Which one is real? The fake is on the right.

The art world has been dealing with fakes for more than 2,000 years, with perhaps the most notorious case being the forgeries of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s paintings by artist Han van Meegeren during the Second World War.

Now African art is becoming a larger and larger target. Fakes are flooding the South African market and while a range of artists is affected, it’s mostly the black modernists (1960-1990) whose legacy is suffering.

To illustrate: If you use Google images to search for the work of Lucky Sibiya, the artist being used as part of a yet to be published study at the University of Pretoria, you’ll find that 30% of all the works yielded in the search are fakes. It’s the same with his contemporaries, among them George Pemba, Welcome Koboka, Nat Mokgosi, Martin Tose, Dumile Feni, Julian Motau and Eli Kobeli. They are just eight of a list of 21 artists identified as being forged.

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