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Label: replicas

Wednesday 15th July 2015The Multi-Fake Art Theft

Art theft is one of the biggest dangers that plague the art world, despite the air of romance created by television and movies surrounding the dashing, rogue-ish cat burglar type of character. Sometimes, thefts aren't nearly so grand, but rather become infinitely more bizarre - after all, truth is almost always stranger than fiction. Never was this more true than in a recent case of art theft in China, at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. No dashing cat burglars, but a truly strange story nonetheless.

In fact, our antihero in this story is actually the (now former) Chief Librarian at the university, a man named Xiao Yuan. Over the course of several years, dating as far back as 2006, Xiao began to paint replica pieces of landscapes, calligraphies and other scenes by Chinese grandmasters, and swapping out the real pieces for his fakes, which he then took to the black market to sell. He amassed quite the fortune from this trade, and he managed to swap out over 140 paintings before he was caught. So far, this is actually likely to be much more common than we're lead to believe, but this is also the point when the story begins to get truly strange.

Xiao began to notice something odd happening to the replica masterpieces that he had hung himself on the walls of the galleries - they were suddenly being replaced by other fakes! Speaking during his trial in Guangzhou People's Intermediate Court, Xiao said,
"I realized someone else had replaced my paintings with their own because I could clearly discern that their works were terribly bad."

Xiao had made a huge fortune by selling the stolen works, estimated by Chinese authorities to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 34 million yuan, approximately $5.5 million USD, and is believed to have stolen several more paintings that are unaccounted for worth upwards of 70 million yuan, or $11 million USD. One is forced to wonder what became of the fakes that he painted that were replaced by other, as yet undiscovered parties - were they sold at auction on the black market as well? If so, there's no doubt some very unhappy people around who are going to be looking for answers. It also begs the question - how many of the masterpieces we have hanging in galleries in the West are unsuspected fakes? 

Posted on July 15th 2015 on 03:25pm
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Labels: art, fakes, replicas, theft
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