A major Amedeo Modigliani exhibition at the Doge’s Palace in Genoa has closed three days early after authorities confirmed that 21 of the 30 paintings on view were most likely fakes. The museum made its decision to end the show last Friday, as The Telegraph first reported, after magistrates received independent confirmation of concerns brought to the government’s attention by Tuscan art critic and collector Carlo Pepi. Pepi had submitted a formal complaint about the exhibition’s legitimacy to the Carabinieri’s art fraud department, apparently infuriated by the scale of this possible case of deception.
The exhibition had welcomed over 100,000 visitors since its opening in mid-March. It presented a survey of Modigliani’s career through works borrowed from private collections as well as museums including the Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée Picasso in Paris, and the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge. It’s unclear exactly which paintings are suspected frauds, but Pepi reportedly first became suspicious of the exhibition in February when he saw promotional material featuring a 1918 portrait of “Marie, Daughter of the People.”
“My goodness, when I saw the poster of Marie and then looked through the catalogue and saw the others, I thought, poor Modigliani, to attribute to him these ugly abominations,” Pepi told The Telegraph.
The museum issued a statement on the exhibition’s website explaining the early closure and announcing that it will fully cooperate with officials’ investigations. The statement also includes a note of lament over the incident’s serious damage to the museum’s reputation, although it adds that Palazzo Ducale did not organize the exhibition directly but had commissioned the organization MondoMostre Skira to undertake its organization. The company has previously helped mount dozens upon dozens of major exhibitions across Italy on artists including Caravaggio, Vermeer, and Frida Kahlo.
“They did the right thing. This was absolutely shameful,” Pepi told the The Telegraph. “A Michelangelo is a Michelangelo. A Picasso is a Picasso. But when a painting is a fake, it is missing its soul, and these were missing that three dimensional elegance of Modigliani — even a child could see these were crude fakes.”
In an interview with Agencia EFE, curator Stefano Zuffi refuted the claims of fraud and said that an art restorer had carefully inspected every work in the show following standard protocol. He is now among three individual under investigation.