June 6 2011

Image of Cocteaup

Picture: Guardian

There's a bit of an odeur in France ahead of the opening of a new museum devoted to the work of Jean Cocteau. One Cocteau expert says a large number of the exhibits are fakes, while another says they're genuine. As is often the case with a recently deceased artist, it seems to come down to a battle over who has the right to be seen as the sole 'expert', with the power to pronounce on authenticity. From the Guardian:

Art expert Annie Guédras, who was designated by Cocteau's heirs as the only person legally authorised to "evaluate, authenticate and index" his paintings and drawings, examined the Wunderman collection. She concluded that dozens of works were copies or fakes.

However, the Cocteau committee, set up to manage the artist's estate, headed by Pierre Bergé – co-owner of Le Monde and partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent – disagreed.

... Bergé called in another art expert, a decision that infuriated Guédras, who accused him of calling into question her professional judgment as well as breaking the legal agreement designating her as the only person authorised to authenticate Cocteau's work. She promptly resigned from the Cocteau committee and sued. Last year she won unspecified damages equivalent to three years' salary, a decision that Bergé immediately took to appeal.

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