We are used to seeing quite a lot of crime documentaries on Netflix. Whether they are light-hearted like The Movies That Made Us, more powerful like Night On Earth or your standard historical crime like The Ripper, we love a good re-telling of a juicy story. That's where Made You Look excels. Charting the biggest art fraud in the history of the US, Made You Look is a fascinating look at the long con and those that fell for it.
The world of high-end art is a mystery to many and a luxury of few. In a standard supply and demand scenario, there are few undiscovered works of art and plenty of people with money willing to buy them, whatever the cost. So when, in 1995, Glafir Rosales walked into the Knoedler Gallery with an unknown canvas by Mark Rothko, the gallery's director Ann Freedman, could hardly contain her joy.
She was on the verge of an incredible discovery but before getting ahead of herself, did her due diligence, authenticating the painting by experts in the field, and appeared happy with the fact that it was a bonafide Rothko. That was despite a rather sketchy story about the owner and the fact that there was no provenance – a must in the art world.
But plowing ahead she purchased it for $750,000 and soon Rosales was back, this time with a Jackson Pollack. Again, Freedman thought she had hit the jackpot and went about verifying its legitimacy. And again, the experts fell over themselves to marvel at how incredible it was. So Freedman set about selling the works and quickly found a buyer for the Rothko, selling it for more than $5.5 million. Though it is pointed out in the documentary that even that is a bargain for a Rothko and the buyer really should have questioned the price.
Fast forward and over the next 10 years, the Knoedler Gallery sold another 30 Abstract Expressionist canvases to the unsuspecting wealthy of the world. But of course, they were all fake. Forgeries. And Freedman has sold $80 million worth of them. Made You Look, from director Barry Avrich, goes back to the beginning with the full story of how it all happened. How could so many people, experts in their field, be so easily fooled by so many fakes? Who knew and what was the fallout?
Speaking as somebody who knows absolutely nothing about Abstract Art from the 1950s, I found this incredible – like jaw-dropping crazy at how the whole con was perpetuated. With interviews from Freedman, the buyers, the experts, the journalists, lawyers and the FBI, the whole documentary is a testament to the old saying – sometimes and fool and his money are soon parted. Until they sue, go to court and get their money back of course!