The Online Otto Dix Project

A German Artist and Print Maker

up arrow An Amateurish Forgery In Caracas


Remember that stolen Matisse? Since 1981, its home was the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas. In late 2002, museum staff noticed the painting was a fake. The original was replaced by an amateurish forgery.

The New York Times provides new insight into the caper. The original painting, Odalisque in Red Pants, was pulled from its frame and replaced with a forgery. The fake was exhibited at the museum for quite some time.

The above images show the original (left) and its fake (right). Despite the amateurish reproduction, the forgery went undetected for at least two years. Marianela Balbi, a journalist who documented the theft, unearthed a photograph from 2000 in which Hugo Chavez visited the museum. The forgery is visible in the background.

One month after that photograph was taken, rumors swirled that someone was attempting to sell Odalisque in Red Pants on the black market. The rumor turned out to be true, but nobody in Caracas followed up on the lead.

Venezuala is awash in oil revenues but institutions such as the Contemporary Art Museum are notoriously underfunded. According to the Times, their budgets suffer thanks to Mr. Chavez’s attitudes toward this type of art. According to one observer, he equates artists like Matisse with “bourgeois values.”

You’d like to think the painting was returned to its appreciative owners but that doesn’t seem to be the case.