Last century’s fake news is today’s real art
The culprits Bigger the better
A century before “fake news”, Piltdown Man deceived science’s finest minds. Now the great anthropological hoax has been turned into a work of art for an exhibition celebrating fraudsters who fooled the world.
Simon Patterson, the Turner Prize-nominated artist, has created an installation featuring the human skull which, combined with the jaw of an ape, was presented by amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson as the “missing link” between ape and man in 1912.
Patterson has also produced a work using artefacts relating to Archibald Belaney, the English imposter and conservationist, who passed himself off as Grey Owl, a First Nations aboriginal Canadian.
Dawson and Belaney were both from Hastings, and the notorious figures from the East Sussex town’s history are celebrated in the exhibition that opens today at the De La Warr Pavilion in nearby Bexhill-on-Sea.
Patterson was invited to raid Bexhill and Hastings Museums to gather “contentious objects originating from local fraudsters, charlatans and fantasists” for the exhibition, Safari.
It took scientists 40 years, using new dating technology, to confirm that Dawson’s “ancient” skull, discovered at Piltdown village, was a hoax. The skull and jaw fragments actually came from two different species, a human and probably an orangutan, skilfully combined, with the teeth filed down to make them look human.
The Grey Owl case features a Native American headdress and costume, worn not by Grey Owl himself but by Pierce Brosnan in the 1999 film telling the story of the man so fascinated by Native American culture that he reinvented himself in the 1930s as an “Indian” trapper who spoke passionately about conservation.
Air Transat – 55% Icelandair – 56% Norwegian – 60% Malaysia – 60% Air Canada – 64%
KLM – 88% Qatar Airways – 86% Iberia – 84% Aer Lingus – 82% Etihad – 82% Percentage of UK flight arrivals within 15 minutes of scheduled time accommodation, depending on circumstances.
The study assessed 850,000 flights landing at 25 British airports. The figures were based on inbound flights as planes often take off late but catch up before landing. Which? has a “flight rights” tool on its website to help passengers claim money back.
Sixty-two handwritten volumes of a secret diary kept by Adolf Hitler were snapped up by The Sunday Times and published in 1983 after being authenticated. They were swiftly exposed as a forgery.
A 10ft stone figure, said to have been found buried in a farm well in Cardiff, New York, in 1869, was touted as a petrified giant, from biblical times. Huge crowds flocked to see this fake created by a tobacco dealer.
The art world paid homage to Nat Tate, a cruelly overlooked talent who died in 1960. David Bowie published a book of Tate’s works, but the whole scam had been cooked up by writer William Boyd.
The ‘Piltdown Man’ skull which fooled scientists for 40 years