How Do I Define Fake

F for Fake is a great film and an extraordinary documentary.

The story of Elmyr de Hory is impressive, and I can’t stop thinking about what does Fake mean, and I got something.

One significant paradox here is, Elmyr’s painting is as real as no one can discern it from the works of the original painters, who have big names, then why Elmyr’s work should be valued so differently?

If a thing could be as real as the real one, is this thing fake?

If I can print paper money by the same way the government does, is this money fake?

After watching this film, I got a vague answer. I will try my best to say it clearly.

Fake items challenge rareness by providing extra supply into the market.

People who have money and willing to buy artworks create a pool of liquidity, which corresponding the total market cap of those artworks. When an artist gets famous, the number of buyers and their money grows simultaneously.

Buyers think the total number of a great artist, say, Picasso, is fixed. When Elmyr provides a counterfeit of Picasso’s work, the total supply of Picasso’s work is not just added a small integer but gets a potential to become infinite. That’s why this market mast values Elmyr’s work as zero.

So only buyers who want Elmyr’s work are willing to add liquidity to Elmyr’s market, which is not a big population, so his works could not worth as much as Picasso’s.

And this hypothesis answered why the price of one’s artworks rises significantly after the death of the artist: a dead artist can no longer provide extra supply to this market.

I think this is the critical point to say a thing is real or fake, which is: Is it belong to this portion of the market.

If I print some us dollars which no one can discern it from real dollars, I can spend it, and some people can value it as real dollars until they know those dollars are fake. And even before they know that, my dollars were still fake dollars, because they do not belong to this market. My fake dollars can only be real things in the counterfeit-dollar market.


Jan 29, 2018, by Yang Yang.

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