Coloured truth: A new art crime exhibition at the Police Museum

Publication date 25.3.2021 9.12
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Forged artwork, criminal art trade, fraud, money laundering and embezzlement – there are many faces of art crime.

The new exhibition at the Police Museum, entitled The coloured truth – Art crime in Finland, is about Finnish art crime, police investigations and cooperation between authorities, for example, with researchers of the Finnish National Gallery. 

The exhibition includes counterfeit works by "Gallen-Kallela", "Schjerfbeck" and "Picasso". All of the works are now part of the National Police Museum's collections. Originally, they were confiscated in connection with a pre-trial investigation and handed over to the state as instruments of crime.

– Art crime is part of organised, professional and even international crime. There is nothing romantic about forging artwork. It is done thoughtlessly for greed and money, much like counterfeit sneakers or milk formula are made, says Chief Intendant Tiina Tuulasvaara-Kaleva.

Crooks destroy Finnish cultural heritage

In Finland, art theft is rare, and the emphasis in art crime is on forged artwork and the related trade. Fraud and criminal trade by forged artworks began to rise in the 1980s. Often forged artists in Finland include Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helene Schjerfbeck, Eero Järnefelt, Nikolai Lehto and Reidar Särestöniemi.

– The production of counterfeit art is driven by the market: what sells is also forged. Forgeries are crimes against the original artists, defrauded injured parties and national cultural heritage. Each counterfeit work demeans and destroys cultural heritage. Forgeries distort the art market and also deprive existing artists of work and livelihood.

The total value of damage in Finland caused by art crime investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation through Operation FAKE since 2009 is almost EUR 20 million. 

– Among those deceived in art crimes, there are wealthy collectors as well as ordinary citizens who lost their savings when buying “valuable art”. Art enthusiasts, professionals and art museums alike have been cheated. It is likely that some of the buyers have not contacted the police. This can be due to ignorance, shame or even the desire to “pay it forward”, says Tiina Tuulasvaara-Kaleva.  

Exhibition themes in social media

The coloured truth exhibition will be on display at the National Police Museum from 26 March 2021. The museum is closed to the public due to the coronavirus situation, but we will present the themes of the exhibition on our social media channels. For example, there will be visits to the exhibition and an interview with the investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation. Most of our social media content is in Finnish, but you will be able to experience the exhibition through images and videos even if you do not understand Finnish.

The exhibition texts are in Finnish, Swedish and English.

The public will have access to the exhibition at the museum as soon as the restrictions imposed on the public due to the coronavirus situation are lifted.

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