It's every art gallery owner's worst nightmare, perhaps aside from a giant paint bomb exploding inside the gallery. A state-owned art gallery in Elne, which is located in the South of France, is horrified after discovering that more than half of the paintings in its extensive collection are complete fakes.
MSN says that suspicion was first aroused by art historian Eric Forcada many months back when he had serious questions about certain watercolors, drawing and paintings. Specifically, he noticed that some works that were supposed to have been created by Catalan artist Étienne Terrus depicted buildings which had only been built after 1922 which is the year that Terrus passed away.
The museum is actually dedicated to Terrus who was a good friend of famed artist Henri Matisse.
Following up on Forcada's doubts, a committee of experts set to the task of confirming the works and have sadly produced the results that 82 of the 140 pieces of art in the gallery were not painted by Terrus.
This story may sound like the plot of a cozy mystery book or even a TV show but sadly for the art museum in Elne, it is all too real.
The mayor of Elne, Yves Barniol, called the situation a "catastrophe".
"I put myself in the place of all the people who came to visit the museum, who saw fake works, who took a ticket of entry, whatever the price," said Barniol. "It is unacceptable and I hope we find those responsible".
Currently, the gallery is undergoing plans for renovation. The municipal council in Elne has invested 300,000 euros in reorganizing the gallery to properly honor Terrus' true art pieces. The museum is important to the community who previously enjoyed taking pride in the "jewel" of their town which held what they believed to be true works of art and this revelation has caused a wave of distress and sadness through the community.
Police and authorities in Elne have opened an ongoing case to discover the responsible parties for supplying the forgeries. Worse yet, it is heavily speculated that the fake paintings and works or art extend to other galleries and museums near Elne in the South of France as well. An estimated 20 percent of paintings owned by major galleries and museums are forgeries.
The case to track down the suspects, or anyone who has knowledge of how the forgeries were supplied to the galleries in the first place, is ongoing.
We wish them the best of luck!