Étienne Terrus museum in Elne uncovers fake art in collection

French museum discovers more than half of its paintings are fake

A museum dedicated to early 20th Century painter Etienne Terrus in the south of France discovered that numerous works displayed in its collection were not actually created by him.

The Terrus museum in Elne in the south of France discovered 82 works originally attributed to the artist were not painted by him.

The paintings cost the museum about €160,000 (£140,000) to purchase.

The Museum staff was not aware of the fakes, until the art historian Eric Forcada not indicated a problem. "I put myself in the place of all the people who came to visit the museum, who saw fake works, who bought a ticket of entry, whatever the price, it's unacceptable", he said.

Barriol said the discovery was made while the art historians were helping to prepare an exhibition to show off the museum and the works of Terrus. They admit that such cases could happen with the work of other local artists.

The Elne Museum, dedicated to painter Etienne Terrus, is believed to have been the target of an art forgery ring specialising in Catalan painters.

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The news was announced on Friday as the museum opened after a renovation.

The mayor of Elne, Yves Barniol, said in interviews on Friday that the whole things is "a disaster" and made apologies to the people who had visited the museum to see the works before they were known to be fakes.

Terrus was born in 1857 and spent the majority of his life in the nearby town of Roussillon in the Pyrenees.

He was a friend and huge inspiration to the influential painter Henri Matisse - who is regarded as one of the most important artists of the 20 century.

Local police have launched an investigation into the situation.

Authorities have since seized the bogus artwork, and the city of Elne has filed legal complaints for forgery and fraud.

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