Exhibition review: Broughton & Birnie – The Forger’s Tale: The Quest for Fame and Fortune

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Originally posted on The Upcoming on 24th May

Collaborators Kevin Broughton and Fiona Birnie weave an intricate web of intrigue, deceit and satire into their latest exhibition at WW Gallery. Purportedly telling the story of a German forger, Georg Bruni, and the events surrounding his selling of a forged Picasso to a Nazi collector, the exhibition leads the audience through a number of rooms steeped in the history of Weimer and Nazi Germany.  At least that’s how it first appears.

An oppressive, dimly lit space is adorned with small black and white portraits, barely perceptible in the dank conditions. Historical artefacts litter the tiny room – an antique table, an oil lamp – perhaps this is a mock up of a great forger’s drawing room. But nothing seems quite right, everything is a little uneasy. The next room shatters the insular feelings of the drawing room: brightly lit and plastered from wall to ceiling with Degenerate Art, or entartete Kunst, as it was known in Nazi Germany.

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The frantically collaged images are overwhelming in their volume and ferocity, overloading the senses, reflecting our image-obsessed modern culture of celebrity and scandal. The artists have mimicked the Dadaist style convincingly. A suited pig looms ominously and menacingly above the doorway as you enter, a clear homage to John Heartfield and Rudolf Schichter’s Prussian Archangel from the 1920 Berlin Dada Fair. But in keeping with the theme of forgery and deceit, the artists have left little clues throughout the exhibition, anachronistic ephemera subtly supplanted within their mimicry.

Familiar faces pop up from time to time such as our beloved Prime Minister and reality TV titan Simon Cowell. In an age in which these bastions of authority, politicians and the media are equally the least trusted professions in society, it certainly feels a fitting satire to have their personifications dotted throughout this conceited display.

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In a post-internet era, trust in authority is at an all time low, cynicism reigns supreme and the web provides a platform for anyone to spread misinformation. This curious exhibition leaves you second-guessing everything, as it all unravels before you. Using the lens of Dadism, the artists draw an interesting parallel between totalitarian Nazi Germany and the totalising nature of the information age.

If this exhibition is intended as a parable about the quest for fame and fortune, it seems to suggest that it rarely has a happy ending.



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