Artworks attributed to Kazimir Malevich, Liubov Popova, and Olga Rozonova on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium.

Ghent Museum Removes Artworks after Experts Question their Authenticity

The Museum of Fine Arts Ghent in Belgium pulled works from an exhibition featuring paintings, sculptures, and other objects attributed to members of the Russian avant-garde, after a group of curators, historians, and dealers raised suspicions about their authenticity. On January 15, ten arts professionals penned an open letter in which they called twenty-four works on loan from the Dieleghem Foundation “highly questionable.” The pieces were displayed as part of the exhibition “From Bosch to Tuymans: A Vital Story,” a presentation of works from the museum’s permanent collection, which opened in October.

The signatories of the letter began to doubt the authorship of the works when the museum did not publish a catalogue and did not make their provenance information available. The museum first defended the pieces in the show, which are owned by Igor and Olga Toporovski, founders of the foundation, arguing that it followed “the usual procedures for incoming loans.” In a statement, the institution claimed that it had carried out “a thorough art historical and comparative study of the works” and consulted with art history experts. Since the pieces are only loans, a technical analysis of the material was not deemed necessary. The institution also said that it had “extensive dialogue” with the foundation and was provided with information relating to the origins of the works. However, when reporters from the Daily Telegraph asked the foundation to reveal the experts who authenticated the works, Igor Toporovski said that this information was confined to “confidential documents.”

After the open letter was widely circulated in the media and provided to Flemish Culture Minister Sven Gatz, the museum and the city of Ghent decided to set up an expert committee to examine the works. “It is not up to the government to determine which works should be exhibited in a museum,” Gatz said. “But since the discussion about the authenticity of Toporovsky’s collection takes on great proportions, it seems advisable to quickly provide clarity. The expert committee will submit a number of Toporovski’s works of art to technical material research. I will provide the necessary means for this.” The works were taken down on January 29, shortly after the institution made the announcement regarding the committee, which will be assembled this week.