Fake warriors 'art crime of decade', say German criticshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/13/germany.artnews
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Chinese experts are on their way to the city to examine the Power in 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 Xi'an, 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, which began on November 25, on the understanding that the exhibits were genuine and he had been assured 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. "The fact that the warriors came to the museum in the dead of night adds to the sense that deception was at play," Die Welt newspaper said.
Grimm said that 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 artefacts in Beijing said it was likely that the exhibits were illegal copies. "It looks like this is a problem with the protection of copyright," he told the German media.
Authorities in Xi'an confirmed that the only authorised exhibition of the clay soldiers was the First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum in London, where 120 artefacts, including 20 warriors, are on display in China's biggest ever overseas loan of the figures.
Many have questioned the timing of the row. China recently criticised Germany after Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, paid a visit to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Germany was warned that failure to call off 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 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.
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 in 1974 by farmers digging a well. It comes from the tomb of the emperor Qin Shihuangdi, who died in 210 BC after laying the foundations of modern China. The clay soldiers were created to protect him in the afterlife.
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