Culture & Arts

Chinese 'Counterfeits' Battle Contemporary Artists For The Chance To Be Art


What is the relationship between an original work of art, toiled over by a singular artistic genius, and a factory made replica? How does the sweat, blood and studio time exerted by the almighty artist translate into value? A new exhibition explores the relationship between artworks and counterfeits, artists and machines. Aptly titled "Made In China," the show challenges the American obsession with individualism as it pertains to art.


For the exhibition, a selection of emerging contemporary artists were enlisted to send an original artwork, along with a photo of the piece, to a factory in China. The factory, which is known for turning museum masterworks into kitschy home decor, reproduced the artworks and shipped them back, where they will be displayed alongside the originals that inspired them.


Ian Ross Gallery explains the paradox that catalyzed the exhibition, writing: "We assign market value to original art pieces for their scarcity, driven by the singular vision of the artist, yet we readily consume designer knock offs from stores like Forever 21 and H&M, which make their profits from directly imitating the runway collections of Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace and Alexander Wang. Is fine art something that, too, can be imitated?"


Artists including D Young V, Akira Beard, Ian Ross, Zoltron and Shark Toof display their artworks alongside their quick-and-dirty replicas -- which, we have to admit, look astoundingly similar. Particular differences do emerge, however, especially in the works that employ a personal style that diverges from precision. The juxtaposition prompts viewers to examine the privilege of individualism in the U.S. in comparison to the prized notion of the collective in China. As Chinese artists like Ai Weiwei become prime influencers in art-making worldwide, the exhibition asks Americans to reconsider the ideals they hold to be true.

Take a look at the side-by-side originals and replicas below (the original precedes the copy), and see if you notice a difference in the integrity of the works.








"Made in China" opens November 8 at Ian Ross Gallery in San Francisco. Artists include: D Young V, Akira Beard, Ian Ross, Zoltron, Shark Toof, Jessica Hess, C Kirk, Ernesto Yerena, Eddie Colla, Peter Adamyan, Nite Owl and Robert Bowen.

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