A false picture forever changed the career of art restorer Greta García (Valencia, 1972). One acquaintance took her to Bilbao to study a canvas that was exhibited in the house of relatives. The elongated forms, the almond-shaped eyes and the yellowish tones that distinguish the work of Amedeo Modigliani (Livorno, 1884-Paris, 1920). But the analysis of the expert showed that nothing that was seen had emerged from the Italian artist's brush. From there, he began to develop a method of detecting modiglianis based on scientific evidence. 15 years later, she confesses to being "a little sick" of having collectors bring her pictures "to verify if they are authentic or not". Its approval can mean millions of euros.
He entered the universe of the Livorno genius "by chance". And he stayed for professional interest in the authentication of works of art, a subject of which "there are no specific studies neither in Fine Arts nor in History of Art". Modigliani turned out to be "a perfect example" to lean over the precipice of the market of canvases and signed sculptures. "He is an artist with a huge personal drama, an unrecognized work in life, few works, a lot of falsification and a lot of success in the market". Garcia decided to focus on him and began to develop a scientific database about his catalog. He reviewed the bibliography on the author and began to study the materials and strokes from the artistic and physicochemical point of view. It applied ultraviolet and infrared radiation, radiographs or chromatographic separation techniques. Finally, he created a template that crossed all the information obtained. His research, which changed the eye of good cubero of the classical experts by an almost forensic look, became a doctoral thesis.
Six months ago, García received a call from the Fondazione Amedeo Modigliani Ricerca Scientifica, an organization with offices in Rome and Naples dedicated to "divulging the life and work" of an author who "in Italy does not even enter into the syllabuses of the institutes " "They told me that they had seen my thesis and that they had translated it into Italian," recalls the restorer of the Valencian Institute for the Conservation and Recovery of Material Goods (Ivacor). Their work convinced them that García should be part of his team of experts. In the end, the Valencian has finished presiding over the scientific committee of the foundation.
The beginnings were not easy. "When I started asking for works for technical analysis", recounts the restorer, "I found myself with many obstacles". "The owners are afraid that the paintings will be studied, especially those that appeared after the Second World War," he continues.
From the outside, Modigliani is the cursed author who died of tuberculous meningitis at the age of 35 in Montparnasse. Picasso, John Gray or Jean Cocteau. He is the painter of long necks. One of the degenerates, according to the Nazis. And a sales phenomenon that has paid 123 million euros for a nude. But, from the inside, "Modigliani is a mess," says García. "Probably the most forged artist." "Apparently, his execution technique is simple" and the copy of his signature "began practically to his death and continues until now".
García points out that "there are no official classifications about the most copied creators in history. But he has no doubt that the Italian creator would head the ladder along with others like Picasso or the Impressionists. "The same Elmyr de Hory", one of the best-known counterfeiters, protagonist of the film Fraud, of Orson Welles, "he confessed that he had sold so many modiglianis ". Experts like Kenneth Wayne or the same house Sotheby's, "they also repeat it constantly". "In the most important art sale database, Artprice, there are 238 prints sold by Modigliani, which never made a single plate," says the art restorer.
Scandals are a constant in the Modigliani universe. At the beginning of this year, it was revealed that in a large sample organized in Genoa, a third of the exhibited works were false. But that does not stop it from also being a piece quoted in art safaris. "All collectors want to have one of their works", emphasizes the expert Greta García. "Modigliani does not represent a school or a style, it is simply him. In the collectors' sticker album there must be a picasso from the pink period, there are very few, and a modigliani, who only signed between 300 and 400 works ".
At the Fondazione Amadeo Modigliani, on the other hand, they want to "attract an audience that is not used to the culture and history of art," the expert explains through an interactive exhibition and virtual reality. The first trial is taking place at the Caserta Palace in Naples. The restorer intends to take that sample to Valencia in 2020, on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the unfortunate painter.