STA, 8 June 2022 - The National Museum in Ljubljana was to put on display tonight 160 works of art from a private collection but postponed the opening after experts voiced forgeries concerns. The exhibition termed Travels would have featured works by world greats such as Picasso, Matisse or Kandinsky from the Boljkovac family's art collection.
The museum's director Pavel Car decided to postpone the opening after meeting Culture Minister Asta Vrečko today.
The show has upset the community of art critics and art historians, with Brane Kovič saying: "These are blatant fakes."
Kovič also told N1 portal that if these had been original paintings, they would have been worth over a billion euro.
When a museum is offered a collection like this, it should check the authenticity of the works, whether they have the right certificates, he added.
Similar outrage was expressed by art historian Aleksander Bassin: "How can the National Museum do such a thing, this is a scandal!"
Bassin, an ex-head of the Ljubljana City Galleries, said that there might be some prints by one of these famous artists in Slovenia, but certainly no paintings.
Minister Vrečko meanwhile told the press the ministry had received yesterday several letters expressing serious concerns, and met Car today.
Asked whether she would demand Car's resignation, Vrečko said that all procedures must first be thoroughly examined.
The ministry has not yet received the documents to prove the authenticity of the works of art, while authenticating them is not in its purview, she said.
According to Vrečko, the museum's expert commissions refused to include the show into the museum's annual plan, but the director had the discretion to go ahead.
Despite postponing the opening of the show, Car insists that the works are authentic.
In a statement to the press this evening, he said that he had seen the certificates and that he believes the works are authentic.
He said the community of art critics was too quick to label the works as forgeries before seeing the certificates.
Car, who was appointed by the previous government amid concerns that he lacked qualifications for the job, said the museum had decided on the show a few weeks ago, which is the reason why it was not in the museum's plan.
The show was publicly announced with a brief press release just a few days ago, without explicitly naming the featured artists.
The visiting exhibition would entail minimal costs for the museum, while it would bring more people to the museum in the summer months, he said.
The owner of the collection, Niko Boljkovac, meanwhile told Delo newspaper he had collected the works over a period of 50 years while working as a gallery manager.
The works were bought at various auctions, mostly where the asking price and interest were relatively low, he explained.
Boljkovac said he had run Gallus, a small private gallery that participated in purchases of many works of art, and helped create the collection of Autocommerce company, which was put on show at the National Gallery two decades ago.