Russian Avant-Garde at the Museum Ludwig: Original and Fake
Questions, Research, Explanations

Septem­ber 26, 2020 – May 2, 2021

Af­ter a long pe­ri­od in which it was ta­boo, an in­creas­ing num­ber of mu­se­ums are be­com­ing more trans­par­ent about how they deal with inau­then­tic works and exchang­ing knowl­edge. With a stu­dio ex­hi­bi­tion on the Rus­sian avant-garde, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is pre­sent­ing re­search on the au­then­tic­i­ty of works in its col­lec­tion. Thanks to Peter and Irene Lud­wig, in ad­di­tion to Pop Art and Pi­cas­so, the Rus­sian avant-garde is a core fo­cus of the mu­se­um’s col­lec­tion, with more than 600 works from the pe­ri­od be­tween 1905 and 1930, in­clud­ing some 100 paint­ings.

For vari­ous rea­sons, works of ques­tion­able au­thor­ship have cont­in­u­al­ly found their way in­to pri­vate and in­sti­tu­tio­n­al col­lec­tions. Works by Rus­sian avant-garde artists were coun­ter­feit­ed par­tic­u­lar­ly of­ten (due to their de­layed re­cep­tion af­ter Stalin­ism, for in­s­tance). Even re­cent­ly, paint­ings from this era that have turned out to be inau­then­tic have been pre­sent­ed in mu­se­ums. The Mu­se­um Lud­wig is al­so af­fect­ed and is cur­rent­ly sys­te­m­at­i­cal­ly in­vesti­gat­ing its col­lec­tion of paint­ings with the help of in­ter­na­tio­n­al scho­lars. This re­search rep­re­sents an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the in­ter­na­tio­n­al dis­course on the Rus­sian avant-garde. One goal is to iden­ti­fy and distin­guish in­cor­rect at­tri­bu­tions in the mu­se­um’s col­lec­tion.

The ex­hi­bi­tion pre­sents the meth­ods and find­ings. With twen­ty-sev­en works by, or former­ly at­tribut­ed to Ljubow Popowa, Kli­ment Red­ko, Niko­lai Suetin, Ni­na Ko­gan, El Lis­sitzky, and other artists, it pre­sents art-his­tor­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal meth­ods for mak­ing artis­tic au­thor­ship and ques­tion­able at­tri­bu­tions rec­og­niz­able. In ad­di­tion to works from the mu­se­um’s own hold­ings, Mo­mus in Thes­sa­loni­ki - home to the Col­lec­tion of Ge­orge Cos­takis - as well as Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Ma­drid kind­ly pro­vide loans of orig­i­nal works that served as tem­plates for our not-au­then­tic pic­tures.

Based on no­tice­able ex­am­ples, vis­i­tors can look be­hind the scenes and gain an un­der­s­tand­ing of prove­nance re­search and vari­ous in­vestiga­tive tech­niques such as in­frared and X-ray im­ages, fab­ric tests, and ma­te­rial anal­y­s­es. Cer­tain pig­ments, such as ti­ta­ni­um white, serve as mark­ers that al­low the dat­ing of a paint­ing to be ver­i­fied. The ex­hi­bi­tion pre­sents dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives by re­search­ers in res­to­ra­tion, art tech­nol­o­gy, and art his­to­ry on the ques­tion of the au­then­tic­i­ty of an art­work.

A film by Con­s­tantin Lieb (pro­duc­tion: of­fers in­sight in­to the ex­ten­sive ex­am­i­na­tions and co­op­er­a­tions with dif­fer­ent sci­en­tists.

You can read about the find­ings in con­junc­tion with the ex­hi­bi­tion here.

Of the 100 paint­ings in the Rus­sian avant-garde col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, half have un­der­gone an art-his­tor­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion, most by Dr. Maria Kokko­ri, art his­to­rian and art tech­nol­o­gist at the Art In­sti­tute of Chica­go and a spe­cial­ist in the Rus­sian avant-garde, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the paint­ing re­s­tor­er at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Pe­tra Mandt. Four­teen paint­ings by Mikhail Lari­onov and Na­talia Goncharo­va were se­lect­ed for a fun­da­men­tal ex­am­i­na­tion of the Rus­sian Avant-Garde Art Pro­ject, which was con­duct­ed by Dr. Jilleen Na­dol­ny from Art Anal­y­sis & Re­search In­sti­tute in Lon­don.

