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Saturday, 29 December, 2001, 14:57 GMT
Turkey takes down fake Picassos
Woman nude before garden
Genuine Picasso works are worth millions of dollars
By the BBC's Tabitha Morgan in Istanbul

The Turkish Government has been forced to remove from public view four paintings previously thought to have been by Pablo Picasso at the national art gallery, after admitting that the pictures are fakes.

The number of visitors to Ankara's State Painting Museum rose sharply after the pictures, including one of the artist's mistress Dora Marr, were displayed in a specially refurbished Picasso gallery.

Pablo Picasso
Picasso: One of the most influential artists of the 20th century
The paintings' provenance had always been slightly questionable. They were acquired by the state after undercover detectives posing as buyers infiltrated an art smuggling ring.

The Turkish authorities concluded that the pictures had been looted from Kuwaiti royal palaces during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The paintings, so the story went, had been folded in four and smuggled out of the country tucked under shirts and jumpers - a theory that went some way to explain the vertical and horizontal fold lines across the middle of each picture.

Investigation

But the Kuwaiti royal family consistently denied that they were missing any Picassos, which prompted the Turkish Culture Ministry to launch an investigation into their authenticity.

Photographs of the paintings sent to the Paris-based Picasso Administration run by the artist's son proved conclusively that they were fakes.

The culture ministry is still waiting for the results of tests on four more pictures also thought to have been painted by Picasso.

Meanwhile, the director of Russia's Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Petrovsky, condemned the paintings as being "not just copies, but very bad copies", adding that the original Picassos were kept at the Hermitage, where they had always been.

The origin of the fake pictures is still not known.

See also:

26 Mar 01 | Europe
Stolen 'Picassos' found in Turkey
23 Dec 00 | UK
Great heists of our time
09 Nov 00 | Americas
Auction record for Picasso
07 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Picasso's muse fetches 3m
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