German museum closes terracotta warriors exhibit after figures revealed as fakes
A German museum has reportedly closed an exhibit featuring several of China's terracotta warriors, following the revelation that the clay figures on display are fakes.
The Hamburg Museum of Ethnology said Wednesday that it has closed its Power in Death exhibit, according to the Bloomberg wire service.
The exhibit, which opened in late November and was scheduled to run until September 2008, included what were billed as authentic artifacts from Xi'an, China, including eight of the restored clay figures known as the terracotta warriors.
Last week, rumours that the figures were fakes began surfacing in the German media, who cited Chinese officials saying that other than the much-touted exhibit at the British Museum in London, there was no record of any current loan of the more than 2,000-year-old figures to museums outside China.
Centre of Chinese Arts and Culture, an exhibition company based in Leipzig, Germany, organized the show, which the museum estimates has drawn approximately 10,000 visitors so far.
Amid the growing controversy, a spokesperson for the company admitted on German TV late Tuesday that the figures were copies, though he stressed how close they were to the originals.
He said the figures had been obtained by public authorities in China and that museum officials knew that the figures on display were copies.
Wulf Kopke, director of the Hamburg museum, denied his staff had any knowledge that they were displaying fakes and has ordered admission refunds for any of the 10,000 visitors who feel they were duped by the show. Earlier this week, the museum put up a sign informing visitors that the authenticity of the exhibit was being investigated.
According to local media, the Centre of Chinese Arts and Culture was also behind a terracotta warriors exhibit in Leipzig two years ago, but in that case, visitors were told the figures on display were duplicates.
The terracotta warriors are among China's most well-known cultural artifacts and, in the past, the country has occasionally allowed sanctioned duplicates to be made. It is unknown if the Hamburg figures are authorized copies.
Unauthorized versions of the nearly life-sized sculptures are also prevalent in China, which has developed a reputation for black-market reproductions of everything from fine artwork to name-brand electronic goods.
The British Museum has seen huge attendance for its exhibit of the terracotta warriors, which organizers dubbed the largest such display ever seen outside of China.
Farmers attempting to dig a well in Xi'an in 1974 foundthe terracotta figures. Theydate from about 2,200 years ago and were buried to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang.