Beijing Postcard

TAL International Feb 18, 2008 No Comments

From Vienna Parreno

Fake Fakes & Real Fakes

I spent the second to last weekend of my Redgate residency arting & cramicking at the market – except most of the ceramic pieces the locals were hawking were probably made a few days before; catering to the many fellow tourists who’d like to take home an “antique”. My friend and guide Lennart Utterstrom – a multilingual (Swedish, Finnish, Japanese, Korean, French, German,a smattering of English and few others who knows..) writer/curator who is an expert in Song Dynasty ceramics, joked that the only antique there was probably him. Oh shoot.

Sometimes I think there should be a sign “antiques made to order” – we’ll even match them to your taupe couch or shoes if you like. There are more fakes and fakers not just with antiques and ceramics, but for a glut of other objects and things in life besides. For the most part it’s harmless enough – Speedy Murakami Louis Vuittons made in Shenzen; the romantic world of Mills and Boon novels written to a proven formula while drinking Splenda sweetened Nescafe in the morning; so-called jade for bargain prices.

I was tempted to buy a trinket or two fake or not as long as they were fun. There was a oracle bone thing that a shaman was supposed to throw into fire (with the resulting crack lines foretelling your future). Hair ornaments made in wood, silver and semi-precious stones. Fertility symbols (erect penises in various sizes and materials); accordion books; shards of Tang, Song and Ming vases broken from the Cultural Revolution; odds and ends.

I finally came home with a reproduction painting for my bathroom – a “mangaesque” portrait of a bug-eyed girl with a glass of red wine in acrylic. Since the original would cost gazillions, mine was a bargain at 200 yuan. Not even 1/1 000 000th of the real-world price of the original. Made by a recent CAFA graduate, the work looked to my mind, well – just as cartoonish and colourful, if not a facsimile of the one I’ve seen advertised here, there and everywhere.

It made me wonder about inflation and depreciation – how artworks are priced of course – but also in other senses such as an artist’s career trajectory. The overrated, the under-appreciated, the has-beens, the would’ve beens. Of fads and trends that come and go – the way endless stream of infomercial gadgets, art movements and most of us art workers will probably go too.

Why one object and not another- all things being and looking equal? Funny thing is I don’t even remember the works name or who it was originally made by for some reason – despite that it is a hot commodity and I am often reminded by others that the price tag of this particular Chinese artist would probably buy an island or two in my home country.

Blame a faulty memory either on early Alzheimer’s or the fact that what’s fashionable and trendy, in time can become unfashionable and not so trendy, worst look dated or simply forgotten.

As far as I was concerned my recent CAFA graduate’s work was just as funky and actually more meaningful than the one it tried to ape. The sky was blue, the air crisp and clean on a cold but not too cold Beijing winter’s day. I had running commentary from a good friend who knew his stuff – and because it was what it was. A reproduction sold at the weekend market minus the apparatus of the gallery system’s glitter and glamour, myth making and hype; knowingly made on a conveyor belt with a no-sweat technical skill to match.

Completely fake and utterly real.

Guest Blogger

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