An art museum in the south of France has discovered that more than half of its collection consists of fakes, in what the local mayor on Sunday described as a “catastrophe” for the region.
The tiny 8,000-strong community of Elne just outside Perpignan re-opened its Etienne Terrus Museum, dedicated to the works of the local artist who was born in 1857 and died in 1922, on Friday after extensive renovation work.
But an art historian brought in to reorganise the museum following the recent acquisition of around 80 paintings, found that nearly 60% of the entire collection was fake.
“Etienne Terrus was Elne’s great painter. He was part of the community, he was our painter,” said mayor Yves Barniol.
“Knowing that people have visited the museum and seen a collection, most of which is fake, that’s bad. It’s a catastrophe for the municipality.”