• gerard van weyenbergh

Fake Gauguin bought by Getty + video of Gauguin's art

Purchased in 2002 from the Wildenstein Gallery by the Getty Museum for between $ 3 and $ 5 million, a wooden sculpture donated to be by Paul Gauguin representing a sort of devil with horns turned out to be fake.

In December 2019, researchers determined they were dealing with plagiarism when curators at the Getty believed it was a rare symbolic self-portrait of the artist set to become a centerpiece of the collection.

Following the purchase, this sculpture had been exhibited in Washington, London, New York, and Milan, although it is not signed and the pedestal does not correspond to those ordinarily carved between 1895 and 1897 when Gauguin was living in Tahiti. It would rather date from the beginning of the 1890s when the artist was still in Paris.

The work was quickly intrigued some experts, including Fabrice Fourmanoir, a Tahitian collector of photographs from the 19th century. He found a picture of the sculpture in the Jules Agostini catalog with the mention "Idol Marquesas," suggesting that the photographer had thought an artist native to the Marquesas Islands carved it.

In Agostini's album, the sculpture is shown alongside George Lagarde's portrait, an ethnographic art collector who may have owned it.

The provenance of this work is also doubtful. After being exhibited at the Fondation Maeght in 1997 following its purchase by the Wildenstein gallery from a Swiss collector four years earlier, Daniel Wildenstein attributed it to Gauguin in the catalog raisonné on the artist running between the years 1873 and 1888.

Anyway, Daniel Wildenstein's opinion was enough to boost the value of the work to sell it to the Getty before dying in 2001. Daniel Wildenstein left behind him a huge scandal over his estate, given to be in deficit, while 'he had placed his assets estimated at $ 6 billion in the shelter of trusts established in tax havens.

Now the Getty is trying to determine the origin of Gauguin's fake sculpture, which, with its devil horns, would in fact, have no relation to Polynesian culture, which could suggest that a European traveler carved it. © Adrian Darmon Gauguin's Symbolism , 1 1/2 hour video