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‘Counterfeit’ painting sells for 90m yuanTeddy Ng in Beijing29 June 2012A controversial painting said to be by early 20th century master Xu Beihong has sold for nearly 90 million yuan (HK$110.48 million), despite suspicions in the art community that it is a counterfeit.After the sale on Monday, art critics and mainland internet users called for a revamp of the nation’s art-auction system, saying it is full of loopholes that do not hold sellers of counterfeit art pieces legally liable.The painting, called Jiu Fang Gao, is one of Xu’s signature works. Completed in 1931, it is said to depict Xu’s wish that the nation prioritise recruiting talented people to lead.The Shanghai Powerlong Auction Co sold the painting for 89 million yuan, a spokesman said yesterday. But allegations are rife that the painting is a fake. The spokesman defended the company’s procedures, but did not say whether it had authenticated the piece.“Concerning discussions online about whether the piece is genuine, I don’t think it can be decided by common people,” he said. “It needs to be determined by experts.”The auction house did not disclose the buyer’s identity, but mainland media reported that it was Zhang Zhenyu, who bought a painting called Shaoshan, by contemporary artist Li Keran, for 124 million yuan earlier this month.Auction prices of Chinese antiques and artwork have been rising in recent years, setting records, but many critics have alleged that some illicit businessmen were selling fakes.In February, China News Service reported that a jade stool and dressing table, thought to be ancient when they were sold for 220 million yuan at a Beijing auction last year, had been made in Jiangsu in 2010.Last year, 10 alumni of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts alleged that an oil painting, which portrayed a naked woman said to be Xu’s first wife, sold for more than 70 million in 2010, was painted by one of their classmates in 1983 - 30 years after Xu’s death.Ni Fangliu, an art professor at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, said such allegations showed that measures to protect buyers of art were insufficient.“The sellers do not say whether a piece is genuine. They have no obligation to prove whether it is real,” he said. “They just show the piece for the buyers to check, and if the buyers do not find any problems with it, then the sellers are not held legally liable.”Not everyone is taking the issue as seriously.“Regardless of whether [the artwork] is real or not, it is a good deal as long as it is sold for a high price,” one Weibo user said.
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