Sunday 2 February 2014

Can the French really burn fake Chagalls -- or anyone else's work?

Looking miserable: not surprising,
since she's about to be burned
"Fake £100,000 Marc Chagall painting 'to be burned'" is the title of this BBC post on the sad fate of a not unattractive work that had the misfortune not to be authenticated as a work of the colourful Russian. According to the BBC
"A businessman has been told a painting he paid £100,000 for will be burned after it was ruled a fake. Martin Lang bought what he thought was an original work by Russian-born artist Marc Chagall in 1992. His son called in experts from BBC One's Fake Or Fortune? to examine it, and the painting underwent tests to determine whether it was genuine. It was sent to the Chagall Committee in Paris, who said it was fake and would be burned under French law. ...

The Chagall Committee is run by the artist's grandchildren to protect his reputation in the art world.

Mr Lang, 63, a property developer from Leeds, has asked the committee to mark the watercolour - a nude said to date from 1909-10 - as a forgery and then return it or give him a guarantee he will be reimbursed if it is later ruled as genuine.

He is still waiting for a reply".
Can any readers tell us if there really is an entitlement under French law to burn a painting that is sent for authentication?  This seems quite remarkable, especially if one considers the position of a painter whose work, sold to a buyer, is then purchased by a third party who believes it to be the work of a modern French master and sends it for authentication without the real artist even knowing.


Dot said...

This seems shocking, to the point of unbelievable, not least in France - the homeland of moral rights.

Apparently fakes are common in the Russian avant-garde, and various official societies/foundation/committees denounce many paintings as forgeries.

The Chagall Committee previously denounced Girl with Goat, for example, shown at the Ca’Foscari University of Venice in 2010, as an “obvious fake” - and demanded it be removed from show and all reproductions of it be recalled.

Other works have been seized by the Office Central de lutte contre le trafic des Biens Culturels — the Central Office for Combating Traffic in Cultural Goods — but there is no indication that they have/use a power to burn/order the burning of works..?

kuarti said...

As to the final question you posed, it has aroused interest and warrants a response. I'll be doing some research on the matter and a recent article in the NYT re: Modigliani fakes. Look out for an article in the coming week at
-Hanoch Sheps, J.D.