“Questions over the authenticity of Russian avant-garde art have plagued the market for decades. Now, a groundbreaking new exhibition at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne has begun to provide answers.
The proliferation of fakes has affected the field “like no other”, says Rita Kersting, the museum’s deputy director and a co-curator of the show Russian Avant-Garde at the Museum Ludwig: Original and Fake. Questions, Research, Explanations, which opened last week. Soviet censorship of avant-garde art meant that many works disappeared and could resurface decades later on the burgeoning Western market with incomplete provenance—a gap exploited by forgers.
“If you stick an authentic Gonchorova beside a dubious one, it doesn’t take a particularly well-trained eye to work out the difference between the two,” the art dealer James Butterwick tells The Art Newspaper. Butterwick, who has called attention to the issue of Russian avant-garde fakes, describes the Museum Ludwig’s exhibition as a “very important reference point” exposing “the massive problems connected with the Russian avant-garde”.
The exhibition, which runs until 3 January 2021, delves into the process of authenticating 49 paintings in the museum’s collection, amassed by its founders Peter and Irene Ludwig. Home to more than 600 pieces ostensibly produced by members of the Russian avant-garde, including several attributed to El Lissitzky, Natalia Goncharova and Liubov Popova, among others, the Museum Ludwig is scrutinising just a fraction of its holdings in the exhibition”.