Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce

Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce at Red Stream Cottage with the possible Ben Nicholson wall painting. Image: BBC Studios Productions.

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Art dealer Philip Mould and presenter Fiona Bruce return to investigate whether artworks submitted by members of the public are actually genuine and important discoveries.

Mould said: “When I first developed the idea of this series 12 years ago in conjunction with Simon Shaw (then producer of the Antiques Road Show) the title was Sleuth after my most recent book. At the last moment the BBC changed it to Fake or Fortune? and it took a lot of getting used to.

"Fiona and I were worried it sounded like a gameshow. We had no idea at the time it would lead to such a success both nationally and globally.

“Apart from the pleasure of making these programmes, one thing I had always hoped for is that they would bring about greater accountability amongst the acknowledged experts on whose judgments the art world utterly relies. We now derive some satisfaction from the observation that this is definitely happening more.”

The show has run for 38 episodes in total, once this current series of four episodes airs, and is due to be broadcast on August 23.

Ben Nicholson discovery?

In the first episode of the new series the team analyse a mural in a Surrey cottage purporting to be by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982). 

The artwork was found in the Guildford home of couple Ian and Julie when they moved in nearly 20 years ago. They didn’t want to keep the curious painting on a bedroom wall but just before Ian was about to put emulsion over it, an elderly neighbour mentioned that the work was by the well-known abstract artist.

Over the years the couple have sought advice but there is still doubt about who the artist could be. 

Ian, a builder, is now midway through constructing an extension and is concerned the building work might put the artwork at risk. They could enlist specialist conservators to remove the work – but this is an expensive process which would involve removing a large section of the wall and they want to know if the artwork could be valuable before deciding how to proceed.

In the show Mould and Bruce investigate whether it could be by Nicholson and look into the previous owners of the cottage. They discover a man named Fred Murray and his wife Madge lived at the cottage and had connections to Nicholson.

Nicholson, who was married three times to artist Winifred Nicholson, sculptor Barbara Hepworth and photographer Felicitas Vogler, extensively travelled and moved many times, spending time in Paris, Hampstead and Norfolk.


The Fake or Fortune? team prove a connection between Nicholson and Murray but they need to place Nicholson in Guildford and ascertain the artwork wasn’t by Murray himself who they discover was an amateur artist. 

The team enlist the help of Prof Aviva Burnstock, head of conservation at the Courtauld Institute, to undertake technical analysis to try to find out how the wall painting was constructed and what it is made of. 

If it does turn out to be authentic, can it be safely removed from the cottage? Tune in to BBC One on August 23 to find out what the team discovered.