Commissioning A Knockoff


Art critic Jerry Saltz put out a call on Facebook for artists to create the perfect fake painting. Stanley Casselman stepped up:

When Stanley opened his door, I saw what looked like 50 large Gerhard Richters. I immediately had fantasies of getting rich, of opening a Fake Richter shop with him. Then I started looking more closely. All of the paintings seemed Richterian, but many had an Impressionistic, un-Richterian prettiness. Many looked too thought-out. Accidents looked intentional rather than discovered. His decisions stood out instead of taking me by surprise. Richter—who applies paint in scrims, in layers that emerge through one another—controls accident with a physical intelligence and subtle changes of direction and touch; his decisions are in an incredible call-and-response relationship to accidents. His abstract paintings look like photographs of abstract paintings. This creates glitches in your ­retinal-cerebral memory, so that you perceive this uncanny space between abstraction, accident, photography, process, the nature of paint, and painting. These didn’t.

Then, suddenly, one made my heart beat faster. Stanley grimaced. "That one’s not my best," he said. "You’re wrong," I told him. Then another struck me. He winced again, saying, "That’s a reject that had been cut out from another work." Then I understood that only when Stanley stopped thinking he was making a Richter could he make one.

(Photo: A woman passes by a painting entitled 'St John, 1988' by the german artist Gerhard Richter during the presentation of the exhibition 'Gerhard Richter: Panorama' at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, on June 4, 2012. By Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)