A Legacy of War: Fake Art in Vietnam

Old Article but Still Interesting **DB

A Legacy of War: Fake Art in Vietnam

by Seth Mydans via “NY Times

A Legacy of War: Fake Art in Vietnam

“HANOI, Vietnam — Even the director of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum here doesn’t know how many of the artworks and artifacts under his care are genuine and how many are extremely skillful copies. But he says he is going to try to find out.

Many works at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum could be copies that were made to replace the endangered originals during the Vietnam War. Now it is unclear which are real and which are fake.
Bui Thanh Phuong in his home, with works by his father, Bui Xuan Phai. He called the unmonitored art switch “a disaster.”There are nearly 20,000 of these mystery objects, on the walls and in storage, including paintings, sculpture, lacquerware, pottery, ancient statues and traditional crafts.

“We are making efforts to have a comprehensive review of items on display and in our warehouse,” said the director, Truong Quoc Binh. “After we evaluate the whole exhibit, we will try to label them all to show if they are original or not.”

Mr. Binh has been addressing questions about authenticity a lot lately. Curators and artists have been aware of the issue for years, but it became a matter of public discussion only in April, when it was raised at a conference on copyright in Danang.

In large part, the confusion is a legacy of the war with the United States, which ended in 1975, and to a lesser extent of a brief border war fought with China in 1979.

In the late 1960s, fearing that the United States would bomb Hanoi, then the capital of North Vietnam, museum officials removed hundreds of important artworks for safekeeping in the countryside.

To replace them on the museum walls, it commissioned copies: some by the original artists, some by the artists’ apprentices, some by skilled copyists in the museum’s restoration department. They were brilliant reproductions — or variants, as the Vietnamese called those paintings copied by the original artists.”

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