV series Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge and members of the public are invited to try and spot the fake masterpieces. Eagle-eyed art fans can then submit their entry online for a chance to participate in the series finale and possibly win a specially commissioned copy of the masterpiece for themselves.

“You don’t have to be an art historian to have a go at this,” says Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, “all you need is a sense of curiosity and an eye for detail. We wanted to tell the story of British Art with a sense of fun, and in a way that would encourage us all to take a closer and more critical look at the works of great British Artists.”  

This portrait of Mary of Guise by Corneille de Lyon at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is just one of the potential fakes.
This portrait of Mary of Guise by Corneille de Lyon at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is just one of the potential fakes.

The curators also hope that it will encourage visitors to slow down and really appreciate the works of art, paying special attention to the detail and spend a little longer examining and appreciating the real masterpieces. During the month of July, special curator-led tours of the participating galleries will also be available.

The participating galleries are:
– Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, Wirral. The copy will be placed amid a collection of ‘Golden Age English Portraiture’.

Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. The copy will be hidden amongst paintings of ‘Animal and Sporting Art’ from the 18th and 19th centuries.

– National Museum Cardiff. The copy has been made of a ‘British Landscape’ amongst masters such as J.M.W Turner and Richard Wilson.

– Guildhall Art Gallery in London. The imposter hides amongst the collection of ‘Victorian Narrative Painting.’

– Manchester Art Gallery. Their popular display of ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ paintings will hide one fake masterpiece while another special display of paintings of the city will hide another.

If you can’t make it to the galleries themselves, you can also explore the fake masterpieces online.

The competition is just one of the ways the world’s top art galleries are innovating and hoping to provoke deeper appreciation of their masterpieces. Washington’s Renwick Gallery heavily encourages photography (and quickly became one of the most Instagrammed museums in the world), while Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum held a #startdrawing campaign to replace your camera with a sketchpad.