Leeds art-lover battles to save forged Chagall from destruction

The "Chagall" painting bought by Yorkshire businessman Martin Lang for �10,000 which has  now been ruled a fake. GUZELIAN
The "Chagall" painting bought by Yorkshire businessman Martin Lang for �10,000 which has now been ruled a fake. GUZELIAN
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An art-loving businessman from Leeds faces a fight to save one of his treasured paintings from being thrown into a furnace after it featured on a television show about fakes and forgeries.

Martin Lang bought ‘Nude 1909-10’ – which he believed was an original work by French-Russian artist Marc Chagall – in 1992 for £100,000.

More than 20 years later his son called in experts from BBC1’s Fake Or Fortune to examine it in an attempt to verify its attribution to the artist.

Viewers of the show, which will be screened tonight at 6pm, will see the watercolour undergo a series of scientific tests in an attempt to prove whether it is genuine.

But researchers examining the painting find the blue and green pigments used in the artwork are too modern – with the paints more like those used in the 1930s.

The painting is then sent to Paris – where the artist lived for much of his life – for examination by the Chagall Committee.

Unfortunately for Mr Lang, who signs a contract stating that ‘Marc Chagall’s heirs could demand the seizure of the work, and/or any other measures stipulated by law’ before sending the painting to France, the committee brands the painting a fake and demands for it to be burned in front of a magistrate.

Mr Lang, 63, a property developer from Leeds, instead asks the committee to mark the painting as a forgery and then return it or give him a guarantee he will be reimbursed if it is later ruled as genuine. He is still waiting for a reply.

He said: “I had no idea that anyone would take such a draconian view. They say they want to counter forgery but I think this will have the opposite effect of deterring honest people like myself from coming forward.”

The show’s host, Fiona Bruce, said: “A decision like this forces the owner of any painting to play a kind of Russian roulette with their precious artwork. The only way for Martin to authenticate his painting was with the Chagall Committee, he had no other choice. But it was never made clear to him that if they didn’t like the look of his painting that they would burn it. How can anyone ever approach this committee with a painting again if this is how they react?”

Chagall, who died in 1985, is regarded as a pioneer of modernism and his work can sell for millions of pounds.