March 8, 2021

Étienne Terrus museum in Elne uncovers fake art in collection

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From BBC

A French museum dedicated to painter Étienne Terrus has discovered paintings it thought were by him were fakes.

The Terrus museum in Elne in the south of France discovered 82 works originally attributed to the artist were not painted by him.

More than half the collection is thought to be fake. The paintings cost about €160,000 (£140,000).
Staff at the museum were not aware of the forgeries until a visiting art historian alerted them.
The council in Elne bought the paintings, drawings and watercolours for the museum over a 20-year period.

Eric Forcada, an art historian, contacted the museum in the town near Perpignan several months ago to express his doubts about the authenticity of the paintings.

The museum assembled a committee of experts from the cultural world, who inspected the works and concluded that 82 of them had not been painted by the Elne-born artist.

The news was announced on Friday as the museum opened after a renovation.

In interviews on Friday, the mayor of the Pyrenees town, Yves Barniol, said the situation was “a disaster” and apologised to those who had visited the museum in good faith.

Terrus was born in 1857 and died in 1922 in Elne, although he lived most of his life in Roussillon, also in the Pyrenees. He was a close friend of painter Henri Matisse.

Some of the paintings show buildings that were built after Terrus’ death, France 3 said.

The town hall has filed a complaint against those who ordered, painted, or sold the fake paintings.

Local police are investigating the case, which they say could affect other regional artists too.

Collioure by Etienne TerrusImage copyright MUSÉE TERRUS
Image caption
More than 80 paintings said to be by Étienne Terrus were fake (this one, of Collioure in the Pyrenees, is real and is now on display)
Vue cathédrale by Etienne Terrus Image copyrightMUSÉE TERRUS
Image caption
The authentic Vue Cathédrale remains on display

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  1. The true horror touched upon by this story is that with few notable exceptions, such as the courageous and diligent Eric Forcata, the professional art community seems unconcerned with the vast extent of fakes and frauds on museum walls and in the commercial art market. The result is that trillions (with a “t”) of dollars of art value—on museum walls and in the commercial art market—is based on fake or fraudulent works that scholars have failed to vet. But the bigger cost is artistic and cultural, because even a “good” fake erodes our understanding of the work of an artist and his/her influence. Once the general public finally understands the extent of fakes, those who have been complicit in letting this shame persist should be called to account for their complicity.

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