Is this Chinese bird giving you the bird?

Detail of “Eagle Standing on a Pine Tree” 
by Chinese artist Qi Baishi.
Is the painting real... or a fake?

I found an excellent article in The New York Times that goes into more detail about the problems that plague buying and selling art in China. Fraud in the art world is nothing new, but in China, the market has grown so fast that fraud is rampant. In auctions, "straw bidders" will routinely bid on artworks that they have no intention of actually buying, so that prices - and commissions - will rise.

Not only that, but in many auctions, the winners don't pay their winning bid, yet the auction houses report the artworks as having "sold" for that price, therefore inflating the value of the art.

In one auction, half the art that was "sold" was never paid for.

China also has a major cultural difference from the west when it comes to art. Here, we celebrate what's new and different. In China, traditional and historical works are valued. Since those traditional artists are dead and not creating any more works, conditions are ripe for fraud as modern-day artisans recreate traditional works and pass them off as originals.

Add this to the fact that the newly wealthy and want-to-be wealthy are all searching for the bird that will make them even more money.

There are more insights in the article.

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