However, other art experts told the Times that they still believe the statue is as old and valuable as Christie's claimed. Julian Harding, a London-based private art dealer, told the Times that he remains convinced of the statue's authenticity, calling it "a masterpiece of Oceanic art."
Through a spokeswoman, Benioff declined to comment.
In a statement provided to CNBC Make It, a spokeswoman for Christie's pointed to "the body of empirical research, stylistic analysis, and scholarly support that compiled on the figure prior to sale, and which has already been expanded on by an expert in the field of Polynesian art." The spokeswoman also referenced the fact that experts such as Harding have told Christie's that the statue in question is a "probable mate" of a similar wooden artifact that was acquired in Hawaii by the London Missionary Society in 1822 and is currently on display at the British Museum in London. The statue purchased by Benioff is "an important rediscovery that is sure to inspire continued scholarship and interest," according to Christie's.
The statue, which was part of the private art collection of French collectors Pierre and Claude Verite before Christie's put it up for sale, sold at auction for a price of roughly 6.35 million euros (which would be nearly $7.2 million based on current conversion rates), according to the Christie's website.
Benioff, who has an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion according to Forbes, was later revealed to be the purchaser. The billionaire and his wife, Lynne, donated the artifact to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu.
The museum's president told the Times that the museum is aware of "a question about [the statue's] history and provenance" and that curators are researching the matter.
If it does turn out that Benioff massively overpaid for the statue, he would not be the first billionaire collector to be duped. In 2013, billionaire William Koch won $12 million in damages after he'd paid $320,000 for 24 counterfeit bottles of wine.
Update: This article has been updated with a statement from Christie's.
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