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$350,000 Vietnamese Painting Sold at Christie's Allegedly a Fraud

According to art dealers and collectors, rampant counterfeits may devalue Vietnamese paintings on the international market.

At least one Vietnamese painting recently sold at Christie's in Hong Kong is a fake, art researcher Pham Long told Tuoi Tre.

The artwork in question is To Ngoc Van's Dream of The Following Day, alledgedly a copy of The Young Beggar by 17th-century Spanish painter Bartolomé Estesban Murillo. The oil painting went on auction with a starting price of US$9,026 on May 28 and was eventually sold for US$350,000. Its aesthetic value, as Christie's website quotes the Vietnamese art expert Jean François Hubert, lies in its "strong realism and symbolism," which "is like a summary of To Ngoc Van's thoughts: change and hope will always rise."

Dream of The Following Day is said to have been acquired directly from the artist by French collector Claude Mahoudeau, who "recognized early the quality of To Ngoc Van's works."

However, Pham Long directs attention to the signature on the piece, indicating that this may be a fraud, as To Ngoc Van could not sign his name on copies he made of other artists’ paintings.

"The recent record sale of Le Pho's US$1.1 million painting will bring about a new height for reproductions of artworks by the students of the Indochina College of Fine Arts, of which this replica of To Ngoc Van is only the beginning,” he told the news source in Vietnamese.

In the past, forged artworks sold under the names of renowned artists — such as Le Pho, Vu Cao Dam, Nguyen Gia Tri and Bui Xuan Phai — have hampered the credibility of Vietnamese art at auction houses abroad.

Back home, museums and collectors also face difficulties procuring original artworks. Vietnamese buyers have only made fleeting appearances at international auctions, while Vietnamese paintings often go from one foreign owner to another, Tuoi Tre reports in a separate article. On the other hand, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts last year accidentally exhibited 15 replicas from the private collection of Vu Xuan Chung, who obtained them from the aforementioned expert Jean Francois Hubert.

Meanwhile, some are worried that foreign focus on Indochina College of Fine Arts students may be overlooking Vietnam’s growing contemporary art scene.

[Photo via Tuoi Tre]

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