Encompassing the beauty of deception in the art world and the marvels of abstract expressionism, “Made You Look: A True Story about Fake Art” is one fine documentary Netflix offers to its viewers. Since it is an art scandal documentary film, director Barry Avrich has relied on the narration of the controversial affair rather than the setup for its success. The most commendable aspect of this film is the inclusion of almost everyone involved in this case, even remotely. Director Barry Avrich has been successful in interviewing all the parties with his persuasive skills.
Even though the film has no involvement of visual effects, green screen, or any scenic grand set, a designer has a lot to take away from this film. Starting from the individual fashion sense to the well-lit sets for the interviews, the shots have covered a wide array of raw human emotions and the latent mystery which unfolds itself throughout the film.
The story of this marvellous scandal originates and revolves around the heart of New York City. At the center of this film is the Knoedler Gallery. With a history of 165 years, it is one of the United States’ oldest commercial art galleries. The film reveals the story of how one of New York City’s most prestigious art galleries became the epicentre of the country’s largest art fraud. The magnitude of the scandal was such that the gallery had to stop its business which had continued even during the civil war and the two world wars, and had never ceased its operation. J.P. Morgan, Henry Clay Frick, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Louvre Museum were some of its distinguished buyers. The film refreshes the artistic mastery of America’s biggest abstract expressionist painters, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, etc., among the viewers.
This documentary is an array of interviews of the forensic experts, the lawyers engaged with the case, the accused, the high profile buyers, the critics, the journalists closely covering the case, experts in the field of arts, and many more, conducted in a well-curated manner to link all the tales. One of the most interesting things to notice is even though the character in light has been changing outfits, which implies that there have been multiple occasions for the interview, the mood of the setup remains the same even after an entire shuffle of the set. This proves that the director must have had a vivid image of the outcome he wanted by assigning different tones and moods to different individuals involved. The beginning of the documentary is accompanied by a background music piece of inquisitive nature. The inclusion of such underappreciated small things is what cements the viewer’s attention towards the film subconsciously.
With every piece of information stitched together with testimonials and papers, the documentary provides extensive narratives and specifics of the scandal to the public light. Knoedler sold false copies of works by Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko, among others, between 1994 and 2011. The outline plot of the documentary is very easy to grasp. In 1994, a woman from Long Island entered Knoedler & Co, one of New York’s most prestigious galleries, and offered president Ann Freedman an ostensibly Jackson Pollock painting. Although the art piece was unknown and undocumented without any provenance, it was so compelling in its appearance that the question of credibility lost its weight.
Made You Look delves into the art of deception as Freedman adamantly defends her credibility with a slew of proof. Emails and letters back up her assertions that the paintings were authenticated by several other educated art critics and historians. Some curators even borrowed them and put them among other Rothkos and Pollocks in their collections. The overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the artworks’ alleged validity will make one wonder about Freedman’s involvement in the crime or the mastermind behind the forgeries.
The documentary gives quite an insight into the world of art documentation. There has been extensive mention of Catalogue raisonné in the film. A catalogue raisonné is a detailed, annotated inventory of all known artworks by a given artist, whether in a specific medium or across all media. The works are described in a form that allows third parties to identify them accurately.
The film also mentions the brief engagements of the National Gallery of Art and the Beyeler Museum. European and American paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photography, and decorative arts are on display in the NGA’s collection galleries and Sculpture Garden. The permanent collection includes paintings from the Middle Ages to the current day.
Whereas Switzerland’s most popular museum is the Beyeler Foundation. The Beyeler Foundation was founded in 1982 by art dealers Ernst Beyeler and Hilda Kunz, who commissioned Renzo Piano to design a museum to house their private collection.
In conclusion, the inquisitiveness the film has to offer for knowing the forger and the way this massive scandal was pulled off stretching into almost two decades makes this film a must-watch. The detailed narration of the whole act with the verdict of everyone involved leaves the viewers with the conclusion to see whether the scandal was orchestrated or not. Furthermore, this documentary also tries to instigate at some level the curiosity among the general audience to take a deeper look into the world of modern and contemporary art.