Fake Modigliani heads get a Museum of their own – thirty years after the controversial hoax


It was in 1984 that three youthful pranksters from Livorno threw three stone heads that they’d carved with a drill, into a canal.

It was meant as a a joke but the affair polarized the art world and embarrassed several respected experts. Only now the Comune of Livorno (a charming port city on Tuscany’s northwestern coast, which is also famous for it’s Caciucco, or Seafood soup!) decides that the whole affair is not a liability but rather an asset, and so the “Genuine Fake Modigliani” heads will get a permanent display in town according to the city’s Culture Minister, Mario Tredici, “before Spring of next year” (- that is if the conflicts already erupted over how much the installation will cost … and where exactly the heads will be displayed are resolved.)

Legend has it that Modigliani exhibited several sculptures, in the seaside town in 1909, and several artists present supposedly made fun of him suggesting that he throw the works in the nearby Medici canal. On the centenary of Modigliani’s birth, the city was preparing for a retrospective exhibition and the canals in the town center were dragged in the hopes of finding the “lost Modigliani.” And so the three men set out to help “find” something; Pietro Luridiana, Michele Ghelarducci and Pierfrancesco Ferrucci, then in their early twenties decided to sculpt a head in the style of Modigliani, which they then threw into the canal.

Another two heads were sculpted by Angelo Froglia, who was the only artist – and the only one who pursued a career in the arts since. One of Froglia’s heads was put up for sale on Ebay – for $285,000 – by his companion, after his death… we assume that the sale did not go through and that the new museum will display the full body of  … heads.

Many noted art-historians fell head first for the joke – and for a while tensions were high in the Salons of Italy and the world – and Livorno basked in the heady glory of the newly “rediscovered” artworks.

The port-city has finally put its delusion behind it and is planning a permanent display for the works. We’ll keep you posted on any headway made on the eventual location of the museum.

You can rest assured that the exhibition will riff on the perennially pertinent issues surrounding “Fake vs. Real.”

Previously on Art is Life:

“Artful Codgers” the amazing story of an improbable gang of art forgers, the Greenhalghs

“Modigliani” forged …again! Arrested president of the artist’s Archive – artwork worth 6,650,000 euro seized

Pietrasanta’s CAV, the Centro Arti Visive offers a Masters in the Detection of Art Forgery

“How To Get A Head In Sculpture” BBC TV (full movie) 2011

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