French museum learns half its collection is counterfeit

A French art museum displaying a town’s local artist discovered that nearly half of its collection are fakes.

Explore>> Read more trending news

An art historian raised questions about the authenticity of paintings attributed to Etienne Terrus after noticing that buildings featured in some of the work were constructed after the artists' death in 1922, according to France 3.

"It's a catastrophe," Yves Barniol, mayor of Elne, told France Blue. "I put myself in the place of all the people who came to visit the museum, who saw fake works of art, who paid an entrance fee. It's intolerable and I hope we find those responsible."

Experts said 82 of the 140 works displayed were fakes. The state-owned museum had spent more than $190,000 in the past few decades to add to its collection.

The discovery was announced Friday as the museum was rededicating the facility.

The city filed a complaint for forgery, use of forgery, fakes and fraud, according to France Blue. Police have the fraudulent art and are working to trace the forgers and dealers who sold it. Investigators believe art by other regional artists could be counterfeit as well.

Terrus lived in Elne, a city in southern France, along the border of Spain. He was friends with Henri Matisse and Aristide Maillol and studied in Paris before returning to Elne, where he produced the majority of his work, according to France 3. The Terrus Museum was inaugurated in 1994.

About the Author