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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

LACMA virtually denies all allegations about forgery of ‘Korean Treasures’ exhibit

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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has virtually reversed its previous stance on the potential forgeries of works by famous Korean artists in a recent exhibit. LACMA announced its intention to produce a publication on the alleged forgeries, which is expected to reignite controversy in the art world.

LACMA responded to the exhibition’s controversy on forgery on July 6, four days after the Korea Daily emailed inquiries.

“LACMA has confidence in the scientific findings that our research has produced to date, and we are committed to continuing to conduct additional research on works in the Chester and Cameron Chang Collection,” LACMA said in a statement, adding “Further contextualization of these works and their art historical significance will appear in future LACMA publications both online and in print.”

Although the exhibition has ended, banners of the Korean Treasures exhibit still hang at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on July 8. The banner’s painting is a portrait “Artist’s Daughter” (1957) by Kim Kwanho, donated by Chester Chang and featured in the exhibition. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

This is in stark contrast to LACMA’s response to the Korean art community at a meeting held on June 26, where the museum acknowledged the possibility of forgery for paintings and ceramics from the Joseon Dynasty and four paintings by Lee Jung-seob and Park Soo-keun. After the meeting, LACMA Director Michael Govan said that the museum would cancel the publication of the planned exhibition catalogue.

However, LACMA Communications Director Jessica Youn claimed that “there was no catalogue ever planned for this show.”

In other words, while the director of the LACMA said that the museum had planned to publish a catalogue, Youn said that it was never planned in the first place.

In the statement on July 6, LACMA responded to the allegations, arguing that the findings of two scientific analytical reports commissioned in 2015 and 2017 by Chester Chang from the former Center for Art Materials Analysis (CAMA) were consistent with the reported styles of Park Soo-keun and Lee Jung-seob and that the materials were identified as having been used by the artists during the purported timeframe when they were created.

It also noted that a 2022 report based on an examination by LACMA’s Painting Conservation Laboratory of all the mid-20th century Korean oil paintings donated by Chester Chang found that none of the paintings have any characteristics that would suggest they are not from the 1950s or 60s, and that their materials and patterns of wear and damage appear to be consistent with paintings of the age.

In addition, LACMA claimed that the paintings by Lee Jung-seob and Park Soo-keun, as well as the ceramics that have been accused of being forgeries, are authentic.

“Several pre-modern ceramic works whose authenticity were questioned were subjected to thermoluminescence testing at Oxford Authentication in the United Kingdom in 2007 and were proven unequivocally to date to the 18th and 19th centuries during the Joseon dynasty,” LACMA added. “To put to rest any remaining doubts about the dating of the Chang Collection ceramics, LACMA will test all ceramics that have not been previously tested with the thermoluminescence method and publish the test results.”

The controversy over the exhibition of fake paintings, which had been settling down after LACMA acknowledged the possibility of forgery at the recent meeting with Korean experts, has entered another phase with LACMA’s shifting stance. If LACMA proceeds with the publication after its investigative research, the debate over the authenticity of the work is likely to resurface once again.

The Korea Daily has officially requested an interview with LACMA regarding the contents of the statement but has not received a response as of 6 p.m. on July 8.

[jang.yeol@koreadaily.com, jang.suah@koreadaily.com, kim.kyeongjun1@koreadaily.com]