InCoRM has been solicited recently by journalists and students requesting information about the relationship of InCoRM to the commercial art market.

These questions arose from internet articles that confuse the boundaries and responsibilities of art historians and art dealers. The resulting misrepresentation of InCoRM’s activities has given rise to a fallacy because InCoRM is interested solely in art history.

So to correct, InCoRM is setting out below a clarification:

1.  QUESTION – Who were the original members of InCoRM?

     ANSWER – The members of InCoRM were the recognised art historians specialised on various artists of the Russian Avant-Garde and chosen for their authority and  knowledge.

2.  QUESTION – Were InCoRM members hired to authenticate fake paintings?

     ANSWER – No. InCoRM historians and scientists make up a chamber of scholars and good minds whose only interest is the history of the art object, and to express their opinions in written Expertises.

3. QUESTION – Did or do the art historian members of InCoRM give certificates of authenticity on works of art?

     ANSWER – Members of InCoRM do not, nor have they, delivered certificates of authenticity. Their work is exclusively what is appropriate to art historical studies of works of art and express personal opinions only as Expertises..

4. QUESTION – What is the difference between a certificate of authenticity and an Expertise?

     ANSWER – A certificate of authenticity is a stamp of approval so that a work of art can be sold . An Expertise is an art historical study of a work of art. It would support the authenticity of a work of art, or not, contributing to knowledge about the work.

5. QUESTION – Did or do the art historian members of InCoRM give their opinions in the name of InCoRM?

     ANSWER – No, InCoRM does not give certificates of authenticity for works of art. The opinions of the art historian members of InCoRM are given in their own name alone.

6.  QUESTION – Are or were InCoRM members associated with the art market in any way?

     ANSWER – No.

7.  QUESTION – So did the art historians profit from art sales?

     ANSWER – No. And they do not take commissions from sales or any other commission. That is the role of the art dealer, not the art historian.

8.  QUESTION – What is the aim of InCoRM?

     ANSWER – The aim of InCoRM is to bring knowledge about art works by painters of the Russian Avant-Garde. It is an association of art historians engaged in research, and the members abide by its CODE OF GOOD PRACTICE and have no conflicts of interest whatsoever.

InCoRM is not a financial enterprise and it and its members have never profited from art sales as a result of its activities. InCoRM is a non-profit organisation and always has been. The task of its art historian members is to look for the truth, not to get money from the truth or, indeed, to misrepresent the truth in any way.

InCoRM, 14 November 2021

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Taking part in the creating of a myth, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, hosted a two-day Symposium in the context of their exhibition, Original and Fake, on 6-7 November 2020. Talks on artists and on collections by art historians and museum curators were complemented by presentations on scientific research, and the papers gave a good range of the issues at stake – the various aspects of assessing the authenticity of works of art.

The most unfortunate intrusion into these otherwise professional considerations was that of a minor London art dealer who openly declared, “I am not an art historian but a dealer”,  “I am not academic”. It became obvious. He was a showman, out to sell his ideas by swindling  the audience with gossip and slander and distorted history.

He accused others of the sins of his own kind – scams in the art world. He feigned sympathy for “little old ladies” whom he felt obliged to tell that their paintings were “fake” based on his personal art market criteria, feigned shock that a scholarly book on Natalia Goncharova had been made illegal in Russia because it contained “fakes” – which has never been proven – and clucked that he had put a man in prison because his paintings were “fake” – a case that is currently in the courts so about which it is illegal to comment.

And he decried InCoRM saying its members gave “certificates of authenticity”. THEY DO NOT and never have. And when a message was sent through to the speaker to clarify this, he read it out and shrugged his shoulders with a dismissive and mischievous grin.

These members of InCoRM are art historians whose expertise is vouched for by their publications, knowledge and good reputations, and who express OPINIONS on works of art which are strictly ART HISTORICAL.

