Spot the difference: This ‘Lowry’ pastel is one of the top fakes in the display
The exhibition, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, features more than 100 fake works from Lowry paintings to Barbara Hepworth sculptures.
Experts say the collection, which also includes ‘paintings’ by Thomas Moran and graffiti artist Banksy, would be worth £4m if genuine.
Many of the works are by one of most notorious forgers in British art history, Shaun Greenhalgh from Bolton.
Greenhalgh was jailed for four years and eight months in 2007 after police discovered an astonishing cottage industry in his garden shed.
His output ranged from replicas of ancient Egyptian statues to Lowry pastels and even a “lost” Barbara Hepworth duck sculpture.
Among the other forgers with works on display are John Myatt and Robert Thwaites.
This fake of the Amarna Princess by Greenhalgh sold for a whopping £440,000
Detective Sergeant Vernon Rapley, who leads the Metropolitan Police’s art and antiques unit, says it is not just the rich and famous who fall victim to art crime.
He said most forgers create works worth less than £10,000 knowing they will attract less attention and may not be checked thoroughly.
Despite the arrest of Greenhalgh and others, DS Rapley said art forgery is still a thriving business, with Banksy and Tracey Emin among the living artists most often copied.
He said: “This display will demonstrate that art crime is not just a topic for historic consideration.
“It reveals a situation very much alive and at the forefront of the art and antiques unit’s priorities today.
No ducking the quality of this fake
“We hope that by highlighting some of the new techniques criminals use, we can educate people in what to look out for and encourage greater reporting of these crimes.”
Detective Constable Ian Lawson added: “With the internet, people are not perhaps taking as much care as they might in the past.
“They are buying things without checking them thoroughly and we need to get the message across, people must be on their guard.”
The V&A display, which runs until February 7, also includes materials, such as vintage typewriters and false stamps, used by forgers to create false paperwork.
Some forgers inserted letters, invoices and other documents into archives to invent a history for their work to make it appear authentic.