The “Malevich” of the Düsseldorf museum was a fake

“Red square, black square” (Detail) . The work given to the Museum of Dusseldorf supposed to have been painted in 1915 was valued. Verdict of the carbon 14 : it dates back to the 50s or 70s, well after the artist’s death.


Some gifts can be poison… The museum Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westphalia, located in Düsseldorf and was thought to have hit the jackpot by getting in 2015 to the Dr. Harald Hack Foundation, a canvas by the Russian painter Kasimir Malevich. Two years later, its leaders come to realize that they had inherited a… fake.

This table of the creator of the ” suprématisme “, a current that leads to a form of absolute abstraction, had been recently evaluated for a price between 50 and 80 million euros. Entitled Black Square and Red Square, it had been exposed from 1979 in the galleries of the Wilhelm Hack Museum in Ludwigshafen. This institution bears the name of a former business man from Cologne who has used his wealth to amass an impressive collection of contemporary art, over 10,000 works, including pieces by Piet Mondrian, Robert Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky, Andy Warhol and Kasimir Malevich.

A ” creating non-objective “, which facilitates the work of forgers

The web the most well-known of this painter and sculptor of Russian, born in Kiev in 1878 before he died in Leningrad at the age of 57 years old, is a black Square on a white background , which was exhibited for the first time in 1915. The author believed that this table, he described as “creating non-objective” was representative of the ” new realism in painting “.

“Black square on white background” (1915). “A creative non-objective” according to Malevich…

Las ! The forms are very simple, as selected by the artist, the basic colors used and the lack of catalog specific of his works have also enabled counterfeiters to give heart to joy. Rumors even say that the KGB would have encouraged the marketing of false to retrieve foreign currency.

The museum of Düsseldorf considered that the canvas given by the foundation Harald Hack suspect. It has financed expertise. An analysis of the carbon-14 has quickly confirmed their fears revealing that the table had been painted after 1950 and probably between 1972 and 1975. The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is not the first museum to be fooled that way.

Copies for the good cause

In 1896, the Louvre had bought 200 000 gold francs and the turban of Saïtapharnès, a scythian king, who had in reality been chiselled by a goldsmith of Odessa a few years earlier. Wolfgang Beltracchi has elapsed during four decades by collectors and museums around the world dozens of fake paintings by Derain, Braque, Léger or Campendonk that he had painted for him. A Max Ernst exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of New had even been praised by the director of the museum and the widow of the artist… The American Mark Landis has duped dozens of experts with its copies of the paintings of Watteau, Daumier, Marie Laurencin and… Walt Disney.

But some counterfeiters may even have good intentions… Hans Van Meegeren has sold to the nazis many copies of Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals or Pieter de Hooch that he had painted in his shop in order to save the art Dutch national. Hermann Göring did not hesitate to exchange one of his fake Vermeer from 200 paintings seized in the netherlands.

The story does not say who was holding the brush when the Black Square and Red Square of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen has been painted, but the investigation is not yet complete…

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