Last month, artist Yoshitomo Nara casually announced in Japanese over Twitter that two counterfeit paintings had been included in his ambitious publication Yoshitomo Nara Complete Works 1984–2010. “…I have been looking through my Catalogue Raisonné! … drawing #203 and 204 are forgeries… sorry to tell you after they are already released,” he said. The two-volume edition could have served as an encyclopedic reference to his entire oeuvre, had it not incorporated the forgeries.
Nara, whose influential faux-naive style has earned him countless museum and gallery exhibitions around the world, has produced over 5,000 paintings, drawings and installations since his university days in the ’80s through to the present, the sum of which is documented in the books.
Most likely the error occurred because of the open submission policy the publishers (Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha in Japan, Chronicle Books in the U.S.) used to track down the thousands of works that are dispersed around the globe. Collectors were encouraged to send in information about their pieces and advised, “The artist himself, Nara Yoshimoto, will be responsible for determining the authenticity of any works.” Given that Nara reviewed each submission along with his galleries, curators, collectors and editors, the forger must be very capable.
Last week, when the publishers were alerted about Nara’s tweets, they issued a release explaining, “Upon receiving this news, we requested the firm confirmation about this statement to the author himself, as well as to the persons/parties on this. We regret to announce that the author’s statement was true to the fact.” Now, those involved have the larger task of tracking down the origins of the fakes. Instead of dwelling on the embarrassing mix-up, however, Nara encouraged his Twitter followers to be savvy and buy up the first editions with the fakes in them — one day they could be worth more.