In 1974’s “F for Fake,” the freewheeling Orson Welles documentary that used the exploits of noted art forger Elmyr de Hory as its thematic jumping-off point, the defiant de Hory asks, “Do you think I should confess? To what? Committing masterpieces?”
That mindset proves especially persuasive in the new Netflix documentary “Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art,” a fascinating depiction of the various dealers, collectors and gallery owners who found themselves embroiled in the largest art fraud in American history.
At the center of the early-2000s scandal was Ann Freedman, the director of Manhattan’s once-prestigious Knoedler Gallery. Her fateful meeting with Glafira Rosales, a quiet woman who had access to a treasure trove of Abstract Expressionism purportedly by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, eventually would amount to an $80 million con.
Although the works passed muster from respected authenticators, things became a little murkier when it came to the equally important matter of provenance, which was ultimately traced back to Queens, where they were created by an unassuming Chinese math professor named Pei-Shen Qian.
Director Barry Avrich — whose previous documentaries profiled Harvey Weinstein, David Foster and Lew Wasserman — paints an intriguing psychological portrait of a collective of sophisticates (whether easy marks or unwitting accomplices) so seduced by the sought-after art in question, they had become genuinely oblivious to the not-so-subtle flaws.
Accentuating the unrepentant Freedman (who has a distinctly monochromatic fashion sense) and her fellow interview subjects with fittingly artistic camera compositions, gallery-ready lighting and a refined strings-forward score, “Made You Look” makes for an exposé that’s suitable for framing.
‘Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art’
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Playing: Available on Netflix