A woman looks at a painting by the Chinese master Qi Baishi at a museum in Zhejiang. (Photo/CFP)
Collecting art has become popular in China, both as a means of enjoying one's wealth and as an investment strategy to protect its value, and the market has reached billions of yuan in transactions every year. Some working in the industry caution however that many of the works up for sale are fakes, reports Xinhua's Economic Information Daily.
Replicas of works by famous artists have been widely circulated in the market as it grows, according to Liu Wenjie, an art connoisseur. The auction market does not protect customers as there are no regulations for the sale of counterfeits, said Liu, adding that he has seen many collectors spend millions and billions of yuan on fake works.
The influential and prolific painter Qi Baishi (1864-1957) claimed to have completed about 8,000 works in his lifetime. This compares with around 25,000 works purported to be by Qi which have surfaced since the 1990s. Some figures in the industry estimate that 90% of the artist's works are replicas.
The same is true of ceramic and bronze works. "It's all because of speculation," said a senior collector surnamed Zhang, attributing the flood of replicas to the lure of making a quick profit on art. The traditional meaning of collecting art has been ruined, Zhang said; what was once a small, dedicated group of collectors has now turned into a boisterous crowd; and collectors trumpet their purchases loudly where it used to be a private affair. Buying art has become an economic action, not a cultural one, Zhang said.
"Less than 1% of the collectors across the country can be counted as real collectors. The rage for collecting art is mostly speculation," sighed Chen Kelun, deputy curator at the Shanghai Museum.
Liu Wenjie 劉文傑
Qi Baishi 齊白石
Chen Kelun 陳克倫