AP NEWS

Paintings donated to private school actually reproductions

March 5, 2019

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Officials at an Oakland private school thought they were sitting on a small fortune after a donation of four Chinese paintings valued at $2.8 million.

The Pacific Boychoir Academy borrowed $400,000 against the windfall from the 2017 and 2018 donations to boost staff. They added an admissions director, a web designer, and a Latin teacher.

Then last month came the shocking news: Asian art experts in San Francisco deemed the paintings fake, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday .

The New York donor, an art collector who inherited the pieces, had once been in a boys’ choir and decided to help the school, which serves about 24 boys in grades four through eight. It is home to a premier concert and touring choir.

New York appraisers valued one of the pieces, an ink and color on paper of a waterfall by 20th century Chinese artist Li Keran, at $2 million alone, and the other three combined at just over $800,000.

The discovery that the artworks are fake has put the school in deep financial trouble. Its board has laid off the head of school and the new admissions director and forced teachers to take a 20 percent pay cut. But officials said that is not enough to cover $270,000 in operating costs through the end of the year.

Summer Dittmer, a math teacher who voluntarily agreed to serve as the head of the school for now, said the donor had no idea the pieces were reproductions and is “devastated.” School officials declined to identify him.

“The school might close,” said added. “What are we going to do if we don’t have money to pay paychecks in April?”

Officials have turned to GoFundMe and other fundraising efforts to pay this year’s operating costs.

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This story has been corrected to show the donor was not a former student.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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