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The State Art Museum of Uzbekistan in Tashkent (photo by Abdullais4u/Wikimedia)

The director of the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan in Tashkent was sentenced today to nine years in prison for systematically replacing works from the institution’s collection with fakes and selling off the originals over a 15-year period.

According to Agence France-Presse, director Mirfayz Usmonov, along with two accomplices (both of whom also worked at the museum and received eight-year sentences), sold works by some 25 European artists, including the Italian Renaissance painter and scuptor Lorenzo di Credi. They also sold off pieces by the Russian modern artists Victor Ufimtsev and Alexander Nikolaev, both of whom settled in Uzbekistan. Flipping the works on the black market, the trio reportedly sold them for between €80 and €650 (~$100–810) each.

This isn’t the first major disgrace suffered by the State Art Museum in recent years. It has seen its collection pilfered by Gulnara Karimova — the daughter of Uzbekistan’s authoritarian president Islam Karimov — who allegedly ordered several artworks confiscated from the museum. It has also come under fire in the past for exhibiting artworks of dubious provenance, including a supposed Paolo Veronese painting that earned the institution a warning from the Italian embassy.

Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy Sherman, and other divisive issues have...

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