Although not as severe of a museum controversy, there is the controversy of museums not validating the authenticity of acquired collections. In this article by The New York Times, a French museum (i.e., the Terrus Museum) discovered that more than half of its collections of paintings were counterfeits. Before continuing the conversation about the controversy of acquired fake paintings, it is important to understand the mission of the Terrus Museum and its reason for purchasing fake paintings.

The Terrus Museum is located and managed by the people of the small town of Elne, France. It is a museum dedicated to highlighting Étienne Terrus (1857-1922), a local French painter famous for his landscape paintings. The museum also lacked (or more so had none) a museum team and curators experienced in acquiring collections. This museum made such huge purchases for these counterfeits as an effort to expand their town’s cultural heritage and attract tourists.

The counterfeit paintings were acquired after 2013 and were not exhibited as the town waited for the museum’s second floor to finish being constructed. Funds utilized to acquire the counterfeits were sourced from the town’s people, through fund-raising campaigns or bequeathed funding from collectors. When a local art historian, Eric Forcada, accidentally uncovered the counterfeits, this resulted in the long-term effect of community trust in the museum was broken, and the town’s reputation also took a turn for the worse.

Notably, this incident of small-town museums unknowingly acquiring counterfeits is one of many common incidences noticed throughout France. Such incidents led the French cultural ministry to reform acquisition processes for acquiring collections.

2 Thoughts to “Museum Controversies”

  1. Hannah Terwilliger

    Interesting post! Counterfeits is a big issue I believe, especially in the art world. I watched a lot of videos related to this subject and it’s very interesting and shocking. Loved reading you post!

  2. Amy Gauger

    Oh no! Although I have to say, they must have been excellent counterfeits to have passed inspection at all. What a great post, thank you!

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