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  • Jul 27, 2018

Forgery of Christine Ay Tjoe Canvas Revealed

Left: the artist CHRISTINE AY TJOE in an interview from the 2015 Prudential Art Awards, via Youtube. Right: Detail of an authentic painting by Ay Tjoe, Demonic Possession (2016) from her 2016 exhibition at White Cube, London. The painting’s title is similar to one used by forgers of the recently disclosed scheme.

On July 24, Ota Fine Arts of Tokyo sent a notice to its clients warning that the gallery had uncovered a forged painting attributed to Christine Ay Tjoe. The gallery’s announcement said the work had been on the market since June 2017, and included an image of the forged two-paneled gestural abstraction titled Demonic Possession III – Riding The Dragon. Ota Fine Arts wrote that the painting was a “clear imitation that only superficially resembles the artist’s original style.” Additionally, the gallery included an invoice that was issued by an “Indonesian individual” who sold the work to its current owner. The price of the un-dated painting was listed as USD 137,000 on the invoice, which included a signature that looked vaguely like Ay Tjoe’s and her studio’s name.

Born and based in Bandung, Christine Ay Tjoe is one of the most sought-after contemporary artists from Southeast Asia. While largely abstract, her paintings sometimes incorporate figures, either realistically or partially portrayed, and they have an emotional intensity in their use of reds and pinks. In recent years, her work has attracted greater international market interest. In 2016, White Cube gallery held its first exhibition of her work in London. More recently, her canvas Left Layer and Right Layer (2010) was sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on March 31, 2018, for HKD 7.32 million (USD 930,000), far above the HKD 2–3 million estimate. The artist also makes installations for exhibitions such as her solo show at the Song Eun Art Space, in Seoul, in 2016.

Ay Tjoe’s increasing international attention and rising prices may have driven the forgery of her work. Other contemporary artists have endured forgery sagas, most notably Lee Ufan, dozens of whose paintings were forged and then sold to two dealers, a husband-and-wife team, in Seoul, who sold them onward to another gallery. That case became messy when Lee Ufan disagreed with officials and authenticated the 13 paintings police had seized as fakes.

While many galleries might try to cover up this discovery, it appears Ota Fine Arts is trying to get out ahead of the problem. The announcement said this was the “first forgery painting that both Ota Fine Arts and the artist came across” and asked for people to report any other works of suspicious authenticity to the gallery.
ArtAsiaPacific was shown the announcement by a collector of Ay Tjoe’s work who received the notice from the gallery. The announcement specifically stipulated not to reproduce the forged painting, which has areas of white and black paint appearing to cover blues and reds underneath.

HG Masters is ArtAsiaPacific’s editor-at-large.

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