LONDON, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Masterpieces worth millions of U.S. dollars by leading British artists have been replaced by lookalike fakes at six of the country's top art galleries, it was revealed Thursday.
But this isn't a case of the galleries being duped by master forgers. The replica copies have been deliberately put on show to discover Britain's most successful fake-busters.
Galleries in British cities, including London, Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh, have played along with the deliberate switch as part of a documentary program to be aired on television early next year.
The fake-busting challenge continues throughout July and August at the six galleries, but on Thursday, at the halfway stage, the program makers decided to reveal the country's most successful art detectives.
It was eagle-eyed visitors to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool who so far have proved to be the best fake-busters.
Seventy percent of fake busters at the internationally famous Walker Art Gallery detected which masterpiece had been switched, the highest level in the country, while the detection rate at the nearby Lady Lever Art Gallery was 59 percent, the second-highest tally. Both are part of the National Museums Liverpool
The experiment started overnight on July 1, when millions of pounds worth of priceless masterpieces were switched.
The stunt is part of "Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge," a forthcoming series for Sky Arts television channel.
Throughout this month, members of the public are being invited to use their detective skills to spot the seven copies hiding in plain sight on the walls of the galleries.
Besides the Walker and Lady Lever, the fakes are also displayed at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, the Manchester Art Gallery and the National Museum Cardiff.
"The findings support what we've known for many years -- here in Liverpool we have an incredibly engaged audience who know and love our collections," said Charlotte Keenan, curator of British art at National Museums Liverpool.
"People are really getting up close to these wonderful paintings and having fun discovering the joys of British artists," said Sky Arts Director Phil Edgar-Jones.
The fakes include both portraits and landscapes, with portraits proving the easiest to detect. The least successful fake-busters were in Manchester, where just 9 percent spotted a fake urban landscape amongst the Lowry and Valette collection.
Early next year, Sky Arts will mark out the seven "fakes" as well as the artists who commissioned to copy them. The seven originals will be returned to the galleries once the competition ends in August.