Art collector turns to private sector to show his paintings
Polish art collector Zdzislaw Bieganski has turned to the private sector to help exhibit his 2,000-odd paintings after the Government found that a number of them may not be genuine.
Culture Ministry officials have been cataloguing Mr Bieganski’s collection for several months. But indications that some of the more famous pieces have not passed preliminary authenticity tests have reportedly led the officials to have cold feet.
“It seems the Government is only interested in the big-name paintings but I never cared who painted what or how much any single painting was worth. I am a collector, not a merchant. To hell with the money,” Mr Bieganski, 92, said emphatically.
He plans to leave his enormous collection to the self-named Bieganski Foundation, which would then display the pieces perman-ently in Malta.
The collection includes authenticated pieces by Pierre-Auguste Rénoir, Emile Bernard, Franci Picabbia, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Henry Cheffer and Marcel Cosson among hundreds of others, many of which have yet to be shipped to Malta and catalogued.
It also includes one of the largest known collections of Maltese art, with works by Gabriel Caruana, Pawl Carbonaro, Joe Genovese and Andrew Diacono running into the hundreds.
Foundation curator Ryan Pillow said they were disappointed with the way collaboration between them and the Government had soured in the recent past.
“Our vision was to create a museum to inspire up-and-coming artists, not a tourist magnet with big names plastered on the entrance.
“But I suppose we had different ideas...” he tailed off.
Culture Ministry officials have said it was too early to say whether they felt the Bieganski collection merited exhibition, and have reserved judgement until their cataloguing exercise has been completed.
But with Mr Pillow saying they had not heard from the authorities in “over eight weeks”, the found-ation is now looking at alternative ways of exhibiting the collection through private-sector support.
Mr Pillow was especially irked by the way in which the authorities had sought to verify paintings. “Not a single expert analysed a painting in the flesh. They were all sent digital photos snapped by two local analysts. All you can tell from a photograph is whether or not a painting is part of an artist’s established catalogue.
“All throughout, the perception was: ‘If it’s not a big-name painting, then we’re not interested ’. There are 2,000 paintings in the collection and well over 90 per cent are definitely authentic... But artistic merit isn’t measured in dollars or euros. Many of these paintings are marvellous works of art in themselves.”
Mr Bieganski reflected on the past months. “I think the Government had high hopes when it started assessing my collection. But I never offered them anything which I had doubts about.”
He shifted in his chair. “I have to face the facts. I am old and I will die. This collection has given me joy for over 50 years and I want to share that. But I am interested in art, not names. And art is about soul and beauty, not money.”