New fine arts center to expose fakes

 A new center in Vietnam will work to protect the local fine arts market by exposing fakes and copycats, artists told a conference in Hanoi last week.

Ganh lua (Carry Rice) by Hoang Tich Chu

The conference at Vietnam Fine Arts Museum collected opinions on exactly how the Fine Arts Assessment Center, a facility to be established at the museum, would be organized and run. An opening date for the center was yet to be made clear.

Painters at the conference expressed their concern that fake and copycat paintings may be on display at national museums throughout Vietnam, including the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.

Painter Duc Hoa said he doubted that “Mua gat” (Harvest Time), a famous piece at the museum by Duong Bich Lien, was an original copy.

Le Huy Tiep, another painter at the conference, said the museum was still exhibiting paintings whose authenticiy had not been verified. Tiep said neither effort nor money had been given to authenticating fine arts pieces.

Art critic Le Quoc Bao said such authenticity was “the reason for the existence of a museum.”

Artists also recalled a case last October in which renowned artist Bui Thanh Phuong, the son of legendary painter Bui Xuan Phai, threatened to sue Sotheby’s for attempting to sell counterfeits of his father’s paintings.

Phuong alleged that four of five paintings auctioned by the British auction house in Hong Kong last October were forgeries of Phai’s work. He also said Sotheby’s had sold three other fakes as Phai’s works on April 8 last year.

Sotheby’s then cancelled the lot but Phuong insisted he take legal action against the auctioneer.

Artists at the conference said Phuong was not likely to win because Vietnam lacks the faculties, agencies and archives to prove anything in forgery cases.

The failure will depreciate the value of Vietnamese works on the global fine arts market, experts said.

The upcoming center is expected to import equipment and hire foreign experts in its first phase.

Cao Trong Thiem, former director of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, said the center should train future staff at fine arts universities and then send the staff to study overseas.

Tiep said the assessors don’t need to hold high degrees but should have real talent and ethics because their work is “very important, very sensitive and not free from traps.”

Dang Van Bai, former head of the Cultural Heritage Department at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism agreed, suggesting that the center invite experienced art collectors to assist with the project.

Bai said in the long term, the center would be used to test works outside the museum in line with market demand, and then organize auctions to make profit and become independent like similar centers worldwide.

VietNamNet/Thanh Nien/SGTT


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