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Polish-born collector Zdzislaw Bieganski to found museum in Malta

Works include Picasso and Van Gogh, but many are yet to be authenticated

Valletta

A Polish engineering magnate is in talks with the government of Malta to open a building on the Mediterranean island that will house his art collection and foundation. Zdzislaw Bieganski’s holdings of around 2,000 impressionist and modern pieces include works by artists such as Picasso, Michelangelo, Van Gogh and Oskar Kokoschka, says his curator Ryan Pillow, a Malta-based former dealer. The Times of Malta newspaper called the move “an extraordinary coup for the island’s heritage”.

The provenance of the works remains an issue, however. “We are working with the university of Malta to authenticate many of the pieces,” Pillow says. “A 1919 orange period nude by Picasso, for instance, needs to be verified.” He describes the unsigned Michelangelo piece as a small cartoon depicting five grotesque faces.

Bieganski, 91, began buying works in the 1940s and settled in Malta more than 40 years ago. His collection is particularly strong in Maltese artists such as Pawl Carbonaro, Andrew Diacono and Gabriel Caruana, Pillow says. “The government is now seeking an inventory of the material to work out what can be displayed,” he adds, citing the Guggenheim chain of museums as a model for the foundation.

According to the Times of Malta, many of the works are stored in a bank vault on the island with some pieces undergoing restoration. Bieganski bought his first piece for £6 when he was living in the UK.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Polish-born collector to found museum'