So in the section that the Ludwig Museum called, “The mass faking of the Russian Avant-garde”, they got their man, their messenger, their showman. The whole initiative to invite papers on scholarly work to investigate authenticity was discredited because it was tainted with a basic flaw – anti-scholarly proclamations from a member of the art market claiming authority which he does not have. This was an insult to the scholars who became but a disguise to grace the outlandish presentations of a dealer’s market strategies, and they should object for having been so ignobly exploited, their work arrogantly disdained.

Significantly, there was no proof of the “mass faking of the Russian Avant-Garde”. The speakers from the Wiesbaden case had had to admit defeat because the court had returned around 1,800 works which the Prosecutor had been unable to prove to be fakes. The only noticeable fakes was the fake news propagated by the minor London dealer, the story of “mass faking” but a fable bundled up as fake news.

Dr. Patricia Railing

President of InCoRM

12 November 2020

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Russian Avant-Garde at the Museum Ludwig: Original and Fake. Questions, Research, Explanations

Accompanying the exhibition, Original and Fake, that opened at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne on Friday 24 September 2020, is a bilingual catalogue (German and English) of the same name. It is made up of seven articles that would address this most serious of subjects – how to assess whether a work of art is original to a given artist or is a copy, perhaps called a fake if it would have the intention to deceive. Of 49 works belonging to the Ludwig collection, 18 works were submitted to Maria Kokkori (Greece) for analysis and commentary on the scientific investigations carried out in various laboratories in Germany and Switzerland, and 7 to Jilleen Nadolny (London). Of the 29 paintings selected, 14 were determined to be “formerly attributed to” or have a “disputed attribution”. With nearly half of the works examined now discredited, the Deputy Director of the Ludwig Museum, Rita Kersting, is reported to have said that new guidelines are needed so that museums can have more confidence in the authenticity of their collection. Discussing the results of the scientific findings in order to propose new standards should be the subject of the essays and, indeed, the Press Release on the museum’s website claims just this.

Instead, the thrust of most of the articles proposes a survey of events around accusations of fakes in the Russian Avant-Garde, both recent and historical. There is also a certain reliance on unreliable sources in the literature, for example the trust put in the book by Troels Andersen, The Leporskaya Archive, the incorrectness about so-called fakes of Malevich drawings which I personally witnessed in the studio of Leporskaya herself and in her presence. Such sources feed a growing myth about Russian Avant-Garde fakes which is unsupported by facts. Museum personnel especially have the obligation of being cautious in the dissemination of such easy words.

Then, however interesting her essay on artists’ use of the term “texture”, or faktura, one would expect that Maria Kokkori would have devoted her text to an in-depth description of her investigations into the paintings. What was her methodology? her procedures? her findings? and above all, the interpretation of her findings? Apparently her reports are available online, but these proved impossible to access. The only information given in the catalogue about the works she examined – and we are not told anything about the extents of the reports themselves nor their contents – are brief resumés in the Notes on the Examinations by Petra Mandt, restorer at the Museum. These comments are usually a single line to express Kokkori’s personal opinion as to the authenticity, or not, of the painting.

Then there is the question of pigments. For such a subject, the reader expects the level of expertise to be of impeccable accuracy, but trust fades when it is said that “titanium white was on the market in the West from 1925”, or one finds that the date for manganese blue (1942) was grabbed from Google despite the fact that recipes were published in 1874 in Riffault’s Practical Treatise on the Manufacture of Colours for Painting, or to insist on dates of Soviet production of the 1940s which are irrelevant since it is well known that, except during the War, most pigments were imported from France (Lefranc), England (Winsor and Newton), and many from Germany. The author(s) would thus seem to ignore what is common knowledge, while these erroneous dates are then used to discredit a painting. And as for titanium white, for example…

