Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Art gallery discovers more than half of its paintings are fake

Museum dedicated to French painter Étienne Terrus loses an estimated £140,000

Peter Stubley
Saturday 28 April 2018 21:00 BST
Visitors look at paintings by Etienne Terrus at the reopening of the Terrus Museum in Elne
Visitors look at paintings by Etienne Terrus at the reopening of the Terrus Museum in Elne (RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images)

An art gallery in the south of France has discovered that more than half of its collection of paintings are forgeries.

The state-owned museum dedicated to the Catalan artist Étienne Terrus in Elne spent an estimated 160,000 euros (£140,000) on the fakes over 20 years.

Doubts about the collection of paintings, drawings and watercolours were first raised by art historian Eric Forcada several months ago.

He noticed that some of them depicted buildings that were only constructed after Terrus' death in 1922.

A committee of experts have now confirmed that 82 of the 140 works were not painted by the artist, who was a close friend of Henri Matisse.

"It is a catastrophe," said Yves Barniol, the Mayor of Elne.

"I put myself in the place of all the people who came to visit the museum, who saw fake works, who took a ticket of entry, whatever the price.

"It is unacceptable and I hope we find those responsible."

The municipal council has recently invested 300,000 euros on renovating the Terrus Museum.

Police are now investigating allegations of forgery and fraud and suspect the counterfeiting may extend to other regional artists and museums.

It has been estimated that at least 20 per cent of the paintings held by major galleries are fake.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in