To many historians of art the name Mykola Hlushchenko is unfamiliar, but within the Ukraine, this post-impressionist landscape painter is widely recognized for his political and artistic activities. And now his work has become the centre of controversy with allegations that a number of his paintings have been swapped with forgeries while on loan.
The National Art Museum leant two paintings to the Ukrainian government in 2001 for display in government buildings, the value of which is estimated to be almost £90,000. But, while on display in their new government home, experts acted as the whistle blowers to fraud, using chemical testing to determine that the works were created in the 21st century, not the 20th.
But the National Art Museum asserts that the works were genuine at the time they were originally lent. Unsurprisingly, there have been suggestions that the fakes are part of a publicity stunt or fraudulent activity on the part. How and when the swap of originals for replicas occurred is uncertain, but a criminal investigation has been opened to resolve the disappearance and locate the originals
Hlushchenko’s past is rich in traveling (though not always according to his will) through Europe. From his homeland in East Ukraine, military service brought the young man to Poland as a prisoner and eventually an escape to Berlin. A decade was spent working in Paris on numerous landscapes and moonlighting as a Soviet spy. His return to the Ukraine was short-lived as he soon moved to Moscow before the outbreak of the Second World War where he lived until 1971, the year of his death. This rather exciting life has not inspired much Western European attention, but the recent theft wil certainly generate more global interest in the work of Hlushchenko.
Words: Emily Sack © 2012 ArtLyst
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