UK buyer's 'Chagall' nude may be burned as fake

LONDON (AP) — A British collector may see an expensive painting burned because a French committee has determined it is not an authentic work by Marc Chagall.

Art lover Martin Lang said Monday he was confused about the decision, but he still hopes the painting will be returned to him.

The businessman bought the watercolor of a reclining nude woman for 100,000 pounds in 1992, believing it to be an authentic Chagall dating from around 1909 to 1910. Lang's son recently called in experts from a BBC show about forgeries to determine if it was real.

When it was sent to the Chagall Committee in Paris for a final ruling, the committee — run by the Russian-born artist's grandchildren to protect his legacy — said it was a fake and would be destroyed under French law.

"They're holding on to it. It is bizarre, it doesn't make a lot of sense — it's almost vindictive," Lang told the BBC. "It's basically my property. I just couldn't understand why the committee would be so draconian."

He added that art owners like him should not be punished for forgeries.

"It seems to be dissuading honest people from coming forward to have their art verified. It seems to be the wrong way of doing it," he said.

The Chagall Committee declined to discuss the case Monday.

BBC host Fiona Bruce said Lang, a 63-year-old property developer from the northern city of Leeds, was not told that his painting would be destroyed if it was judged to be a fake.

"The only way for Martin to authenticate his painting was with the Chagall Committee, he had no other choice. But it was never made clear to him that if they didn't like the look of his painting that they would burn it. How can anyone ever approach this committee with a painting again if this is how they react?" she said.

Chagall, who died in 1985, was one of the most influential modernist painters and his work often sells for millions of dollars.