NORWOOD, MASS. — Controversy has arisen over an Eighteenth Century Chinese famille rose double gourd vase that sold for $1.7 million during an auction conducted by Altair Auctions on March 30. Allegations followed that sale with claims that the vase was a modern reproduction that would typically be valued at a few thousand dollars and that the provenance provided for the vase had been fabricated. An article published in The Boston Globe on May 12 outlined the controversy and other nagging problems for Altair’s owner, Benjamin Wang.
For its part, Altair acknowledges that the vase’s consignor apparently supplied false provenance, but stands by valuation of the object as authentic. Through its lawyer, Orestes “Rus” Brown, the firm said it would welcome an independent appraisal of the vase by a qualified third party. “We’ve offered to ask whatever expert they’d like… to offer a third-part opinion,” said Brown. “Obviously, the consignor made a serious mistake in placing the Christie’s sticker on the bottom of the vase, but that does not mean the vase itself is not authentic,” he said.
Brown further stated that a letter has been sent by Wang to the successful bidder stating that the auction house will rescind the sale, if desired.
“So far, we’re unaware of any investigation being conducted by anyone in this matter,” said Brown in an apparent response to the Globe’s statement that “The aborted vase sale has already attracted the attention of the Department of Justice, which is beginning an investigation into whether Wang, Hau [the consignor], or others deliberately misled potential buyers...”