Museum Marketing: Welcome to America’s No. 1 Art Forger Website!

How to Reel in Crowds?

Show Them a Fake Painting!

The 19th-century artist James E. Buttersworth, although a titan in the field of marine art, cannot be described as famous. 

Prized for his exquisitely detailed portraits of racing yachts and clipper ships, he remains unknown to the general public and therefore has limited drawing power.

To overcome this obstacle, the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va., hit on a novel solution for its new exhibition of his work: 

[continued below Sponsor Advertisement...]


Toss in a forgery and challenge museum visitors to sniff it out from among the 34 genuine Buttersworth works.

About that ringer: 

Museums and forgeries are natural enemies, and officials at the Mariners’ Museum tiptoed warily around their idea for quite some time before committing to it.

“The museum couldn’t be seen spending money on this and putting it in the collection,” said Lyles Forbes, the museum’s chief curator and the organizer of “B Is for Buttersworth, F Is for Forgery: Solve a Maritime Mystery,” which opened on Saturday.

When it came down to it, he added, he was not even sure how to acquire a forgery.

At this point, help arrived from a man who has agreed to identify himself only as “a friend of the museum.” (Because his name appears as a lender on the wall text of the forged painting, providing it here might give away the secret to visitors).

The friend took on the assignment of securing a forged Buttersworth, which proved to be relatively easy, since, when it comes to bogus Buttersworths, nearly all roads lead to one man: Ken Perenyi.

For years, Mr. Perenyi studied and imitated the work of Buttersworth, turning a tidy profit by selling his paintings to unsuspecting dealers and collectors. He is not shy about this. 

Visitors who click on his website are greeted with the words:

“Welcome to America’s No. 1 Art Forger Website.”