A museum in the southwestern city of Chongqing has been shut down less than two weeks after opening, following an accusation that it was exhibiting counterfeit artifacts.
In a statement Tuesday, Chongqing University said it was investigating the issue after an article published the day before on multipurpose app WeChat had flagged the collections — labeled as pieces created between the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.) and the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) — as fake. According to the article, the school boasted that the museum, inaugurated on Oct. 7, contained over 400 pieces of ancient artwork, including Buddha statues, jade carvings, and bronzeware.
The article’s author, who identified himself as Jiang Shang, told Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper on Tuesday he was skeptical after finding that the museum had not registered under the city’s relics bureau and had not been appraised by art experts. He added that the museum could have labeled the artifacts as first-grade cultural relics — the highest level for a particular piece — had they been authentic.
Jiang said he visited the museum and noticed historical discrepancies in some of the pieces. For example, a bronze chariot supposedly from the Qin dynasty was drawn by six horses rather than four, as depicted at a museum in Shaanxi province. He also suggested that some of the pieces seemed to have been made recently rather than during ancient times.
“The museum, which operated under private ownership, should not be exempt from public supervision,” said Jiang, who claims to have two decades of experience in the field of art.
The majority of the items exhibited at the museum were donated by one of the university’s professors, the renowned collector Wu Yingqi. The retired associate dean of the university’s arts and humanities department contributed more than 300 artifacts to the university in 2016 and in February added another 342 works — including 22 bronzeware items, 161 pottery and porcelain pieces, and 159 jade carvings.
In an interview with The Paper, Wu’s daughter objected to Jiang’s accusation and defended her father, saying all of the items had passed university appraisals prior to being exhibited. Chongqing University said in December 2015 that it had invited 14 domestic experts on museum construction and cultural relics to evaluate and appraise the value of the collections before Wu handed them over, according to domestic media reports.
The city’s cultural relics bureau told The Paper that it is investigating the Chongqing University museum, and authorities further said the museum had not been registered for approval with the bureau.
This is not the first time a museum in China has faced accusations of exhibiting counterfeit items. A top Chinese art institute in Beijing was mired in controversy earlier this year for deciding to exhibit reproductions of the famed artist Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings, while Japanese artists Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami threatened to sue Chinese exhibitors last year for displaying fake artwork under their names.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Photos of allegedly counterfeit items being exhibited at the museum of Chongqing University, October 2019. @凤凰网 on Weibo)