Marc Chagall fake 'to be destroyed'
In 1992, a businessman purchased a work of art by the Russian-born twentieth century artist Marc Chagall for £100,000. Martin Lang considered it a shrewd move, assuming that it would be a lucrative asset. Indeed, only recently, a painting of his went under the hammer for $10 million (approximately £6.1 million).
Things haven’t turned out as Mr Lang had anticipated. Over 20 years later, the painting is now at risk of being destroyed, after having been declared by experts as a fake.
The businessman had submitted his investment to the BBC’s Fake or Fortune? TV series, who sent it on to the Chagall Committee in Paris for further verification. Naturally, Mr Lang was keen to find out how much value they would ascribe to the work. He didn’t expect for his painting to be declared a phony piece of art.
Detailed analysis established, for example, that some of the blue and green pigments used were far too modern to have existed at the time of its execution, a telltale sign that it was clearly the outcome of some con artist.
Now, while Mr Lang, a successful property developer, was shocked and disappointed about this revelation, he asked for the work to be declared as a forgery and returned to him.
However, for now, it has been seized by the French authorities, and risks being burnt in front of a magistrate, which an ancient piece of legislation still allows. Philip Mould, one of the art experts used by the BBC series to validate the work’s authenticity, described this proposal to be a “barbaric” act.
“A decision like this forces the owner of any painting to play a kind of Russian roulette with their precious artwork,” commented Fiona Bruce, a newsreader for the BBC and one of the hosts of Fake or Fortune?
“The only way for Martin to authenticate his painting was with the Chagall Committee, he had no other choice. But it was never made clear to him that if they didn’t like the look of his painting that they would burn it. How can anyone ever approach this committee with a painting again if this is how they react?”
One of the challenges facing Mr Lang is that he did in fact sign a contract that stated in clear terms that the heirs to Chagall could ask for the painting to be seized if it was determined to be a fake and further, could also demand “any other measures stipulated by law”.
At the time of writing, a decision has yet to be made regarding the future of the painting. While it may well be a forgery, there is value in studying fakes, helping experts better understand the various techniques used by those trying to deceive art lovers, collectors and investors.
Cadogan Tate can deliver international storage solutions for your works of art.