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China Shuts Down Museum Showing Thousands of Fake Artefacts

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

China is currently undergoing a huge boom in museums; 299 new ones have opened in the last year alone. And just like the US's own 20th century museum boom, which inspired cascades of forgeries, China's is bringing out the fakes: the government has shuttered one museum where a third of the 8,000 artefacts were fake.

According to the Guardian, the Lucheng museum was closed down after government officials caught wind of many "ancient" artefacts that were actually of much, much, much more recent provenance.

The antiques scene is currently booming in China. The country recently passed the United States as the world's biggest art and auction market. But with a booming art market come the forgeries, and as The New York Times recently reported in a deep dive on art fraud China, many investors are having trouble verifying the authenticity of their buys. Last July, the Guardian reported on a similar story involving 40,000 fake artefacts:

Pictures posted by the state-run China Radio International (CRI) showed the vase decorated with bright green cartoon animals, including a creature resembling a laughing squid. "Similar fake museums are found in many places in China in search of monetary gain," CRI quoted the Chinese antiques expert Ma Weidu as saying at the time.

While the sheer scale of China's museum and art market growth is stunning, it's far from the only boom-time country that's had a problem with fakes. Just look at the US: back in the early 20th century, during the golden age of American museums, countless fake artefacts were displayed as real. There were the fake mummy faces. And the fake Egyptian carvings. So many fakes, there are even museum shows curated entirely of the most famous ones.

So while 2,500 fake artefacts might seem like a lot, it's entirely likely that other museums have just as many fakes floating around in their collections—though perhaps not at so high a ratio. Forgeries, in a way, could be seen as a sign of health; when the market booms, so do the fakes. [The Guardian]

Lead image: F.Schmidt.