Documentary Spotlight: Modigliani’s Genuine Fake Heads

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In Livorno, Italy, the artist Modigliani is supposed to have dumped some sculptures of heads into the canal outside his apartment after suffering a humiliating negative response from art critics.

Fifty years later, researchers persuade the municipal authorities to dredge the canal in a search for the heads. As failure follows failure, suddenly they find two sculptures. Art critics rave and they are exhibited both locally and nationally. Subsequently a group of local adolescents admit that they knocked up one of the sculptures and threw it in the canal as a joke.

Shortly afterwards someone else owns up to making the other. Critics and dealers continue however to insist they are genuine. A fascinating war of words proceeds, with a heated debate in the papers, amongst experts and on television on what is a fake and what is not. A debate from which few emerge with reputations intact.