The Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts Tuesday publicly apologized for failing to verify the authenticity of 17 paintings on display at an exhibition that have been confirmed as fake.
A panel of famous artists and experts and officials found 15 of the paintings, supposedly the works of legendary artists such as Nguyen Tu Nghiem and Bui Xuan Phai, were copies.
Two others were found to be works of other artists. At least one living artist, Thanh Chuong, has claimed one of the two paintings as his.
All the paintings at the show are owned by Vu Xuan Chung, who claimed to have acquired them from Jean-Francois Hubert, a known expert on Vietnamese art and a former senior consultant for giant auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's.
The "Paintings returned from the Europe" exhibition opened on July 10 and soon faced forgery accusations from local artists and experts. It was originally slated to end on July 21.
Trinh Xuan Yen, deputy director of the museum, said it would keep all the paintings and ask relevant authorities to step in.
Luong Xuan Doan, vice chairman of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, called the scandal "an insult to Vietnam's fine arts."
"All local artists are outraged by the paintings which are bad and superficial copies. Anyone can see they are fake."
The "Abstract" painting by painter Thanh Chuong. Photo: Lucy Nguyen/Thanh Nien
Chuong, who said his work had been stolen and displayed at the exhibition under another artist's name, said the incident would at least help authorities crack down on the forgery of Vietnamese paintings that has been going on for many years.
Many people, including officials, have been aware of the problem but had no evidence until now, he said.
Speaking to Thanh Nien, Chung, the collector, said all the paintings' authenticity was certified by Hubert and that he trusts the French expert. It is not known how much Chung paid for the collection.
Hubert also insisted on the paintings’ authenticity in an interview with Thanh Nien.