Museum Displays Matisse Aside Imposter

Caracas -- A Henri Matisse masterpiece is back on display at Venezuela's Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas Sofia Imber (MACCSI), alongside the inferior copy that was left behind by thieves, reports Reuters.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network certainly prefer the original work displayed on the left, compared to the imposter on the right.

The painting was returned to Venezuela over the summer, after missing for nearly 15 years - but the details of the return are shrouded in mystery.

The museum assumes the 'Odalisque in Red Pants' had been stolen by 2001, and replaced with the forgery.

However, Marianela Balbi, a Venezuelan journalist who authored 'The Kidnapping of the Odalisque', a book about the theft, believes it was taken sometime after it was moved in anticipation of flooding in December 1999, but before mid-2000.

The journalist's book cites museum negligence, but it stops short of accusing corruption officials of being involved.

The museum actually does not know the date on which the painting was replaced with its replica - a fact that will forever remain a mystery in the story of this work of art.

The $3.5 million Matisse was rescued by the FBI in 2012, more than a decade after it went missing; the mystery remains regarding who originally stole the masterpiece.

Although the couple who attempted to sell the painting have since been convicted, no one has ever been charged with the original theft.

The painting was spotted in Florida in 2002, when a colonel in the Venezuelan National Guard tried to sell it to a gallery in Miami, during a period of unrest that briefly threatened Hugo Chávez's rule.

Word of the painting no longer being in the museum reached Venezuela-born dealer Genaro Ambrosino, whose attempts to contact the museum were initially ignored.

"I was furious, so I sent an email to everyone I knew in the art world." Ambrosino told Reuters.

MACCSI was eventually forced to admit the original Odalique had indeed been stolen, and a fake version of the artwork left in its place.

This realization took ten years, before the FBI finally tracked down the real Matisse masterpiece.

The forgery, above right, which was actually created with acrylic paint instead of oil, even has a large brown stain in the centre of the image, the key details of the work are also highly inaccurate.

It seems that the forger even had issues with counting as the work has six horizontal green stripes; where the original has seven.

Now, visitors to MACCSI finally have the chance to view the two works side-by-side.

"It's a very bad copy, it doesn't have the original's design; it doesn't have its elegance. I don't understand how no one realized." Venezuelan artist Elizabeth Cemborain told Reuters.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video highlights the return to Caracas of the stolen Matisse. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ4045DsyC0&sns=em