“Head with Horns,” a wood sculpture in the collection of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles formerly attributed to Paul Gauguin, is a fake, reports Le Figaro. The museum purchased the work for an estimated $3 million from the New York-based gallery Wildenstein & Company in 2002.
“In December 2019 the museum changed the attribution of the sculpture ‘Head with Horns’ to ‘unknown,’” a Getty spokesperson told The Art Newspaper. “This decision was based on scholarly research over recent years by Getty professionals and other experts in the field, including significant new evidence that was not available at the time of its acquisition.”
In a press release published in June 2002, the museum described “Head with Horns” as a rare, Polynesian-inspired self-portrait by the French Symbolist painter known only from two photographs pasted in Gauguin’s personal manuscript of Noa Noa, a diary of his first trip to Tahiti. “Every visitor to the Getty will be moved by this powerful and personal sculpture, which was displayed in Gauguin’s own house in Panaaiua, Tahiti,” said Barry Munitz, then president and chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust, in the press release.
While “Head with Horns” was celebrated when it resurfaced in an exhibition at the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1997, specialists had misgivings about its attribution even after the Getty acquisition. According to Le Figaro, the circular pedestal of the sculpture appears to have been made through woodturning, a technique Gauguin did not employ, out of wood found only in Australia or New Zealand, contradicting claims that Gauguin carved the piece in Tahiti.
In 2015, Fabrice Fourmanoir, a former art dealer in Tahiti and a collector of 19th century Tahitian photography, discovered an image of the sculpture in a photographic album by Jules Agostini, a friend of Gauguin. The photograph was captioned “Idole Marquisienne” — “Marquisian Idol” — suggesting the work was made by an indigenous carver from the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. It was also taken prior to December 1894, predating the sculpture’s purported production date between 1895 and 1897. Fourmanoir’s findings helped experts reach the determination of misattribution.
The Art Newspaper notes that when Getty inquired about the work’s provenance, Wildenstein replied only that the work had been bought from a Swiss private collector. But the gallery’s limited provenance report was bolstered by its scholarly credentials — Daniel Wildenstein, who led the French art dealing dynasty, had authored a catalogue raisonné of Gauguin’s paintings.
Last year, the gallery became embroiled in another case of misattribution when it was sued for allegedly selling a fake Pierre Bonnard painting in 1985.
The sculpture found a permanent home in the Getty’s collection in November 2002, following a brief loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its exhibition Gauguin in New York Collections. The work has since been exhibited as part of multiple acclaimed exhibitions of Gauguin’s work, including Gauguin: Metamorphoses at the Museum of Modern Art in 2014.
“Head with Horns” was on permanent display at the Getty until last year, when the museum removed the work from view.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.
fact that the Getty got ripped off is the least interesting part of
this story, which this article completely misses. Whose act of
appropriation was this? Gauguin’s (claiming he’d sculpted this) or some
later art dealer’s? Both are plausible, but the implications are very
Misleading headline. This object is not a fake, but was misattributed. Either way the work featured prominently in Gauguin’s work and speaks to the artist’s tendencies towards appropriation of indigenous and non-indigenous objects. It is still an incredibly important object for the study of the artist’s work. Can we not gain something from analyzing the framing of this object by Gaugain as relating in some way to Tahiti like his own sculptural creations in clay and wood? Though an expensive purchase if not by the artist, still a wise purchase. Maybe just a partial refund by Wildenstein.
Is this why Getty Images cost so much? I want answers!
The rip off, or mistake was not made by Gaugin. Nothing in the article indicates that Gaugin ever said he created this sculpture. Seems that other, big deals in the art world of the early 1920’s, decided, the piece was from Gaugin
Comments are closed.