Back in the early 1930s, a wealthy New York businessman gave the Brooklyn museum what appeared to be a valuable gift: a cache of Renaissance paintings, works by Dutch masters and artifacts from China and elsewhere. And in the decades since, the bequest by Col Michael Friedsam must have been many a curator’s dream – until it became a nightmare.
According to recent reports, as art authentication techniques have improved, around a quarter of the works have been revealed to be fakes.
This has saddled the museum with a second, related headache: what to do with the giant canvases and pieces of furniture. Clauses in Friedsam’s will block the straightforward sale or giving away of the works. Instead, the museum must seek permission from the executors of Friedsam’s estate, the last of whom died in the 1960s.
A court petition seeking clearance to get rid of the fake works hasn’t yet been approved. Meanwhile, the museum is facing a hefty bill to store them correctly, in line with its membership of the Association of American Museums. Holding on to the suspect works could mean kitting out a warehouse at a cost of over $400,000 (£264,000), and spending more than $250,000 a year to maintain the space.