KIEV - For more than 40 years Tatyana Jablonskaya's name and signature have been the pride of soviet realism's paintings. Her masterpieces, vibrant, popular scenes of a dream life in the USSR, illustrated communist propaganda appearing everywhere from reproductions in schoolbooks and political booklets to exhibitions in art museums all across the USSR. But now increasingly, original paintings of Jablonskaya's are disappearing, ever more forged versions taking their place.


In 2004, a year before Jablonskaya died, a Kyiv gallery owned by a Ukrainian tycoon, former vice Prime Minister and minister of Culture Dmitriy Tabachnik, displayed four of Jablonskaya's masterpieces in a fancy Russian art exhibition. All of them fake, according to Jablonskaya's daughter Gaene, who had been fighting in courts for months. She discovered other strange facts: original paintings disappearing from local museums and reappearing in private galleries, multiple copies of her mother's work sold as originals and even some pieces that she had never painted apparently bearing her signature.

Tatyana Jablonskaya's case is not an isolated one. It exemplifies a growing business; many post-soviet artists found themselves in a similar situation, and those who are dead without descendants make perfect victims for this organized plundering. Mathilde Goanec and Camille Magnard investigated the activities of these shadow artists, who are making careers in copying masterpieces and signatures of soviet realism's master painters, with the help of their Ukrainian colleague Iryna Slavinska. Their research led them to a network of art mafiosi with the top of the pyramid being part of Ukraine's economical and political elite.


Mathilde Goanec

Mathilde Goanec is a French journalist.

Mathilde Goanec

Camille Magnard

Camille Magnard is a French radio journalist.

Grant of €2.500 awarded on 04/02/2010

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