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A Mexican Museum artifact that was determined to be a forgery of a double sprout stirrup vessel from Northern Peru, 1000–1400 CE. Photo: Leah Millis for the San Francisco Chronicle

More Than One Thousand Artifacts from San Francisco’s Mexican Museum May Be Fake, Report Finds

A report commissioned by the board of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco has concluded that almost all the artifacts from the institution’s pre-Hispanic collection are forgeries or could not be authenticated, Sam Whiting of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Only eighty-three of the two thousand objects that were examined could be certified as museum quality. The 1,917 other artifacts, including figurines, jars, bowls, vases, and ornamental jewelry, were called “decorative” by the independent team of museum curators from Mexico City who conducted the test.

“I was surprised,” said Andrew Kluger, chair of the board of trustees. “I thought we’d have more that are of museum quality.” Since the “decorative” items cannot be exhibited at the institution, they will most likely be given away to schools or smaller museums.

The fourteen-page report submitted in late June by Eduardo Pérez de Heredia Puente, an associate of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, was a requirement of the Smithsonian Institution, which accepted the Mexican Museum as an affiliate in 2012. The study cost the museum $80,000.

According to Kluger, many of the items that may be fakes could have been given to the museum during its early years, when accepting a donation didn’t require authentication. While the tally of fakes and decorative pieces may increase since further authentication studies of the museum’s holdings of 16,500 objects will be completed, Kluger is confident that the items from the museum’s later collections are museum-quality artifacts.

The Mexican Museum plans to relocate to a forty-seven-story building between the Contemporary Jewish Museum and SF MoMA by 2019. It will occupy four floors, about 60,000 square feet. The $86 million cost of the move was raised during a four-year capital campaign.

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