Photos by Florida International University courtesy of Creative Commons.
Madison Fantozzi/News Director
The painting “Untitled” that hung on a Frost Art Museum wall had an illegible date and was labeled oil on paper while director and chief curator Carol Damian thinks it’s acrylic. But the painting has become even more ambiguous with critics challenging whether it is correctly credited to the late Cuban artist Carlos Alfonzo.
The work was removed from the museum’s current exhibit From Africa to the America after outside experts challenged its authenticity. But Damian says experts are yet to be determined.
“Some people had seen the show and commented on it — a couple of so-called ‘experts.’ But I haven’t determined who the real experts are,” Damian said.
Miami developer and art collector Jorge Pérez donated the abstract work in July along with 23 other nineteenth- and twentieth-century Cuban paintings valuing more than $315,000.
The gift also included $250,000 for research — a donation Damian hopes will cover the expensive investigation that she said will take at least a year.
“Usually we would bring in an expert on that artist, but since we don’t know who the experts are the painting will undergo scientific testing and research,” Damian said.
Damian said nobody works for less than $300 an hour.
One of the first steps will be to determine the painting’s date and whether it is oil or acrylic on paper.
“It can be 1981, 1984 or 1987. It’s not clear and we need to determine that to give us the ability to go into the catalogs and research what he was painting and what his work looked like in those years,” Damian said.
Damian said the work will be taken to a conservator this week to begin the first step of the scientific analysis.
“She will be able to confirm materials and date — [an] important place to start since labels are often miswritten over the years,” Damian said. “That will lend information regarding the kind of imagery he was doing or not doing at a particular date in time.”
In a statement, Pérez expressed “total shock” at the news.
He said he purchased the painting in 1997 from a reputable source and it hung in his home for over 16 years without anyone questioning its authenticity.
As part of a study collection with the Cuban Research Institute, the work was not yet part of the museum’s permanent collection. If the painting is in fact forgery, Pérez has promised to replace it.