Experts Cry Foul Over Newfound Edvard Munch ‘Scream’

Could supposedly priceless art collection be a complete hoax?

Mark Lawrence's supposed collection of priceless art includes what he claims is an unseen copy of Edvard Munch's The Scream. Photo courtesy of the Reading Borough Council.
Mark Lawrence's supposed collection of priceless art includes what he claims is an unseen copy of Edvard Munch's The Scream. Photo courtesy of the Reading Borough Council.

The saga of England’s cafe Van Gogh continues, with the Telegraph speculating that Mark Lawrence’s supposed collection of priceless art, including a never-before-seen copy of Edvard Munch‘s iconic The Scream, may in fact be a complete hoax.

Lawrence’s story is that he inherited 200 paintings by such masters as RembrandtPicasso, Degas, CézanneHenry Moore and Dalí, from his grandfather, Vivian Wetter. The 27-year-old Reading, England, native approached the Borough Council, looking to find a home from his art that would honor his grandfather’s wishes to have it displayed in one place. He quickly garnered political support, and showed Houses at Auvers II, which he claimed was painted by Van Gogh in the year of his death, at the Reading Arts & Music Week in June.

“I am very happy to support them bringing these pieces to Reading,” deputy mayor Sarah Hacker proclaimed on Facebook, posing next to the alleged Van Gogh. 

From there, the story gained steam. Lawrence made quite a production about showing the work at the Picnic Cafe in his hometown earlier this month. The story was picked up by the BBC, and the public, eager to see the rest of the supposedly world-class collection, responded by pledging thousands of dollars toward the planned Reading Gallery.

Mark Lawrence's supposed Vincent van Gogh. Photo courtesy of the Reading Borough Council.

Mark Lawrence’s supposed Vincent van Gogh. Photo courtesy of the Reading Borough Council.

Unfortunately, all the publicity generated by the stunt also had a downside, as Van Gogh specialists soon raised doubts over the work’s authenticity. Once pressed, Lawrence admitted that the painting was not a family heirloom, and that he had only purchased it two years ago.

Despite having invented the piece’s provenance, Lawrence maintained that the work was authentic. He expressed anger with the BBC in a local Reading news report, accusing them of “destroying my character” and “turning everyone against me” even though “all I did was try to enhance the town I was born in and the people that live here.”

Another suspicious detail: Lawrence’s supposedly undiscovered copy of The Scream. Magne Bruteig, a curator at Oslo’s Munch Museum, is highly skeptical that the work could be real, telling the Telegraph that “it seems very unlikely a version of such a famous painting should not have come to the surface sooner than this.” Based on photos of the piece circulating online, Bruteig suspects it is fake. 

Despite the growing sense that all is not as it should be with Lawrence’s collection, the fledgling staff at the Reading Gallery is still standing by him. “At the moment we want to research everything fully. Our next phase is to research everything from the history and the provenance. I trust Mark fully. Having seen a substantial number [of paintings] I am more than happy with everything,” marketing director Alexandra Abbs assured the Telegraph


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