Experts accuse museum of misleading visitors over ‘highly questionable’ avant-garde art

Experts accuse museum of misleading visitors over 'highly questionable' avant-garde art
A genuine avant-garde masterpiece by Lyubov Popova

16 January 2018

A leading group of art experts has slammed a new Belgian exhibition on Russian avant-garde art, claiming that the exhibit’s questionable origins could be misleading visitors.

The Russian Modernism exhibition at the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (MSK) in Ghent purported to display 26 previously unseen works by art world icons such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko and Lyubov Popova.

In an open letter published by the Art Newspaper however, 11 experts labelled the works as “highly questionable”.

“[They] have no exhibition history, have never before been reproduced in serious scholarly publications, and have no traceable sales records,” the letter said. “The exhibited paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and Alexei von Jawlenski are not included in the catalogues raisonnés — internationally recognised as definitive sources for authentication of works of these artists.

“Objects such as a box and distaff allegedly decorated by Malevich have no known analogues and there are no historical records that even mention that Malevich ever was involved in the decoration of such objects,” it continued. “Practically every other work exhibited provokes similar questions.

All of the works have been loaned to the museum from the Dieleghem Foundation, a charity owned by Russian businessman Igor Toporovski.

In a statement to artnet News, a museum spokesperson said that staff had followed standard procedures to check the paintings’ authenticity, including a review of materials provided by Toporovski’s organisation.

Toporovski also told artnet News by e-mail that each artwork had a file of documents confirming its provenance, but said the details “could not be discussed by mail”.

Details on the exhibition have since been removed from the MSK website.