The New York Times has a long special feature on the Chinese art market and its penchant for reneging on auction bids whi, the paper says, is partly due to the rampant presence of fakes in the Chinese market, including this record-making Qi Baishi sold by China Guardian:
In the past 20 years, works attributed to Qi Baishi have been put up for auction more than 27,000 times in China.
In one sign of the mania, 5,600 works attributed to Qi Baishi came on the market in 2011, up from 381 works in 2000.
Qi Baishi, born in 1864 into a peasant family, herded cows and worked as a carpenter’s apprentice before taking up painting at 27. Fame came a few decades later, after he moved to Beijing and adopted a fluid, almost calligraphylike style, using an ink wash.
He specialized in vivid landscapes and portraits of nature, documenting begonias, dragonflies, grasshoppers, frogs, chickens, crabs and shrimp, lots of shrimp.
Scholars say he was prolific and estimate he produced between 10,000 and 15,000 works in his lifetime. Of those, about 3,000 are in the collections of major museums and some are assumed to have been destroyed during the Japanese invasion in the 1930s or during the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards looted and occupied his family’s home.
Auction records, though, show that more than 18,000 distinctive works by Qi Baishi have been offered for sale since 1993, an impossible number, if the expert estimates are right.
In a study this year, Artron said many of China’s leading modern artists are being counterfeited, but none more so than Qi Baishi. Arnold Chang, who ran Sotheby’s Chinese painting division in the 1990s, is equally emphatic.
“There is no doubt,” he said, “that there are far more works ascribed to Qi Baishi in the market than he could have possibly painted, even with an assembly line of assistants — which he supposedly had.”