Who Dat? Psych-Outs Proliferate at PAD London

LONDON—It was a bit too early, at the end of the first day of the Pavilion of Art and Design fair yesterday, to say which pieces everyone’s talking about and who sold what. By that time, though, I did feel qualified to point out a trend I’ve noticed at a lot of art fairs, but with a greater frequency at PAD. Put simply: there seemed to be many pieces intended to make you do a double take because you think they’re by someone else. These could, you think at first, be the real deal. It’s not uncommon for an unexpected booth at an art fair to surprise you with something great. I encountered a Japanese booth at the Modern art section of the Armory Fair last year that, out of nowhere, featured a $35 million Gerhard Richter. These things happen.

Though not at PAD. It begins here, at Ben Brown Fine Arts (UK/Hong Kong, B3) with a set of pieces that appear to be some stellar works by the 1970s Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti, who just had a big retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. But no! It’s actually just the British artist Gavin Turk, aping Boetti. Both were made in the past two years. His name is actually woven into the alphabet piece to the right, and the booth did have some actual Boettis, though not on its outside. A clear psych-out, at least a three-quarters psych-out.

Over here at Paul Kasmin Gallery (USA, C4), this is an Orange Liz by Andy Warhol, right? As you may have already guessed it’s actually an Orange Deb (2000) by Deborah Kass. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Kass’s Warhol pieces aren’t really deceptive because there’s something enjoyably off about them. Moreover, Paul Kasmin is Kass’s dealer. Still, the double-take factor was high.

Could it be Warhol? It is, actually, according to the people at Modernity (Sweden, B5). The psych-out factor comes into it when you consider that this Black Marilyn is but a screen print. A steal at just $192,000, from an edition of 250. Depending on how you judge these things, this may not be a psych-out at all. Perhaps it’s a half psych-out. Or a 1/250th psych-out.

But the prize for the most impressive psych-out goes to Olyvia Fine Art, (UK/Korea, C11) which featured something clearly intended to be a work by Claude Monet.

“That’s not Monet, is it?” I asked.

“It is, actually!” responded the helpful booth attendant, “Blanche Monet, Claude’s daughter.”

Who knew? Whereas a painting like this by Claude Monet might go for $30 million, this one sells at just half a million.

“She was his favorite daughter,” added another booth worker. They weren’t sure of the year it was made, but she died in 1947 so it was most likely painted sometime before that.