French Art Museum Learns Most Of Its Collection Is Fake

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

That’s awkward. A museum dedicated to the works of French painter Étienne Terrus has discovered that more than half of its collection is fake.

The Terrus Museum in Elne, the village in southern France where the painter was born, believes that 82 of 140 paintings are counterfeit.

Elne's mayor, Yves Barniol, told local TV France 3 that an investigation into the paintings was launched after art historian Eric Forcada raised his doubts about the authenticity of the museum's art. Forcada was working as a guest curator at the museum, which had recently acquired around 80 paintings. 

Following Forcada's query, Barniol called upon a panel of experts who confirmed the majority of paintings held in the collection were fakes.

And yet, a new collection, which includes both originals and forgeries, was unveiled at the museum's reopening after extensive renovations on Friday.

CNN reports that Forcada first noticed discrepancies in the paintings' style, noting that some of the buildings featured in Terrus' work weren't yet constructed during that time. He also noted inconsistencies in the materials used, adding that the ink signature was easily wiped away with a glove.

Authorities in Elne have launched an investigation, and Forcada says it is a good step in tackling a wider issue.

"Today, we ask ourselves the question: as art historians, how will we determine fakes in the future? This Terrus affair allows us to clean up some of this market," Forcada told TV France 3.

Prior to the scandal, Terrus paintings have been sold for up $23,000, with drawings and watercolors fetching as much as $3,000 according to Forcada.

The Terrus Museum first opened its doors in 1994 to honor the local artist, who was born in 1857 and died in 1922.

Terrus studied at the studio of the academic Parisian painter Alexandre Cabanel and was friends with many famous artists of the time, including Henri Matisse and André Derain.

One thing is for sure. With viral media, the Terrus Museum – a small, regional gallery -- is getting a Louvre-load of publicity. Perhaps it will be able to afford more Terrus originals.

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.




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