A pale off-white titanium pigment was being used in the porcelain industry from the 1790s, as described by the director of the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory, Brongniart, in his book of the 1840s; it was also in use in the royal factories in St. Petersburg, Berlin and Meissen at the same time. Titanium increased in its whiteness over the 19th century and has been found on the easel of Camille Pissarro of the 1890s mixed with other whites, notably white lead and zinc white; Cézanne (who died in 1906) also used such a compound white. Then in his book on pigments and art practice of 1928 (and published in German translation), the Russian painter, D. I. Kiplik, who taught at the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg, wrote that he had been sent titanium white – now white in colour – from Norway in 1912, and by 1920 it was to be found in the art shops in Russia. This was an artist’s grade titanium white, but an industrial grade was being produced from the early years of the century, by the tons, to be used in the manufacture of porcelain sinks, basins, tiles etc., but artists could also have used this had they wished – Tatlin the sailor would have been a good example since it was also used to paint the hulls of ships as it repels barnacles. The presence of titanium white is not an open and closed question but one of interpretation by the scientist, and this is precisely what is lacking in the catalogue – reliable and well-informed interpretation.

So the question is – what are the standards to be used to determine if a work of art is genuine or fake? Here are the criteria drawn from the catalogue in Notes on the Examinations by Petra Mandt with Maria Kokkori for the 29 works noted –

• Pigments – The pigments most commonly found in Russian Avant-Garde paintings are given and confirmed, although particle size is sometimes used to challenge a given pigment which, although not said, implies the difference in the use of a hand-ground pigment or a tube paint. This is not otherwise discussed, and would depend on the individual artist and the date, so is left open. The presence of titanium white, manganese blue, and phthalocyanine blue are used to discredit a painting.

• Polyester – The presence of polyester found in the canvas of a painting is used to discredit a work, although no mention is made of its presence due to possible repairs or restoration.

• Carbon 14 dating – Not discussed, the use of carbon 14 to date 20th century paintings is fraught with controversy and is so far not a reliable method. But it is cited as the reason to discredit three paintings by Nikolai Suetin, which are otherwise said to appear to be genuine.

• Signature – Confusion about signatures gives rise to statements like “the work is probably not by …”. The word “probably” means “uncertainty”, which is inappropriate in these circumstances. The motto should be: When in doubt don’t pronounce.

• Historical documents, as in the acquisition of Malevich’s Supremus No. 38 from the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a gift to the American industrialist, Armand Hammer, provide unchallenged confirmation of authenticity. Provenance, however, is proof of ownership, not proof of the authenticity of a work of art, and many fine copies have excellent provenances.

• Stylistic and Technical Differences – Unfamiliar painting techniques are used to deny the authenticity of a painting while familiar techniques are used to confirm authenticity, showing that there is a gross lack of thorough knowledge about artists’ creative practice. This is the case for works by Liubov Popova, A. Vesnin, El Lissitzky, and others.

The criteria are therefore consistent as far as pigments go but are based on significant misinformation, and they are inconsistent as far as stylistic habit and techniques go for an artist’s work due to lack of knowledge.  Based on what is published in the catalogue, analytical art historical method is weak and uneven, which probably reveals a widespread situation. Unknown is the quality and rigour of the scientific methods used, and this needs investigation. Perhaps what this situation makes most visible is the general lack of protocols for proceeding with such a question – how do we know if a work of art is genuine or fake?

In order not to abandon this initiative undertaken by the Ludwig Museum, it may be appropriate that an international group of scientists, curators and art historians of impeccable knowledge, integrity and reputation be invited by the Ludwig Museum to assess what has been done and propose a next stage. The matter is too serious to be left where it is today, so many works in limbo and the art world frankly in a turmoil due to the results published by the Museum Ludwig. For desperately needed is more information, better facts, and informed interpretation before assertions or implications of original or fake can be levelled at the Russian Avant-Garde paintings in the Ludwig Museum – and elsewhere.

In addition, an extensive database on these issues is called for and must be easily available to all researchers. Until then, the judgements put forth in this catalogue are no more than preliminary working premises based on highly selective (and often biased) criteria, and for the most part are difficult to take seriously both in methodology and in their published conclusions. Generally speaking, they should not be considered definitive assessments about the works and their status, especially those considered to be “fakes”, because such conclusions are drawn from insufficient information and inadequate skills in the interpretation of both historical and scientific sources.

