The director of the National Museum of Slovenia, Pavel Car, has been forced to resign because he is under investigation for having organized an exhibition of works that critics say have been falsified.
Some of the loaned works are believed to have been acquired from the late Josip Boljkovaca, who served as Croatia’s first minister of internal affairs from 1990 to 1991.
The Boljkovac family, which did not respond to a request for comment, lent the museum 160 works believed to have been by Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Joan Mir, Joseph William Turner, Edvard Munch, Kazimir Malevich, Marc Chagall and others.
If genuine, experts estimate the collection would be worth over $1 billion.
“These are obvious forgeries…you don’t have to be an expert in art history to notice that,” art historian Brane Kovič told reporters. website N1 last week.
Car was forced to resign just hours before the show opened due to accusations that he took the loan without doing his due diligence. It has come under increasing criticism from Slovenian art experts.
Slovenian Culture Minister Asta Vrečko said the response came after the ministry received several letters of concern last week and a heated public debate over the planned exhibition took place. The ministry convened a special meeting ahead of its opening, with relevant experts reviewing documentation associated with the loan, the minister said.
The Guardian reported on Friday that the Slovenian police opened an investigation into the scandal.
Car reportedly said at the ministry meeting that he had seen the paintings’ certificates of authenticity, but admitted that more could have been done to review each artist’s catalog raisonné, which is considered standard due diligence.
“Nothing is as sad as an empty museum,” he told Media 24 shortly after the scandal broke.
The National Museum of Slovenia and Pavel Car did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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