Cultural Forensics: Intent to Deceive

Subject UNIB20004 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1-hour lecture for 12 weeks and 1 x 2-hr tutorial per week for 11 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

Total time commitment 102 hours





Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Robyn Sloggett

Subject Overview:

Art fraud is a serious problem for Australia's art market; it involves organized crime, damage to artists' reputations and the insertion of false documents into the historical record. This subject introduces the cross-disciplinary research methodologies involved in investigating works of art within a legal context. Leading researchers in diverse fields including physics, chemistry and cultural materials conservation present key theories and methods. Important elements from different disciplines explored include scientific concepts of verifiability and falsifiability; designing analytical pathways; and selecting appropriate scientific instrumentation, the history of technological developments in pigment and binder manufacture; the varying legal standards around Australia and internationally; and the importance of provenance and documentary evidence. This is the only undergraduate subject led by the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation.

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the subject students should:

  • understand the philosophical, economic and social impacts of art fraud on the indivduals and communities producing art and on the art market.
  • understand and be able to use agreed industry definitions of original artwork from both legal and art historical perspectives.
  • have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of application of scientific analytical procedures to the authentication process and understand the process of formulating and testing a hypothesis scientifically.

One 1500 word assignment due mid-semester (40%) and one 2500 word research essay due at the end of semester (60%).

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day; after five working days, no late assessment will be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available online.

Recommended Texts:

Dutton, Denis (ed.) 1983 The Forger's Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art, University of California Press, Berkeley.
Hebborn, Eric 2004, The Art Forger's Handbook, Overlook Press, Woodstock, N.Y.
Lenain, Thierry 2011, Art forgery : the history of a modern obsession, Reaktion Books, London

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students will be equipped to understand the issues around art fraud and articulate their positions on the key legal and scientific issues. They will:

  • be able to think critically about the claims presented about a work of art, drawing on high-level research skills.
  • possess a strong sense of the importance of ethical research in art authentication.
  • be in a position to engage in the debates around legal reforms in this area, having a profound understanding of the evidentiary hurdles and of the impact of art fraud crimes.
  • understand how different cultural and spiritual understandings of art result in the different impacts of these crimes on diverse communities.

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