Both Inuit Eskimo art and Native American art have gained international recognition as valuable art forms over the past few decades. However, the rising popularity of both Eskimo art and Native American art has resulted in the increased proliferation of imitations and mass-produced reproductions of original Native arts. Some obvious fakes are made in Asia from molds where the finished pieces are forms of plastic, resin or ceramic.
Other fakes are actually made of cast stone simulating actual Eskimo art carvings and wood for imitation Native American carvings. These fakes, which are harder to distinguish from authentic artwork, are often hand carved reproductions of an original piece of artwork. Workshops have illegally reproduced hundreds of copies without the artisan’s permission. The counterfeiting companies would then attach some type of tag that claims the fake pieces were influenced by aboriginal artisans and even background information on the Native designs used in the artwork. Some even go as far as adding in Inuit syllabics on the bottom of the fake Inuit Eskimo art carvings.
These are very deceptive tactics on their part since they give the consumers the impression that the imitations are authentic and income producing for the aboriginal communities. Fakes and imitations have lowered the image of authentic Eskimo art and Native American art. Sales of genuine aboriginal artwork have declined which in turn have deprived aboriginal artisans of income. The argument against these claims is that not every consumer can afford to buy authentic Eskimo art or Native American art so the souvenir level reproductions legitimately meet this part of the market.
The imitations, which are usually low priced, enable students visiting Canada for example, to bring home a Canadian souvenir without breaking their travel budget. This claim would have more support from Native communities if aboriginal artisans were paid a fair royalty as income for each imitation and reproduction piece sold. However, this is seldom the case since most of the time, no royalties are paid at all.
The obvious fakes can be spotted quite easily. An example is the trio of owls shown below. It is an imitation of an Eskimo art carving. It is not made of stone as it is not cold to the touch. It is very light in weight unlike a stone which has some mass to it (see Materials Used in Inuit Eskimo Art Sculpture). The detail and the bottom of the piece have the molded look to it. There is even a sticker on the bottom with the company name Wolf Originals. Side by side comparisons of similar pieces in the souvenir store where this piece was bought revealed that they were all identical in every detail, which is impossible for original artwork.
The two Native American art totem poles below are also fakes. The black totem pole has a very flat uniform back and bottom again giving away the fact that it came from a mold. The colored totem pole is wood or mixed wood with a claim that it was hand painted but it was among many similar pieces in the store. All of these examples were each priced less than $20 Canadian which was another indicator that they were not original artwork.
-----Fake Eskimo -------------------------- Fake Native American Art
----------Art Carving ------------------------------------Totem Poles -------------
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