Toporovsky Gallery showed fakes to Belgians

Collectors arrested in Ghent Igor and Olga Toporovsky insist that their collection of Russian avant-garde artists is genuine.
Origin source
The collector-spouses of Russian origin, detained in Belgium, Toporovsky, on December 20, were ordered to be arrested in a prison in the city of Ghent by a court decision. They were charged with fraud, money laundering and forgery,.

Worked with beautiful

In 2017, the Toporovsky spouses became participants in a major scandal. In October, an exhibition of paintings by Russian avant-garde artists was opened at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. Among the paintings presented are works by Kandinsky, Malevich, Goncharova and other famous artists. 26 paintings were donated to the museum by the Dielegem Foundation of the Toporovsky couple. However, visitors to the exhibition began to express doubts about the authenticity of the paintings.

Emelian Zakharov, co-owner of the Triumph Gallery, told Ko that “you could tell the fake with the naked eye. The largest European museum exhibits rude, not talented fakes! It is amazing how the museum director Catherine de Seger could have done it! Either she is not at all competent and does not belong to the professional community, or is it corruption - there can be no other explanation. ”

Konstantin Babulin, the general director of, explains this quick and sharp reaction of the public and specialists: “The Russian avant-garde is perhaps the most significant contribution of Russia to the world history of art. Therefore, specialists are so offended when they brazenly falsify it. The works of Malevich, Klyun, Goncharova can cost millions and tens of millions of dollars. Moreover, these Russian artists are bought not only by Russian collectors, but versed wealthy people from all over the world. That is why this area is a tidbit for manufacturers of fakes and participants in their legalization. The sharp reaction of the professional community is explained by the scope and cynicism of what happened. If there were 3-5 fake works at the museum exhibition, there would be no such reaction. Almost every exhibit had questions there. ”

On January 30, 2018, the museum decided to remove from the exhibition all the paintings provided by the Toporovsky Foundation. Lawyers for collectors and museum director Catherine de Seger did everything to prevent paintings from being sent for additional examination. De Seger's position, which defended the authenticity of the work, raised questions from the prosecutor's office. It was found that the documents testifying to the conditions for the transfer of paintings to the museum by the Dielegem Foundation are fictitious. In addition, the director was a member of the scientific council of the foundation, which indicated a conflict of interest.

“Museum exhibitions are an important part of the provenance of work,” says Konstantin Babulin. - If the picture was presented in a prestigious museum, a lot of experts saw it, no questions arose - then everything is in order. Each such project increases the credibility of the collector and increases the value of his collection. Theoretically, trust and authority in a museum environment allows a collector to sell works from his collection better and more expensively. And not only from his own. ”

Meanwhile, the news of the Toporovsky arrest was received with enthusiasm. A lawyer from Belgium, Geert Lensens, representing a large number of artists and art dealers, that he is satisfied with how the events unfold: “All my clients have said for years that the works that were exhibited at the museum were fakes. This undermines the credibility of art. ”

Emelian Zakharov notes the role of the Russian professional community in restoring justice: “Thank God that this scandal was inspired by the Russians who wrote about this disgrace. If these people are convicted in a European court, even if they sit for one month, it will mean that they are swindlers and all they do is a scam. And I believe that the actions of the director of the museum should certainly be investigated. ”


Igor Toporovsky was born in 1966 in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukrainian SSR. In 1988 he graduated from the History Department of Moscow State University. Lomonosov, in 1992 there he received a Ph.D. He was a member of the Yabloko party, in 1995 he was promoted to the State Duma, lost the election; in 1999 expelled from Yabloko. According to his own statements, he worked as a diplomat, starting his career under Mikhail Gorbachev; In the 1990s, he worked as an adviser to Boris Yeltsin on relations with the European Union and NATO, and in 2005, he was an employee of the Presidential Administration (hereinafter - AP). The Gorbachev Foundation and the AP refute the words of Toporovsky. Since 2006, permanently resides in the Kingdom of Belgium. Owner of a large collection of works of Russian avant-garde art: according to various estimates, it includes from 300 to 500 copies. He was involved in scandals related to the fine arts: in the case file of the Preobrazhensky antique dealers who sold fake paintings, for 2004 there is a receipt about Toporovsky receiving $ 3 million for the transfer of two paintings by Malevich and Kandinsky to Preobrazhensky. In 2009, in Tours, France, an exhibition of the works of the artist Alexandra Exter was arrested on charges of inconsistency of a number of exhibits; paintings were provided by Toporovsky.

High Art Fraud

The nouveau riche and those who have enriched themselves in an unrighteous way more often than others are victims of a love of art. For example, the ex-Minister of Finance of the Moscow Region Alexei Kuznetsov, sentenced on December 16, 2019 to fourteen years in a penal colony and recovering 14.6 billion rubles. In 2000, Kuznetsov became a minister, and eight years later, a gap of 92 billion rubles arose in the regional budget. Moreover, Kuznetsov himself did not live in poverty. Part of the money was probably spent on the formation of the collection, which is now also under arrest. Paintings (total 117 paintings) for the examination were transferred to the New Jerusalem area near Moscow. Of the 54 objects analyzed by specialists, 15 turned out to be fakes.

The history of the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev literally shocked the world. In 2015, Rybolovlev accused his art dealer Yves Bouvier of overpricing paintings. The victim estimates the overpayment at $ 1 billion. In just ten years, Rybolovlev bought 38 works of art from Bouvier for $ 2 billion. At the same time, Bouvier’s accomplice, according to Rybolovlev, was Sotheby’s auction house. In 2018, the former owner of Uralkali sued Sotheby’s for $ 380 million. Whether Dmitry Rybolovlev will receive satisfaction is not yet clear; courts in several countries are still going on. The last and not happy for the billionaire litigation message came from Monaco. In December 2019, after a five-year trial, the appellate court canceled the entire procedure, considering that the process was extremely biased in favor of the Russian oligarch. Meanwhile, paintings from the Rybolovlev collection are sold at a great discount. Only the "Savior of the world" Leonardo da Vinci became a consolation. Bought for $ 127.5 million, in November 2017, it was sold at Christie’s auction for $ 450 million.