Monday 6 January 2014

Sotheby's denies forgery claims

Following allegations that a piece of Chinese calligraphy sold at auction in New York in September 2013 is a fake, Sotheby's have been compelled to issue a statement insisting that the artwork in question is genuine.

By way of background, the Wall Street Journal explained last month:
An ancient Chinese scroll, which went under the hammer for $8.2 million at an art auction in New York, has become the focus of an intense debate between the auction house that sold it, the wealthy collector who bought it, and a trio of museum experts who have denounced it as a fake.  
The public spat began Saturday when three art experts from the Shanghai Museum alleged that the calligraphy work, titled “Gong Fu Tie,” [pictured above] was a forgery. Purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in September by collector Liu Yiqian, the piece is attributed to the Song Dynasty poet Su Shi, who lived from 1037 to 1101 and is known by the literary name Su Dongpo.  
The three specialists scrutinized the work in the Xinmin Evening News, a state-owned newspaper based in Shanghai. They added that they plan to release a research paper giving more details about why they believe the piece to be a counterfeit. 
Last week, the three experts published their findings in the China Cultural Relics News. They maintain that the calligraphy is a forgery produced using a special technique from the late Qing Dynasty. In response, Sotheby's insisted that the piece is genuine, and have said that their experts will also provide a more detailed response within 10 days.

This very public debate over the authenticity of an artwork sold at auction to a private collector is quite unusual. It seems particularly rare for a major museum to stand up to such a big auction house. However, it remains to be seen whether the intervention will have any effect on a sale that has already taken place.

Source: Wall Street Journal, 23 December 2013, Want China Times, 4 January 2014

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