A striking thought arises – If the Ludwig Museum and, as they claim, other museums, were keen to participate in such an investigation, how did the Cologne museum find funding for such an undertaking? What institutions would have such issues at their heart?

In his Foreword, the Director of the Ludwig Museum, Yilmaz Dziewior, thanked especially the Russian Avant-Garde Research Project for their financial support, whose director, Konstantine Akinsha, contributed an historical article to the catalogue. Now this institute was founded and is funded by the Moscow President of Alfa Bank, Peter Aven, according to his own statements on the internet, and who has often come out in attacks on Russian Avant-Garde art “and all the fakes”. From the results of reports in the catalogue, then, Mr Aven seems to have achieved his goal for the moment. But there is much more work to do, much more research to be carried out, much more scholarship and scientific enquiry to be undertaken and published before the Russian Avant-Garde can be so easily slapped down. Especially since most of Mr Aven’s own collection comes from the same sources as many of the works here discredited. If the same criteria of analysis were applied to his works as to those in the Ludwig Museum, would they not be subject to the same fate? So are his works fakes, too, or are the works in the Ludwig Museum actually genuine after all?

Dr. Patricia Railing
President, InCoRM
4 October 2020

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WIESBADEN – During the last week of April 2019 and the first week of May 2019, about 1,600 Russian Avant-Garde works of art were returned to their owners. This was in accord with the ruling of the Wiesbaden Landesgericht court in March 2018, the delay caused by administrative details and certain unresolved issues.

The March 2018 ruling stated that the court had found no “ring of forgers”, as claimed by the German police, the BKA, in their Press Release of 13 June 2013 following the seizure of the some 1,600 works and their related documents. The prosecution had failed to prove their case, and the tiger had turned into a mouse.

The painters whose work was returned include the best of the Russian Avant-Garde – Kazimir Malevich, Vasily Kandinsky, Olga Rozanova, Ivan Kliun, Marc Chagall, Alexandra Exter, El Lissitzky, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and many lesser known artists. Together these works provide a wide historical picture of the Russian Avant-Garde which we have from nowhere else.

It is with great joy that these works, and their painters, can now enter, again, the world of art history – of museums, art historians and scientific experts. One can only look forward to exhibitions of works from these collections so that their importance, innovation and beauty can be seen and appreciated by the public.

Admin. 28 May 2019

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Statement of the 2018 Annual Conference of CIMAM

International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art

Stockholm, 2-4 November.

  • Catherine de Zegher, Fake Art or Fake News?
  • Open Letter and Signatories 10 & 15 October 2018

In the wake of allegations about paintings from the Russian Avant-Garde collection of Igor and Olga Toporovski exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent from October 2017 to January 2018, there has been considerable support for the director, Catherine de Zegher, from the museum world. An Open Letter was published on 9 October 2018 signed by 66 museum directors and curators as well as artists. This is now followed by a Statement from the 2018 Annual Conference of CIMAM, International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, held in Stockholm, 2-4 November. It is published here, followed by the Editorial of Catherine de Zegher, Fake Art or Fake News?


10 October 2018

About 7 months ago, we learned through the press that Catherine de Zegher had been temporarily suspended as Director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Ghent (MSK). It followed a 7 weeks media campaign of allegations made against the museum and its presentation within the permanent collection of the Russian avant-garde art from the Dieleghem Foundation, based in Brussels. The media allegations had risen to a crescendo, with the most extravagant claims being made, claims, which on examination appeared to have no factual basis and no discernible verifiable evidence. Malign motives were imputed to all those involved with the exhibition. In particular the personal attacks against Catherine de Zegher reached a peculiar and unprecedented intensity that resulted in a trial by media. Under pressure of the escalating and widespread attacks the city of Ghent caved in and temporarily suspended Catherine de Zegher.

Today, October 10, 2018, most obviously Catherine de Zegher’s position as “temporally suspended museum director” has not been clarified, and no additional scientific research or independent material-technical expertise have been initiated by municipal, regional, or national government authorities in Belgium to settle the authenticity of the Russian avant-garde works exhibited at the MSK. As a consequence, the mendacious allegations against her are kept alive and the situation seems to be lingering without solution in sight.

The scope of allegations and measures of isolation of a director and curator internationally recognized for her artistic vision, her championing of art by women and art from diverse cultures, her broad knowledge and expertise, her ceaseless curiosity, the relevance of her museum programming and the quality of her widely influential exhibitions and many books, stupefy us.

Just before the local and international press attack, Catherine de Zegher successfully accomplished the complete reinstallation of the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts. Behind the concept ‘From Bosch to Tuymans’, under her direction, the MSK had reinstalled some 600 works from its collection together with loans from private collections, and integrating contemporary projects in a dialogue with the historical works. This reinstallation had been and still is enthusiastically applauded by the international museum world.

Over a period of 5 years (2013-2018), Catherine de Zegher has given a totally new impetus to the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, developing a unique and historically significant perspective with exhibitions including the work of lesser known artists and many women artists as well as exhibitions of artists and movements within the MSK expertise area of art from the 19th and 20th century and from its collection. She was working on more exhibitions of artists never shown in Belgium, such as Medardo Rosso and the upcoming Baroque exhibition around Artemisia Gentileschi, as well as preparing the international monograph exhibition of the Flemish master Jan van Eyck for 2020. Catherine de Zegher was one of the very few art professionals in a senior position in a Flemish art museum to have had an international career across 4 continents and to have brought artists whose work and ideas would otherwise have been lost to a wide and appreciative audience.

Catherine de Zegher has a long and illustrious career as director and curator of groundbreaking exhibitions and author of acclaimed publications, such as America: Bride of the Sun. 500 Years of Latin America and the Low Countries (1992) at the Royal Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp, and Inside the Visible. An Elliptical Traverse of Twentieth-Century Art in, of, and from the Feminine (1994-1996) at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. She was the Artistic Director of the 5th Moscow Biennale (2013) and of the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012). She curated On Line. Drawing Through the Twentieth Century (2010-2011) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and was the Director of Exhibitions and Publications at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Previous to this position, from 1999-2006, she was for many years the Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Drawing Center in New York. Over the years, she has received Best Show awards from AICA and AAMC and became a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.

