South Africa: The Artists, the Forgers and the Murky Market of Fake Art in South Africa

After centuries of neglect by the global art establishment, African art is finally becoming big business. This creates the conditions for a perfect storm locally. While the demand for, and value of, African art is rapidly increasing, the South African art market is notoriously under-regulated and vulnerable to exploitation and the spread of fake art.

With additional research by Emma Dollery, Sarah Hoek, Emilie Gambade and Malibongwe Tyilo.

It started happening in 2019. Pippa Skotnes would be sitting at her computer and an email would arrive from someone asking her to verify whether an artwork seemingly produced by her late father, world-renowned artist Cecil Skotnes, was really his work.

This, in itself, wasn’t unusual. What was out of the ordinary was that the artworks in question were not ones that were recognisable to Pippa Skotnes — unquestionably the world expert on her father’s oeuvre, and herself an artist and curator of distinction.

“The first one was from a gallery in Franschhoek,” Pippa Skotnes said, speaking to Maverick Life through an online call in 2021.

The gallery had sent her a picture of a Skotnes piece that was totally unfamiliar to her. The attached information on the work’s provenance — its…

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