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Fake Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami exhibits pop up in China

Contemporary artists threaten legal action for copyright infringement

An "Infinity Mirror Room" installation by Yayoi Kusama at the Rufino Tamayo museum in Mexico City. Kusama is known for her use of polka dots and mirrors.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Pirated DVDs and counterfeit handbags have been a headache for Chinese authorities. But even by Chinese standards, holding art exhibits consisting entirely of fake works would be considered outlandish. Yet Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese artist known for her iconic polka-dot patterns, has found out that somebody there is doing just that using her name.

The exhibits showing works claiming to be by Kusama and Takashi Murakami, another contemporary Japanese artist, were held in the cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Shanghai, starting in April of this year, according to Kusama's attorney, Yoshifumi Onodera.

Neither Kusama nor Murakami has any involvement in the exhibitions, and the works displayed, including paintings and objects featuring Kusama's polka dots, are believed to be fakes. Both artists are considering legal action against the parties involved.

They were billed online as a joint production by Kusama and Murakami. While some were free, visitors in Shanghai were charged roughly $10 for entry.

Kusama and her representatives believe a Chinese company pitched the idea to venue operators. The lawyers have already shut down the exhibit in Shanghai, which began in mid-September, and plan to pursue civil and criminal action once they identify the parties responsible.

"This is extremely malicious, and we are considering a similar response," Murakami's attorney Hiroshi Kamiyama added.

Copycats of Japanese manga and anime are common in China, but it is unusual for an entire art exhibit to be faked.

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