THE NATIONAL Museum, as the government watchdog of art works, has the power to validate the authenticity of paintings and other art works. But it stopped its authentication operations some years back to adapt to the times.

“The National Museum ceased its authentication operations to revise and update its rules and regulation,” said Noel Escultura, officer in charge of the National Museum’s Art Division.

Since then, it has resorted to other means to authenticate paintings.

“When people come to us to have their painting authenticated, we refer them to private authenticators whose views are respected in the art community,” Escultura said.

In the case of the controversial Ang Kiukok paintings exhibited at the Beato Angelico Gallery, an owner of a private art gallery in Makati stepped in.

Vita Sarenas, a close friend of the late National Artist’s family and the owner of the Finale Art File in Makati City, found errors in the displayed paintings which are “obvious to the Ang-trained” eye.

“The colors, the lines, and the brush strokes are weak compared to the real Ang Kiukok paintings,” said Sarenas, who examined the paintings last Feb. 1 after Ang’s widow, Mary, asked her to personally evaluate the paintings. She refused to elaborate on other details, saying it might teach art counterfeiters to execute Ang’s style properly.

She also said the late painter gave her tips to detect dubious paintings in the 1990s when her gallery started authenticating Ang’s works.

Mrs. Ang immediately told exhibit curator and researcher Mary Ann Bulanadi that the Ang Kiukok paintings displayed at the Beato Angelico Gallery were fake. But Bulanadi allegedly replied she could not bring down the paintings because she had to wait for the National Museum’s authentication.

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College of Fine Arts and Design Dean Jaime de los Santos said it was really hard to tell whether the Ang paintings were really bogus.

“It’s easy to make claims that the paintings are fake,” De los Santos said. “We would not have invited the Ang family to grace the occasion if we doubted the authenticity of the paintings.”

He added that the intention of the exhibit was to honor Ang, National Artists for Visual Arts J. Elizalde Navarro and Victorio Edades, and professor emeritus Cenon Rivera and that Ang’s paintings were hung in good faith.

Both De los Santos and Escultura, who also teaches Life Painting in CFAD, believe that it is impossible for family members to know all the works of an artist.

“An artist sometimes makes a painting to give as gifts without the knowledge of the family,” Escultura said.

But Sarenas believes otherwise.

“In cases when the artist has died, family members are the next best authenticator of the artist’s works,” she said. “They (organizers) should have brought the paintings down as Mrs. Ang told them to.” Miko L. Morelos

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