Forbes Calls Chinese Contemporary Art a Scam claims that the Chinese Contemporary Art market was a warning sign for the conduct of the entire Chinese investment economy.

In the contemporary art market, as Forbes detailed a year ago, China’s pay-for-play culture was a perfect match for the self-dealing ethos of the art world. Top Chinese artists were mass-producing paintings in almost assembly-line fashion, selling them directly out of their studios in unknown quantities for up to hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. Auction houses were working with lesser-known artists, galleries and dealers to bid up their works and set a good public price for private sales.

Artists routinely paid critics for praise and museums for exhibitions to build up their brands. Want to get prime show space at a top national museum? Artistic merit is nice, but money talks. Want the cover of an art magazine, or a lengthy article inside? That is all for sale–and still is, but presumably at a deep discount now.

The game is up, but for those who got in early enough and got out, the money’s been made. “That whole Chinese collector cartel, it was kind of like a big Ponzi scheme,” says Philip Tinari, an art critic and curator in Beijing. People kept recruiting new buyers to pour more money into the market, driving up prices. “It was quite clear what it was.”

Chinese Art: Tricks of the Trade (