Row over the authenticity of Malevich paintings escalates with the opening of new Tate Modern exhibition

One art curator has called for a review on how works from the Russian avant garde are authenticated

Arts Correspondent

Kazimir Malevich, whose geometric “suprematist” paintings born of bright and colourful futurism form the basis of Britain’s first retrospective of his work, has been hailed as an artist who “cast a long shadow over the history of modern art”.

But a different kind of shadow is now being cast over his works – or at least a selection of what were commonly thought to be his works – after a row broke out over whether some of the paintings attributed to him on the Russian art market are fakes.

As the Tate Modern’s show opened in London today, bringing together works from Russia, the US and Europe, one prominent curator has called for a review on how works from the Russian avant garde are researched and authenticated, arguing that Malevich could never have painted so many canvases in his lifetime.

Marina Molchanova, the owner of Moscow’s Elysium art gallery, said an international council of experts should bring together art historians and leading museum chiefs to address the issue, The Art Newspaper reported.

 

Her intervention follows a spat over the authenticity of five Malevich works published in a book. James Butterwick, a London-based art dealer who specialises in Russian avant-garde, raised concerns over works in Malevich Paints: the Seeing Eye last year.

“Of the illustrations in Malevich Paints, eight of the oils – there is insufficient detail in some of the works on paper – are probably not by Malevich; two are definitely not,” he stated.

But as his comments re-emerged tpday, the book’s author, Patricia Railing, an art historian and Malevich expert, hit back angrily. “He’s condemning the work on the basis of photographs,” she told The Independent.

“All five works published have been checked scientifically. The instruments used are highly sophisticated. Butterwick doesn’t know about the history of the painting or the analysis. He has no basis [for] this outrageous claim.”

Mr Butterwick did not respond to attempts to contact him today, but the Tate insisted there is no doubt about the authenticity of the works displayed on their walls.

A spokesman for the gallery said: “As with all Tate’s exhibitions, we have undertaken thorough research for our Malevich retrospective. The works we chose have clear provenance and proven track records in their histories of being collected, published and exhibited.”

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