Art gallery discovers 'more than half' its paintings are fakes
Police are now investigating allegations of forgery and fraud
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 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 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 20pc of the paintings held by major galleries are fake.
Independent News Service