The ex­am­i­na­tion of the paint­ings was gener­ous­ly sup­port­ed by the Peter and Irene Lud­wig Foun­da­tion and the Rus­sian Avant-garde Re­search Pro­ject; ad­di­tio­n­al fund­ing came from the Ger­da Henkel Foun­da­tion and the ZEIT Stif­tung. The ex­hi­bi­tion, ca­t­a­logue, and ac­com­pany­ing sym­po­si­um are al­so sup­port­ed by the Peter and Irene Lud­wig Foun­da­tion and the Rus­sian Avant-garde Re­search Pro­ject as well as the Ernst von Sie­mens Kun­st­s­tif­tung, the Bea­t­rix Lichtken Stif­tung, the Fre­unde des Wall­raf-Richartz-Mu­se­um und des Mu­se­um Lud­wig, and the Fritz Thyssen Foun­da­tion.

Dig­i­tal Sym­po­si­um

Be­tween the 5th and 7th of Novem­ber 2020, a dig­i­tal in­ter­na­tio­n­al sym­po­si­um took place in con­junc­tion with the ex­hi­bi­tion. You can watch the lec­tures on­line any­time:

Fri­day, Novem­ber 6, 2020:

Prove­nance Re­search and At­tri­bu­tion
Mod­er­a­tion: Ri­ta Ker­st­ing, Mu­se­um Lud­wig & Kon­s­tantin Akin­sha, RARP Rus­sian Avant-Garde
Wel­come: Dr. Yil­maz Dziewior, Di­rec­tor Mu­se­um Lud­wig
00:08:06: Prof. John Bowlt & Prof. Ni­co­let­ta Misler, Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia & Uni­ver­sità di Napoli
00:41:37: Iri­na Kochergi­na & Li­ubov Pchelk­i­na, State Tretyakov Gallery, Mos­cow
01:20:42: Willem Jan Ren­ders, Van Abbe­mu­se­um, Eind­hoven
01:41:08: Vi­vian En­di­cott Bar­nett, In­de­pen­dent Scho­lar, New York
02:06:29: Prof. Dr. Kon­s­tantin Akin­sha, Rus­sian Avant-Garde Re­search Pro­ject and Vis­it­ing Fel­low, Max We­ber Kol­leg, Er­furt

Rus­sian Avant-Garde: Tech­no­log­i­cal Re­search
02:45:12: Pe­tra Mandt, Conser­va­tor Mu­se­um Lud­wig
02:59:08: Dr. Maria Kokko­ri, The Art In­sti­tute of Chica­go
03:31:20: Dr. Jilleen Na­dol­ny, Art­Dis­cov­ery (former­ly Art Anal­y­sis & Re­search), Lon­don
04:04:57: Dr. Svet­la­na Pisare­va & Iri­na Kadiko­va, Lab­o­ra­to­ry of Phys­i­cal and Chem­i­cal Re­search, The State Re­search In­sti­tute for Res­to­ra­tion (GOS­NIIR), Mos­cow

Sa­t­ur­day, Novem­ber 7, 2020:

Rus­sian Avant-Garde and Mu­se­um
How mu­se­ums han­dle Rus­sian Avant-Garde works

Mod­er­a­tion: Ri­ta Ker­st­ing, Mu­se­um Lud­wig & Kon­s­tantin Akin­sha, RARP Rus­sian Avant-Garde
00:00:36: Mar­ta Ruiz del Ár­bol, Cu­ra­tor Museo Na­cio­n­al Thyssen-Bornemisza, Ma­drid
00:17:07: René Zech­lin, Di­rec­tor Wil­helm-Hack-Mu­se­um, Lud­wigshafen
00:32:12: Dr. Rox­a­na Mar­co­ci, Se­nior Cu­ra­tor Mo­MA, New York
00:50:44: Prof. Dr. Hu­ber­tus Gaßn­er, former Di­rec­tor Kun­sthalle Ham­burg (the lec­ture ia. about the Kurt Bene­dict Col­lec­tion is not on­line due to le­gal rea­sons)

Avant-Garde, Art Mar­ket and Crime The Dark Side of the Boom. The mass fak­ing of the Rus­sian Avant-Garde
01:33:15: James But­ter­wick, art deal­er and col­lec­tor, Lon­don
02:00:28: Alex Lach­mann, art deal­er and col­lec­tor, Cologne/Lon­don
02:22:53: Dr. Fried­erike von Brühl, K&L Gates, Ber­lin
02:45:52: Maria Klunke, Public Pros­e­cu­tor / Staat­san­wältin, Staat­san­waltschaft Wies­ba­den
02:58:30: René Al­longe, Fed­er­al Bu­reau of In­vesti­ga­tions / Lan­deskrim­i­nalamt Ber­lin

Cu­ra­tors: Ri­ta Ker­st­ing and Pe­tra Mandt, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ju­liane Duft

Thanks to: