Some twenty works by Russian avant-garde artists at the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) in Ghent have caused quite a stir over the last few days. The authenticity of the collection owned by Igor and Olga Toporovski has been called into question. Seeking clarity, the Minister of Culture, the city of Ghent, and the MSK will appoint a committe of experts to determine the authenticity of a number of works.
An open letter, signed by 10 art dealers, was sent to the media on 15 January. The letter calls into question the authenticity of the Russian artworks from the Dieleghem Foundation which are being shown at the MSK.
The MSK Ghent has followed the usual procedures for incoming loans and carried out a thorough art historical and comparative investigation into the works. The advice of several international art history experts was also sought. Given that the works are on loan, no material technical research has been undertaken. The museum assesses loans on the basis of confidential information from the lender regarding authenticity and provenance.
The MSK had in-depth conversations with the Dieleghem Foundation and received information regarding the provenance of the works. The Foundation’s documentation files provide information on the history and authenticity of each of the works. The files are carefully preserved and made available to external experts within the context of scientific projects. The Dieleghem Foundation also presented the museum with two certificates of material analysis done in France, which confirm the authenticity of the artworks by Kandinsky and Exter.
In museums, it is standard practice to conduct laboratory analysis only in the case of acquisitions of very high value and with the consent of the owner. In this case, out of great respect for the three parties involved, Mr. Toporovski of the Dieleghem Foundation has agreed to further investigation into the works.
For the sake of clarity, Sven Gatz, Annelies Storms, and Catherine de Zegher have decided to establish a committee of experts.
Sven Gatz: “It is not up to the government to determine which works should be exhibited in a museum. In view of the discussion surrounding the authenticity of the Toporovsky collection, it is advisable to provide clarity as quickly as possible. The committee of experts will undertake material research on a number of works from the Toporovski collection. I will provide the necessary means for this.”
Annelies Storms: “The MSK has unintentionally ended up in the eye of a storm. By appointing this committee of experts, we aim to restore peace in order for the museum to concentrate on its main duties.”