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Art Market Madness

By Peggy Roalf   Friday February 12, 2016

“I made a knife to cut fruit, but if others use it to kill, blaming me is unfair,” said Chinese painter Pei-Shen Qian in 2014 when he was indicted on charges of producing 40 worthless fakes that were subsequently sold by the Knoedler & Company gallery for tens of millions of dollars. Info

In an interview by Bloomberg News in 2013, Qian said that he was the innocent victim of a “very big misunderstanding” and had never intended to pass off his paintings as the genuine works of modern masters.  He told a reporter he thought he was being commissioned to make paintings for art lovers who could not afford paintings by modern masters, including Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, but were willing to buy imitations; that he didn't think there was anything ethically or legally wrong with what he was doing. He also said that he though it was impossible to make fakes that would pass as originals. Info

According to the Daily Mail, this is the garage in Queens where Pei-Shen Qian over a period of 15 years churned out over 60 paintings and drawings that carried the signatures of artistic giants like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman and Robert Motherwell. Info

While these assertions of innocence may seem disingenuous to art lovers here, there are highly trained artists in Hong Kong who do just that, selling their wares in the Dafen Village neighborhood. Photographer Michael Wolf, known for his Architecture of Density series, documented this art district in his series, Copy Art, shown in 2007 at Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco. Info Info While copying masterpieces to gain technical mastery is still an art school practice, the Hong Kong copyists took it to an extreme. The South China Morning Post reported that prior to the 2008 financial crisis, most of the world's "copycat masterpieces" originated in Dafen. Info

Today, artnetnews posted a rundown of the "Top 9 Takeaways From Knoedler Forgery Trial," which was abruptly settled in U.S. District Court this week, here.  Ken Johnson, art critic for the New York Times, wrote last year that while Qian's"personal art" is banal, "Wouldn't it be great...if we could see an exhibition of all his fake paintings." Info After being indicted, Qian returned to China, which does not have an extradition policy; it is unlikely that he will be prosecuted. Info


By Peggy Roalf   Thursday February 11, 2016

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday February 10, 2016

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday February 9, 2016

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