Germany’s fake terracotta warriors – seems even the museums get duped sometimes

GERMANY-FAKE Terra Cotta Warrior

Somehow I missed this one (which dates all the way back to 2007).  While I have to admit its a bit cynical to say it, I find this absolutely hilarious (on so many levels, I can’t even begin to touch on all of them).  From rampant piracy in China, to its historical context concerning fakes to the gullible nature of foreigners doing business in china. Either way, for any of us who have burned a few bucks on a item we thought was “an authentic antique,” its good to know that from time to time even the experts get taken for a ride.



A fake at the Hamburg museum. On of our own “authentic fakes 😉

German museum admits terracotta warriors are fakes

More than 10,000 visitors to an exhibition of terracotta warriors in Hamburg are to be offered refunds after organizers admitted the figures on display are fake. Germany’s art world was stunned by the scandal, which came to light when officials from Xian, the home of the 2,000-year-old clay army, said they were unaware that they had lent any of their figures to Germany and that those on display at Hamburg’s Museum of Ethnology could not possibly be real as the originals were all elsewhere.

Chinese experts are on their way to the northern port city to examine the objects in the Power of Death exhibition, which consists of eight clay warrior figures, two horses and 60 smaller artefacts including bronze vessels, weapons and tools. German art detectives have launched their own investigation.

A spokesman for the Leipzig exhibition company, Centre of Chinese Arts and Culture (CCAC) which arranged the show, reluctantly admitted on German television that the figures were copies. But he was keen to stress the figures’ similarity to the originals.

“First of all one has to say that the material clay was also used in those days. Then one can say that these figures are the same size as those in Xian, but in any case they are not originals,” Yolna Grimm said. He added that the figures had been obtained from public authorities, institutes and businesses in China.

The company also organised a show of terracotta warriors in Leipzig two years ago, but there visitors were explicitly told that they were viewing copies.

Wulf Köpke, director of the Museum of Ethnology, said he had agreed to the exhibition on the firm understanding that the exhibits were genuine and the company had assured him that was the case.

“The CCAC presented us with certificates of authenticity, but not documentation proving how they had been transported,” he said.

The museum has not managed to free itself from suspicion of involvement, particularly as the figures for exhibition were delivered after dark. “The fact that the warriors came to the museum in the dead of night adds to the sense that deception was at play,” wrote Die Welt newspaper.

Grimm of the CCAC insisted he had never claimed the figures were original. “There was never a word about originals in the Hamburg contract,” he said.

China’s state office for the administration of cultural artifacts in Beijing, said it was likely that the exhibits were illegal copies. “It looks like this is a problem with the protection of copyright,” a spokesman told German media.

Authorities in Xian confirmed that the only exhibition of the clay soldiers that had been authorized was the ongoing First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum in London, China’s biggest ever overseas loan of the figures.

Many have questioned the timing of the row. China recently heaped criticism on Germany after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, paid a visit to the chancellor, Angela Merkel. Political leaders promised that Germany’s refusal to stop the visit would have “consequences”.

Until now the Chinese authorities have often turned a blind eye to terracotta warrior fakes, even allowing a controlled number of authorised fakes to be made by certified manufacturers. It is not clear whether the Hamburg exhibits were authorised copies.

Hamburg’s museum has now put up a sign informing visitors that the authenticity of the exhibits is in doubt. “Some or all of the objects in the exhibition that are said to be authentic may in fact be copies,” the sign reads.

An “authentic rare blue terre cotta warrior” on a customers balcony ;-)

German art critics have called it the “art crime of the decade”, saying that exhibition-goers have been conned in what could be one of the biggest copyright infringement cases Germany has ever known.

The terracotta army was uncovered around three decades ago by a farmer digging a well. It comes from the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, who spent more than 20 years laying the foundations of modern China before his death in 210 BC. The clay soldiers were created to protect him in the afterlife.

Original article from the guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 December 2007

See also:

http://www.danwei.org/art/whos_to_blame_for_hamburgs_fak.php

German dresses as ancient terra cotta warrior, mimics them at museum

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2 Comment

  1. Ann says:

    Wow, I never heard that story either. I guess it does not matter that much if you see the real thing or a (very very good) replica, as long as you get a sense of it, and – of course – the museum is honest about it!

    I believe some of the Warriors touring in the US at the moment are replicas as well?

  2. Roger says:

    Hard to say but you would think anyone with a certain level of expertise would almost immediately know something was off. From what I can see, they look like the standard replicas which we sell – which I cannot imagine anyone mistaking for one of the real ones!

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