SkyArts: Merseyside has the best art detectives

A hunt for fake masterpieces, organised by Sky Arts, has revealed that Merseyside has the best art detectives.

Overnight on Friday 1st July, seven masterpieces by renowned British Artists were switched for copies at museums and galleries in Britain. The stunt was part of Sky Arts upcoming series Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge. Starring Giles Coren and Rose Balston, produced by IWC Media and GroupM Entertainment.

Throughout July, members of the public of all ages, aficionados and novices alike, are invited to use their detective skills to spot the seven copies hiding in plain sight at galleries across the country. All displays are available for investigation online, via the competition website:

As the national competition reaches its halfway point, initial statistics* reveal that:

Merseyside art-spotters are the most perceptive

  • 70% of respondents have identified fakes among a collection of animal paintings at The Walker Art Galleryin Liverpool
  • 59% have correctly identified the fake English Portrait at The Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, Wirral

Portrait paintings are generally easiest to detect

  • 41% have also correctly identified fake portraits of The Stuart Courts at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh

But people have been struggling with landscapes and scenes

  • only 16% of entrants have discovered the fake amongst scenes of Victorian life at Guildhall Art Gallery in London
  • only 14% have managed to identify the right British Landscape painting at National Museum Cardiff
  • as little as 9% have spotted the fake Urban Landscape amongst the Lowry and Valette’s at Manchester Art Gallery

The responses from the public thus far have been very positive. Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts says, “People are really getting up close to these wonderful paintings and having fun discovering the joys of British Artist. I’m impressed by the level of success in Merseyside – do they have a better eye for detail than the rest of the country? Scotland is also doing well, but there’s still time for art spotters in London, Manchester and Cardiff to prove their powers of detection! It’s a great activity to do with the kids in the holidays.”

Charlotte Keenan, curator of British Art at National Museums Liverpool, comments specifically on the local public: “The findings support what we’ve known for many years – here in Liverpool we have an incredibly engaged audience who know and love our collections. Liverpool has a long and diverse history of creativity, and we’re a confident bunch when it comes to sharing our thoughts and ideas about art.”

The competition is open to all ages until the end of July, with those who identify the most ‘fakes’ being invited to be involved in the series finale at the Ashmolean Musuem in Oxford. These finalists will also compete to win a commissioned fake of their own.

When aired in the New Year, each episode will focus on particular periods in British Art: such as animal art and portraiture in the 18th and 19th centuries. The program will also feature interviews with curators, and the contemporary artists who secretly recreated the masterpieces.

  • at Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, the fake is hidden in a display on The Art of The Stuart Courts, including portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, James I and Charles II
  • at Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, Wirral, the copy is placed amid a collection of Golden Age English Portraiture by the likes of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and George Romney
  • at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the copy is hidden amongst paintings of Animal and Sporting Art from the 18th and 19th centuries
  • at National Museum Cardiff, the copy is made of a British Landscape amongst masters such as J.M.W Turner and Richard Wilson
  • at Guildhall Art Gallery in London, the imposter hides amongst the collection of Victorian Painting
  • Manchester Art Gallery’s popular display of Pre-Raphaelite paintings with works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt hides one masterpiece which is not all that it seems
  • Manchester Art Gallery has also created a special display of paintings of the city by LS Lowry and Adolphe Valette; one of which is a copy

This is the first Sky television series to be presented by Giles Coren, award-winning critic and columnist for The Times, following his debut on Sky Arts in an episode of My Failed Novel. It is also the television debut for Rose Balston, an Edinburgh-educated art historian and writer who lectures for the V&A and founded her own company, Art History UK.

Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge will be recorded throughout July and August and screened on Sky Arts in the New Year, when the identity of the seven ‘fakes’ and the artists who copied them will be revealed. The seven originals paintings will return to the galleries once the competition has ended.

To enter the competition visit: