Art Historians Claims Sotehby's Sold Fake Screen

The NY Times is reporting that Sotheby's is being accused by a group of Chinese art historians it recently sold a fake Chinese scroll for $8.2 million.  The scroll was offered as a being created one thousand years ago, but now there are claims it is from the mid 19th century.

Sohteyb's stands by its description but stated it will investigate the claims. There have been many negative reports in the press recently on issues with collecting Asian items with many fakes and mis-representations.  Let the buyer, and the appraiser beware.

The NY Times reports
SHANGHAI — The work “Gong Fu Tie” was billed as a masterpiece of Chinese calligraphy created a thousand years ago, a scroll dominated by just nine characters, set with fluid brush strokes by the Song Dynasty poet Su Shi.

Sotheby’s put the work up for auction in New York last September, expecting it to fetch up to $500,000. After fierce bidding it was acquired for $8.2 million by a wealthy Shanghai businessman and collector, Liu Yiqian.

But just months before it was to go on display at Mr. Liu’s private museum here in Shanghai, three art historians have declared the work a forgery, probably produced in the 19th century using an old method for copying and retracing art works.

The art historians, who are affiliated with the state-run Shanghai Museum, said the scroll Mr. Liu acquired was created between about 1820 and 1871 using a stone carving, not even the original work.

Sotheby’s issued a statement shortly after the allegations were made saying that the auction house stands by the work and intends to investigate the matter.

“Sotheby’s firmly stands by the attribution of ‘The Gong Fu Tie Calligraphy’ to the Song Dynasty poet Su Shi,” the auction house said. “We have not yet been presented with the report referenced in recent media accounts, but take all matters of authenticity seriously and look forward to reviewing and responding to any questions raised. Sotheby’s adheres to the highest ethical standards in the marketplace and reserves all of its legal rights in this matter.”

If the work is deemed a forgery it could be a major setback for Sotheby’s, which is expanding in China and marketing its high standard of expertise to collectors in and outside of China. Like Christie’s, Sotheby’s competes on its reputation and its ability to stand by the authenticity of the works it puts up for auction.

Still, because of Chinese government restrictions neither Sotheby’s nor Christie’s is allowed to sell ancient Chinese paintings or art works that are defined as cultural relics in mainland China. When they auction such works it is typically done in New York, London and Hong Kong.

Over the weekend Mr. Liu, the Shanghai collector, told local Chinese journalists that he was surprised by the finding of the Shanghai art historians and that he would await a review by Sotheby’s and independent experts. If the work turns out to be a forgery he expects to get a refund, he said.

A Shanghai Museum spokesperson said the scholars could not be reached for comment Monday but that they would publish a report on their findings.

The controversy over the Su Shi works comes at a time when Chinese auction houses are under scrutiny for selling fakes and forgeries, which experts say are now widespread in the Chinese art market.

But China’s tradition of copying old works to preserve them but also to learn traditional techniques goes back centuries and makes it difficult even for leading scholars to determine the authenticity of a piece.

The piece by Su Shi (1037-1101) was considered one of the greatest works of calligraphy, and had seals indicating it had been owned by other great Chinese artists and scholars.
Source: The NY Times

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