The high art of fakery Featured

9:58am EDT July 22, 2002

If you take a close look at the tapestries hanging in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s newly renovated armor court, you’ll notice something fishy.

Four of them are fakes—standing in for the real ones, which were shipped to Belgium early this year for restoration. (The other four were restored while the room was being redone.)

The stand-ins, however, are themselves a work of art—digital art generated by Merrill David Inc. of Cleveland. “The museum wanted to make sure there wasn’t blank wall space for 18 months,” explains Neil Gloger, Merrill David sales manager.

While the fakes—ranging in size from approximately 10 feet by 13 feet to 14 feet by 22 feet—are merely printed, rather than sewn, the detail is so fine that you can distinguish individual stitches.

The computer files used to create them were up to six gigabytes (take your average desktop PC, double the hard-drive capacity, remove all software and data, and you might be able to squeeze in one file), and printing them out took up to 20 hours.

Plenty can go wrong in 20 hours of printing, and on more than one occasion, Gloger says, the staff had to scrap the print run and start over.

The replacement rugs are printed on a special banner fabric developed and donated by Painesville’s Avery Dennison. They won’t tear under their own weight, Gloger says, and they present “zero diffuse reflection,”—a fancy way of saying “no glare from the armor court’s skylights.”

“We tried them on canvas first,” Gloger says. “But the glare was terrible.”