International auction house Sotheby's on Friday insisted that an ancient work of Chinese calligraphy sold at an auction in September was a genuine piece by Su Shi, a famous Chinese poet of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
The statement came in response to accusations from three researchers from the Shanghai Museum saying that the calligraphic work was a forgery from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Sotheby's said its team of experts has read through the detailed research findings by the three researchers published in the China Cultural Relics News newspaper on Wednesday and will make a detailed response within ten days.
Earlier on Dec. 21, the three made general claims about the work's lack of authenticity in an article published in a local newspaper.
The auction house said it was shocked that the three experts of a world-class museum made rare public comments on the commercial movement of art works purchased by a private art collector.
Sotheby's also stated that it reserved all legal rights related to the case.
Famed art collector Liu Yiqian in Shanghai bought the calligraphic piece attributed to poet and calligrapher Su Shi for over 50 million yuan (8.3 million U.S. dollars) at an auction in New York in September last year.
The three researchers, Shan Guolin, Zhong Yinlan and Ling Lizhong, claimed that the calligraphy scroll, titled "Gongfutie," was a counterfeit produced using a particular technique from the late Qing Dynasty.
Two late renowned Chinese art collectors and appraisers had once spoken very highly of the calligraphic piece, the auction house said.
Most of Su Shi's authentic works have been collected by museums worldwide, and if the rare calligraphic work is proved authentic, then the price should not be regarded as too high, said Ma Weidu, another famed art collector.
"It would take time to determine whether it is fake or genuine. It has never been an easy thing in terms of appraisals of ancient Chinese calligraphy and painting works," said a manager from another auction house, who asked not to be named.
The claims by the three researchers have sparked a debate, as some say it is the norm for experts from public museums not to get involved in appraisals of art works sold in the market.
However, the three researchers also have supporters.
"The state-owned museums are financed by taxpayers' money and therefore should speak their opinions whenever the bottom line in the arts sector is tested," said Gu Cunyan, an art critic.
Although it takes time to seek out the truth, the case has rung warning bells for an increasing number of Chinese private art collectors who seek to bring back the country's "lost treasures" from overseas, experts said.
Many Chinese entrepreneurs and art collectors buy the country's lost cultural relics at auctions by Sotheby's and its rival, Christie's, often at inflated prices.
"In many cases, Chinese buyers pay inflated prices," said an art collector, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There are even fake ones among some so-called national treasures with price tags of over 100 million yuan."
The article above taught me a few things:
Even experts can contradict each other.
Experience and a keen eye is crucial where collecting antiques is concerned.
Regardless of what we do, we have to have a
little faith in ourselves.