Chinese Scroll Sold by Sotheby’s Fake?

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According to three art historians tied to the state-run Shanghai Museum a scroll supposedly dating from the Song Dynasty and painted by the poet Su Shi (detail above), which sold at Sotheby’s New York on September 19 for $8.229 million — way over its $500,000 high estimate — is in fact a 19th-century forgery. The New York Times reports that the scroll’s buyer, Chinese businessman and mega-collector Liu Yiqian, was planning to put it on view in his private collection when the mysterious trio of unnamed art historians released their findings.

Sotheby’s released a statement, quoted by the Times, in which the auction house maintains that the 11-inch-long scroll marked with nine characters in black ink — dated to between 1037-1101 — is authentic.

“Sotheby’s firmly stands by the attribution of ‘The Gong Fu Tie Calligraphy’ to the Song Dynasty poet Su Shi,” the statement reads. “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.”

Should the work turn out to be a forgery, it would be a major setback for Sotheby’s, whose competitor Christie’s recently became the first Western auction house to hold a sale in mainland China. Both houses are typically considered to be far better at discerning fakes and forgeries than the many auctioneers operating with relatively little oversight or regulation within China.

— Benjamin Sutton (@bhsutton)

(Image: Detail of “Gong Fu Tie,” attributed to Su Shi. Courtesy Sotheby’s.)