Fake or Fortune? is a BBC reality show where journalist Fiona Bruce along with art dealer Philip Mould investigate remarkable stories behind some of the world’s greatest artworks. The team employ old-fashioned detective skills and the latest forensic testing to reveal compelling stories of lost masterpieces, looted art, and authentication challenges.
Last fall, they hosted an episode where they debated whether or not a broken sculpture was made by Alberto Giacometti as its owners claim. Ultimately, the episode ended and they were unable to prove the Swiss master’s creation and determined that the piece was likely “worthless.”
“We’ve never tackled sculpture before and it’s been astonishingly hard to find out information about Giacometti gazing heads and the plaster versions in particular,” said Bruce during the episode. “Unfortunately though, the damage this piece has sustained might be too great. It may no longer be possible to accept it as a genuine work.”
But in an astonishing turn of events, the same sculpture ended up selling in February for £500,000 at Christie’s “Art of the Surreal” sale in London. While Bruce and Mould were not able to authenticate the work, they resorted to sending it to the Giacometti Committee in Paris for further analysis. In a re-aired version of the episode from a few nights ago, an updated segment showed that upon the removal of many layers of paint applied to the work decades ago, Giacometti’s signature appears.
The plaster sculpture, which was a white squared work entitled Tête qui regarde (The Gazing Head), came to the show via its owner, Claire Clark-Hall, who claimed that her late grandmother had bought the piece directly from Giacometti in Paris as she was friends with his mistress in the 1930’s.
Almost three decades later, a family cat knocked the sculpture off its mantle, causing it to break. This was when Clark-Hall’s grandfather used gypsum plaster and household paint to repair it. It was only when those materials were removed by professional restorers in Paris that the signature inscription at the bottom of the work appeared: “Alberto Giacometti, 1928.”
“Even though we have quite long lead times, we still work to a television deadline on Fake or Fortune? and the art world does not always observe the same pace,” Mould told the Telegraph.“This one took longer and more consideration than most. But it was worth waiting for.”