Ex­pen­sive fake?

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG ZHENGHUA in Shang­hai wangzhenghua@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

De­spite the chal­lenge from three Chi­nese con­nois­seurs, Sotheby’s in­sists on the authen­tic­ity of an an­cient work of cal­lig­ra­phy that a Chi­nese buyer ob­tained at the in­ter­na­tional auc­tion house for $8.2 mil­lion this year.

The in­ter­na­tional auc­tion house Sotheby’s in­sisted on Sun­day on the authen­tic­ity of a cal­lig­ra­phy art­work bought by a Chi­nese col­lec­tor for $8.2 mil­lion this year, de­spite the chal­lenge from three Chi­nese ex­perts who say it is fake.

Over the weekend, the three schol­ars from the Shang­hai Mu­seum said they were about to de­liver a re­search re­port on a copy­ing method used in cre­at­ing fake works of cal­lig­ra­phy, in­clud­ing ev­i­dence that the Gong Fu Tie cal­lig­ra­phy, said to be by artist Su Shi (10371101), was pro­duced us­ing this method.

If they are right, the piece was cre­ated in the 19th cen­tury, about 800 years af­ter its sup­posed cre­ator died.

Ex­pe­ri­enced col­lec­tor Liu Yiqian bought the work, orig­i­nally val­ued at be­tween $ 300,000 and $ 500,000, at a Sotheby’s auc­tion in New York in Septem­ber.

The work, just nine char­ac­ters long, had been de­scribed as one of the finest ex­am­ples of cal­lig­ra­phy ever pro­duced and had been stud­ied by schol­ars for cen­turies.

“Sotheby’s firmly stands by the at­tri­bu­tion of the Gong Fu Tie cal­lig­ra­phy to the Song Dy­nasty poet Su Shi,” An­drew Gully, world­wide di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the auc­tion house, said in an e-mail in­ter­view on Sun­day.

“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,” he added.

“Sotheby’s ad­heres to the high­est eth­i­cal stan­dards in the mar­ket­place and re­serves all of its le­gal rights in this mat­ter.”

Liu, 50, a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur and a co-founder of the Shang­hai-based Long Mu­seum, said on Sun­day that the auc­tion house has promised to or­ga­nize world­wide mu­seum ex­perts to ap­praise the work’s authen­tic­ity, in view of the re­port to be de­liv­ered by the Shang­hai Mu­seum.

He said he will ask for a re­fund if the work is proved a coun­ter­feit.

“Sotheby’s has as­sured me that if the Shang­hai Mu­seum is right on the cal­lig­ra­phy, they will take steps to safe­guard buy­ers’ in­ter­ests as well as their rep­u­ta­tions,” he said. But if ex­perts from around the world agree that the Shang­hai Mu­seum is wrong, Sotheby’s will also try to safe­guard its rep­u­ta­tion through other means, he added.

The cal­li­graphic work has gained ap­proval from at least two late col­lect­ing mas­ters, ac­cord­ing to Liu. Xu Bangda (1911-2012) and Zhang Congyu ( 1914- 1963) hailed the art­work as a top-grade piece in their pub­lished manuscripts or an­tholo­gies.

“I never heard any con­trary opin­ion about the cal­lig­ra­phy be­fore,” Liu said, adding he has no idea why the piece be­came con­tro­ver­sial all of a sud­den.

But the con­tro­versy is a good thing, Liu said. “It will help re­veal the truths of his­tory.”

The three re­searchers from the Shang­hai Mu­seum, founded in 1952, could not be reached for com­ment on Sun­day.

Chen Yunke, a press of­fi­cer at the mu­seum, said the trio are re­spectable schol­ars with pro­found ex­per­tise in the ap­praisal of an­cient art­works.

One of the schol­ars is the mu­seum’s for­mer di­rec­tor of Chi­nese paint­ings and cal­lig­ra­phy Shan Guolin, and another is se­nior con­nois­seur Zhong Yin­lan. “They worked for their en­tire life at the Shang­hai Mu­seum be­fore their re­tire­ment,” Chen said.

The third re­searcher is Ling Lizhong, who still works for the mu­seum.

They claim the Gong Fu Tie cal­lig­ra­phy is a coun­ter­feit cre­ated some time be­tween 1820 and 1871 us­ing the con­ven­tional re­pro­duc­tion method of cov­er­ing the orig­i­nal cal­lig­ra­phy with a sheet of pa­per with bet­ter trans­parency, draw­ing the out­line of each char­ac­ter with a thin brush, and then fill­ing it in with ink.

The art­work had been sched­uled to go on dis­play from March 28 in a new cham­ber to be opened at the Long Mu­seum.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The Gong FuTie cal­lig­ra­phy was bought by Chi­nese col­lec­tor Liu Yiqian from Sotheby’s in Septem­ber.

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