LONDON - A British collector may see an expensive painting burned because a French committee has determined it is not an authentic work by Marc Chagall.
Art lover Martin Lang said Monday he was frustrated with the decision but he still hopes the painting will be returned to him.
The businessman bought the watercolor of a reclining nude woman for 100,000 pounds in 1992, believing it to be an authentic Chagall dating from around 1909 to 1910. Lang’s son recently called in experts from a BBC show about forgeries to determine if it was real.
When it was sent to the Chagall Committee in Paris for a final ruling, the committee - run by the Russian-born artist’s grandchildren to protect his legacy - said it was a fake and would be destroyed under French law.
”They’re holding on to it. It is bizarre, it doesn’t make a lot of sense - it’s almost vindictive,” Lang told the BBC. “It’s basically my property. I just couldn’t understand why the committee would be so draconian.”
He added that art owners like him should not be punished for forgeries.
”It seems to be dissuading honest people from coming forward to have their art verified. It seems to be the wrong way of doing it,” said Lang, 63, a property developer from the northern city of Leeds.
The Chagall Committee declined to discuss the case Monday.
Fiona Bruce, the BBC presenter who hosted the “Fake or Fortune” show, said it was never made clear to Lang that the committee could burn his painting if they decided it was a fake.
Pierre Valentin, a lawyer specializing in advising art collectors, said most committees judging artworks for authenticity ask the owner to sign a contract saying their possessions could be destroyed if declared a forgery.
”Some contracts are more explicit. I haven’t seen this contract, but the paragraph was read to me and it’s not at all explicit,” said Valentin, a London-based lawyer at the firm Constantine Cannon. “That’s really naughty. It should be absolutely clear.”
Similar cases in the past suggest that Lang stands a slim chance of getting his painting back.
Two owners of artwork thought to be by Joan Miro who submitted them to the Miro Committee in Paris sued when their artwork was destroyed but both lost their cases, Valentin said.
Chagall, who died in 1985, was one of the most influential modernist painters and his work often sells for millions of dollars.