Belgian police carry out raids amid Russian art forgery allegations

Belgian police carry out raids amid Russian art forgery allegations
Image: Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Ghent

21 March 2018

Belgium police have raided several homes following allegations that fake Russian artwork was put on display in one of the country’s leading museums..

A collection of 26 avant-garde artworks, including pieces purportedly by pioneers such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Lyubov Popova, went on show as part of the Russian Modernism exhibition at the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (MSK) in Ghent in October.

But art world experts criticised the display, claiming in an open letter that many of the pieces were “highly questionable” and did not have the valid auction histories or providence. Others went further, alleging that some of the works were counterfeits.

The paintings were removed in January amid a growing backlash, while the museum’s director Catherine de Zegher was suspended last week by the board of directors. She stressed that they followed standard procedures when choosing the paintings, which were leant to the institution by the Dieleghem Foundation, a charity owned by the Brussels-based Russian couple Igor and Olga Toporovski.

The Ghent prosecutor’s office confirmed that the raids took place following a number of civil complaints from art dealers based in London and New York, as well as a complaint from one of the artists’ family members. De Zegher was interviewed by police and a number of computers were seized, according to Belgian newspaper De Standaard.