Monday, November 24, 2014

The Epidemic Of Reproductions and Fakes in the Chinese Art Market

Reproductions of Chinese Porcelains and Bronzes Flood The Globe


Over the last 20 years as interest in Asian Art, Chinese in particular, the very enthusiasm that created a market is now poisoning that same market driven ironically by an age old Chinese Tradition and raw greed as China awakes form it's half a century of abuse at the hands of the Communists.

China has long established itself as a nation fond of stealing and bootlegging everything from Louis Vuitton handbags to first run movies and computer software. All of this has gone on under the watchful and complicit eye of the Chinese Government, in many cases with their financial and regulatory assistance. For decades while pretending to crack down on such behavior, they have in fact been funding much more creation of fraud and bootleged goods than in helping remove it from the market. Its just how its done.
Epidemic Of Reproductions and Fakes in the Chinese Art Market
Imperial Chinese Bowl, 18th C. Qianlong Mark and of the Period.


The Epidemic Of Reproductions and Fakes in the Chinese Art Market

The Art Collection Explosion in China


Today, an irony of all irony's is in full swing. With the expansion of China's middle class, rising incomes, new millionaires being hatched every hour, the Chinese people's interest in their own culture and it's art has exploded. This renewed interest has lead many newly well to do Asian business people into the arena of collecting fine and rare Asian art. Unfortunately, as with all things, supply and demand has reared its ugly head causing a massive uplifting of prices on the market for these items. Bowls and Jade Carvings that once sold for a $2,000 to $50,000, are now commanding $150,000 to $4,000,000 and even more. Objects from the reign of Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong are particular favorites as well as "Republican Period" examples.

These treasures have become symbols in China of wealth and vehicles for Social acceptance among the upwardly mobile in Chinese culture. A very similar dynamic as has been seen over the years in the west with rare paintings, exotic cars and jewelry. Its an odd form of bragging rights, not unlike the newly well off who build an over sized houses or have a massive yacht built, though they have never owned a boat before. As a result the epidemic if reproductions and fakes in the Chinese Art market have reached previously unknown scale and proportions.

The conundrum, as any European or American art dealer will tell you, with high prices, come fakes, copies and reproductions. This is a pattern seen throughout history, during the Robber Baron Period in the late 19th and early 20th C. Hundreds of wealthy Americans and Europeans were taken to the cleaners by art dealers throughout Europe and America. JP Morgan, Getty, Frick, and many more got fleeced to pieces. Over the years dozens of Museums around the world have had to admit thousands of items in their collections are fraudulent and have been removed.


Bootlegging Chinese Antiques 

Doubly compounding the problem, never before has a massive Government backed effort been undertaken to assist in flooding an Art or Antiques market with fakes. Can you imagine if France or England started helping artists reproduce intentional fakes right down to providing scientific research on materials used to make detection of these deceptions almost impossible and then providing financial assistance to make it happen? As a result reproductions of Chinese porcelains and bronzes flood the globe like never before.

Well, this is exactly what is going on in China today, right now and has been happening for over 10 years, maybe 20. For decades, old pottery could be authenticated by the TL test (Nuclear Thermoluminescence Test) today that test is viewed as almost worthless as techniques using xray machines can make a fakes' test result appear antique. In later ceramics, they learned to test the glazes for proving age or lack there of. Now, they are overcoming this obstacle with the help of scientists working for the Chinese Government and grants to private laboratory's by altering the materials used in making glazes.

The end result, is a massive world wide influx of faked; Chinese ceramics, carved jades, bamboo, bronzes, scroll paintings and even furniture. These are being fed into American, European and Asian Auction Galleries by the container load and then bought by newly wealthy and ill informed collectors in China who are buying them back. Many buyers are wrongly assuming because they are in foreign lands, they must be authentic. If they only knew how wrong they are.

Fakes of Imperial Porcelains of the Ming and Qing dynasty's are a particular favorite and are now numbering in the millions of examples. Some are so good, even the major auction houses have found themselves having to withdraw numerous pieces after realizing they too have been duped.
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The Saga of the Bainbridge vase

A few years or so ago in England a vase was brought to market allegedly from the attic of a London home, discovered by family members while clearing an estate of a parent. It sold at Bainbridge Auctions (a very reputable firm) for a record 43,000,000 Pounds ...in the end it was according to rumors a fake and was never paid for. It was good enough though that it had many, many bidders who were willing to push the outer limits of price to buy it, all experts! Following the auction a number of well known dealers expressed deep reservations about the piece and the story behind it. Gossip is a dangerous thing..especially when it's being spouted by less knowledgeable aficionados.   In the end however the vase was deemed to be authentic and was resold in a deal brokered by Colin Sheaf of Bonhams for around $45,000,000 in Hong Kong.

<img src="filename.jpeg" alt="Bainbridge Qianlong Period vase">


Collections of Fakes and Copies In China Is A Massive Problem

So, today shelves and display cases throughout China are being filled with absolute fakes made within the last 10 to 20  years in China, many were intended to deceive western buyers.  Today, they are finding their ways back to China after a serpentine route via Ebay, warehouses in Canada, Midwest and small auctioneers throughout the world eventually working their way back to eager buyers in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In the end, the market for real pieces will suffer..despite many having long history's verifying their authenticity.