BEIJING Jan 14 Sotheby's has rebutted
claims that an $8.2 million Chinese calligraphic scroll it sold
at auction in New York last year is a fake, defending its
reputation as it seeks to gain a foothold in the fast-growing
China art auction market.
The New York-based auctioneer issued a 14-page document
authenticating the work by Song dynasty politician-poet Su Shi,
China's equivalent of one of Europe's Renaissance masters, which
had been expected to fetch in excess of $300,000.
The scroll, comprising just nine characters, went well past
that estimate, going under the hammer for $8,229,000, including
a buyer's premium of 12 to 25 percent.
The buyer, Chinese art collector and businessman Liu Yiqian,
was quoted by Chinese media on Tuesday as saying he believed the
work was real.
Sotheby's rejected assertions carried in the state-owned
China Cultural Relic News, and written by three Shanghai-based
researchers, that the more than 900-year-old scroll was not by
Su Shi, also known by the literary name Su Dongpo.
The controversy over the scroll was widely reported in the
Sotheby's conducted its own review and said in a statement
that an analysis of historical seals and brush work showed the
scroll "is of such a high quality that it could only have been
created by a masterly hand using a soft brush".
It asked the doubting researchers to provide a fuller
explanation of the basis of some of their claims.
Sotheby's has sought to establish itself in China as a
trustworthy seller of foreign and contemporary art, while
avoiding the scandals that have hit the local auction industry.
It held its first full China auction in December.
The Chinese auction market, which peaked in 2011, was
estimated to be worth anywhere between $4.74 billion and $12.10
billion in 2012, compared to $9.25 billion for the United States
and $4.76 billion for Britain.
Art fraud is common in China, but rarely leads to such
disputes. In 2011, a painting by 20th-century master Qi Baishi
was sold for $65 million at the Chinese auction house Guardian,
but the buyer refused to pay after questions of authenticity
The researchers first raised questions in December about the
authenticity of the "Farewell Letter to Gongfu" or "Gongfu Tie".
Researchers Zhong Yinlan and Ling Lizhong argued the scroll
was traced, based on similarities between the auctioned work and
some known phony items in the collection of the Shanghai Museum,
where Ling works.
Shan Guolin, the other researcher, also drew attention to
what he considered to be the scroll's unnatural brush strokes.
The three could not be reached for comment.
The scroll is meant to go on display later this year at the
Long Museum in Shanghai, a private museum based on the
collection of Liu and his wife Wang Wei.