Xiao Yuan probably realized there was a problem when the fakes he had replaced the real paintings with were replaced with new fakes. The former head librarian at Guangzhou's Academy of Fine Arts faced a court in Southern China today, charged with stealing 143 old masterpieces and replacing them with forgeries he painted himself.
“I realized someone else had replaced my paintings with their own because I could clearly discern that their works were terribly bad,” said Xiao in a court video, according to The Guardian.
Xiao sold 125 of the paintings for a total of $6 million, he admitted to the court, according to the South China Morning Post:
The stolen works mentioned in the court transcript included paintings by influential 20th century artists Qi Baishi, who used watercolors, and Zhang Daqian, who depicted landscapes and lotuses. Zhang himself was considered a master forger.
Years after Xiao pulled off his forgery scheme, a former student of the institute stumbled across paintings with the university's official seal being sold in Hong Kong–and Xiao was arrested in May last year, the Telegraph reports. He's awaiting his sentence after pleading guilty to charges of corruption.