We are art professionals, academics and artists. We love art, museums and audiences. To promote art as joy, energy, and source of imagination and as critical reflection on the past and the present, and to interact and relate with wide audiences is, in our eyes, an essential concern for society at large. We are appalled to see how one of the preeminent women curators of her generation internationally, a wholly professional and widely acclaimed museum director, has been made the plaything of unscrupulous media and of international speculation in the art of the Russian avant- garde, resulting in a severe media process destroying her work and reputation. Through this letter, we affirm our full support for Catherine de Zegher as museum director and as curator. We challenge the local and national authorities concerned on the important issue of having, keeping, protecting and supporting visionary museum directors in their country, remaining independent in their judgement from the pressure media exert and the correlated hype and sensation, and above all from the growing influence of a certain art market linked with finance and power. We ask them to seriously pay attention to the role art and museums play in our cities, regions and in the society at large, the great principles they represent, and the necessity of having inspirational museum directors and curators to lead the way.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Artist, Finland
Yves Aupetitallot, Former Director Le Magasin, Grenoble
Manuel Borja, Director & Art Historian, Madrid
Sigrid Bousset, Curator Literature, Belgium
Benjamin Buchloh, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Modern Art, Harvard University, USA
Laurent Busine, Former Director MAC’s – Le Musée des Arts Contemporains – Site du Grand-Hornu, Belgium
Luis Camnitzer, Artist, Uruguay/USA
Piet Coessens, Director Roger Raveel Museum, Machelen-aan-de Leie, Belgium
Beatriz Colomina, Professor of Architecture and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Architecture, Founding Director of the interdisciplinary Media and Modernity Program, Princeton University, USA
Suzanne Cotter, Director Mudam, Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxemburg
Catherine David, Deputy Director, National Museum of Modern Art, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Joost De Clercq, Director Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium
Edith Dekyndt, Artist, Brussels
Sebastien Delot, Director LaM, Museum of Villeneuve d’Ascq, France
Ann Demeester, Director Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
Corinne Diserens, Curator, France/Belgium
Paul Dujardin, CEO Bozar, Center of Fine Arts, Brussels
Willem Elias, Professor Emeritus, VUB University Brussels
Bracha Ettinger, Artist, Israel
Ann Gallagher, Director of Collections, British Art, Tate, London
Nikolaus Gansterer, Artist, Vienna
Annemie Ghekiere, Belgium
Simryn Gill, Artist, Malaysia/Australia
Gabriel Gorodetsky, Professor, Quondam Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford
Monika Grzymala, Artist, Poland/Germany
Hélène Guénin, Director MAMAC, Nice, France
Mona Hatoum, Artist, Palestina/UK
Anton & Annick Herbert, Herbert Foundation, Ghent
Stefan Hertmans, Writer, Belgium
Craigie Horsfield, Artist, London
Ruth Herz, Former Judge at the Court of Cologne, Visiting Professor Birkbeck, University of London, author of ‘The Art of Justice’
Antony Hudek, Cultural Studies, KASK, Ghent
Cristina Iglesias, Artist, Spain
Ann Veronica Janssens, Artist, Belgium
Béatrice Josse, Director Magasin des Horizons, Centre national d’arts et de cultures, Grenoble Ricardo Lanzarini, Artist, Uruguay
Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, Director Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
Anna Maria Maiolino, Artist, Brazil
Bartomeu Mari, Director National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
Ine Mariën, Executive Advisor in Reputation & Stakeholder Management Brussels, Guest Lecturer Ghent University, Belgium
Brian Massumi, Philosopher & Social Theorist, Professor Communication Department, University of Montreal, Canada
Erin Manning, Professor Faculty of Fine Art, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Catherine Mayeur, Art Historian and Art Critic, Belgium
Alan Michelson, Mohawk artist, USA
Anna Morochnik, Former Exhibition Director of Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, co-founder of SPASIBO studio
Avis Newman, Artist, UK
Everlyn Nicodemus, Artist, Writer and Art Historian, Tanzania/UK
Emma Nicolson, Director, ATLAS Arts & Guest Curator, Taigh Chearsabhagh, UK
Valerie Oleynik, Former Project Director of Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, co-founder of SPASIBO studio
Alexandra Paperno, Artist, Russia
Giuseppe Penone, Artist, Italy
Griselda Pollock, Professor of Social & Critical Histories of Art, Director, Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory & History (CentreCATH), School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (FAHACS), University of Leeds, UK
Lucien Posman, Composer, Founder and honorary Chairman of ComAV, The Flanders Composers Archipelago, Member of the Royal Academy for Science and the Arts of Belgium
Laurence Rassel, Director ERG, Brussels
Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger, Artists, Switzerland
Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Artist, Belgium
Luc Tuymans, Artist, Belgium
Paul Vanden Broeck, Former Curator Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp
Barbara Vanderlinden, Art critic, Editor and Curator, Brussels
Ria Verhaeghe, Artist, Belgium
Bart Verschaffel, Professor Architecture and Urban Planning, Ghent University, Belgium Cecilia Vicuna, Artist, Chile/USA
Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, New York
Marie Zolamian, Artist, Belgium


Marie-Claude Béaud, Director Nouveau Musee National de Monaco
Andrea Biaconi, Artist, Italy
Chris Dercon, former Director Tate Modern, London
Karin Hanssen, Artist, Belgium
Stella Lohaus, Galerist, Antwerp
Enrico Lunghi, former General Director, Mudam Luxembourg
Anthony Parton, Professor of Art History, Durham University, UK
Paul Robbrecht, Architect, Belgium
Alia Syed, Artist, UK
Maria Valyaeva, former Senior Curator, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Lissa Wolsak, Poet, USA/Canada

See, Catherine de Zegher on wikipedia.

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