China has become famous for its shanzhai culture of imitation, and now, to a long list of arty knockoffs that includes everything from iconic paintings to pop art, we can add museum tickets. Specifically, tickets to the Louvre.
Belgian customs officials seized a package from China containing some 4,000 counterfeit Louvre tickets last month, the Guardian reports — as if the Louvre isn’t already crowded enough! Also last month, staff at the museum began noticing Chinese tour groups with fake entry tickets of varying quality. Some had serial numbers and were “exact copies of the museum’s entry tickets,” while others were clearly printed on the wrong paper with ink that hadn’t dried correctly. The Paris state prosecutor has launched an investigation.
The Guardian points out that the Louvre isn’t the only museum to face a counterfeit ticket scandal in recent months: London’s Victoria and Albert Museum discovered about 50 “good quality” fakes used to gain entry to its recent David Bowie show. They were apparently sold on the internet (where else?).
Counterfeit ticket scandals have been relatively rare in the art world until now; we must just be hitting a sweet spot of increased tourism, museums’ popularity, and easily accessible technology for making fakes. There have, however, been notable issues in the past with museum ticket scalping. In 2011, the de Young Museum’s exhibition of works from the Musée D’Orsay was so popular that people were selling entry tickets, which originally cost $25, for as much as $80 on Craigslist. Later that same year, the National Gallery in London tried to deter scalpers reselling tickets for its Leonardo da Vinci show. Entry cost £16, or about $25 at the time, but bidders drove the price of a single ticket up to $389.01.