Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes

Recent forgery scandals in the art world have captured headlines around the world, raising questions about the authenticity of art, antiquities, and collectibles. The timely exhibition Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes revealed some of the most clever and most costly deceptions of our time by pairing diverse examples of fake objects with conservation science from Winterthur’s own Scientific Research and Analysis Lab, alongside the research of several other leading conservation scientists in the country. Visitors saw more than 60 examples of fakes and forgeries from the Winterthur collection as well as public and private sources and discovered the motives for their creation and the evidence used in their detection.

The exhibition examined artwork, couture, silver, sporting memorabilia, musical instruments, antiquities, and stamps along with ceramics, furniture and folk art. This broad selection of luxury and everyday objects further illustrated the rarity, supply, and desirability can make anything fair game for a clever forger or fraudster intent on turning a handsome profit.

Scientific analysis and stylistic clues were presented alongside artwork and objects, exposing the broad range of motives and techniques used to test and fool collectors and experts. These tricks of the trade also revealed fascinating stories about the forgers themselves.

Treasures on Trial examined intriguing questions such as: What gets faked and why? How do you spot a fake? How does scientific methodology assist in this? Visitors were also invited to investigate several unresolved examples and share their opinion about the authenticity of the object based on the available evidence.

The exhibition was organized by Winterthur Museum & Gardens and was co-curated by Colette Loll and Winterthur’s Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles Linda Eaton. The online exhibition is available here: