Tue, May 01, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Town’s museum told that half of its collection are fakes

AFP, ELNA, France

An art museum in the south of France has discovered that more than half of its collection consists of fakes, in what the local mayor on Sunday described as a “catastrophe” for the region.

The tiny 8,000-strong community of Elne just outside Perpignan reopened its Etienne Terrus museum, dedicated to the works of the local artist who was born in 1857 and died in 1922, on Friday after extensive renovation work.

However, an art historian brought in to reorganize the museum following the recent acquisition of about 80 paintings, found that nearly 60 percent of the entire collection was fake.

“Etienne Terrus was Elne’s great painter. He was part of the community, he was our painter,” Mayor Yves Barniol said on Friday.

“Knowing that people have visited the museum and seen a collection most of which is fake, that’s bad. It’s a catastrophe for the municipality,” he said.

Eric Forcada, the art historian who uncovered the counterfeits, said that he had seen straight away that most of the works were fake.

“On one painting, the ink signature was wiped away when I passed my white glove over it,” he said.

He alerted the region’s cultural attache and requested a meeting of a panel of experts to confirm his findings.

“At a stylistic level, it’s crude. The cotton supports do not match the canvas used by Terrus and there are some anachronisms,” Forcada said.

In all, out of the 140 works that make up the collection, 82 were fake.

Barniol said that the investigation would be continue until the culprits had been found.

“We’re not giving up,” he said.

Forcada said that prior to the scandal, paintings by Terrus could fetch up to 15,000 euros (US$18,200) and drawings and watercolors would sell for up to 2,000 euros.

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