Faux Japanese-style artworks present in circulation after probe

A number of counterfeit Japanese-style art prints by master painters circulated after an art dealer in western Japan was found to have sold 10 counterfeits, people familiar with the matter said Monday.

The Japanese Association of Contemporary Print Merchants said the 1950s-based and Osaka-based trader sold 10 counterfeit works based on the artists of Nihonga or Japanese traditional arts – Ikuo Hirayama, Kaii Higashiyama and Tamako Kataoka.

The photo shows a painting by the late master painter of Nihonga or traditional Japanese art Ikuo Hirayama in Nara Prefecture on December 2, 2009. (Kyodo)

The dealer has admitted to having sold the counterfeit works to the association and was fired from the group in December. In the same month, according to investigative sources, police confiscated fake paintings related to the allegations.

The association began the investigation after a staff member discovered that an unusually high number of Hirayama works were in circulation last spring.

The forgeries were complex enough to deceive many except specialists. Since the signatures and coloring were a bit unnatural, the works were revealed to be forgeries when compared to original works kept in art museums.

Also on Monday, the Japanese department store operator Sogo & Seibu Co. announced that a total of 71 art prints sold between 2009 and 2020 with a turnover of around 55 million yen (520,000 US dollars) are suspected to be counterfeits.

Since receiving the report on Dec. 1, the retailer has identified 59 of 71 pieces and plans to fully refund those who purchased prints that have been rated by a third party and found to be counterfeit.

The police are investigating the case as a copyright infringement.