by Danna Writes
Recently, I was told off by a curator for innocently remarking that I admired a certain photographer’s work. “I need to educate you on what is in and what is out before you make big mistakes,” she snapped with authority, implying that a peon like me doesn’t deserve to have a contrary opinion. It felt like I was back in high school trying hard to fit in with the popular kids, begging my mom to rush me to the mall after school so I could buy a cropped jean jacket (that I didn’t even like) just so I could blend in.
I didn’t say anything back and forced my bright former-sorority-girl-smile to mask my hurt feelings. I’ve wished ever since that I’d been able to come up with the perfect polite yet strong retort at the spur of the moment. Some lucky people are able to disarm an insult like tennis players lob balls across the court. I have never been one of them.
read more: http://dannawrites.com/art-snobs/
„Portrait of Frida“
Cui Tao click, for more about the artist
Oil on canvas
82 x 115 cm
Private collection, Beijing, China
Currently on loan to the Kunstmuseum Gehrke-Remund, Germany
This oil on canvas painting reproduces a black and white with sepia tones photo of Frida Kahlo taken by her father, Guillermo Kahlo, on February 7th 1926 (7-II-1926).
The photo was taken five months after the almost fatal bus accident Frida Kahlo suffered on September 17th 1925. This “Portrait of Frida” based on such photo shows a 18 year old Frida wearing a Chinese silk dress, sitting in her parents’ sitting room, on her lap lie two books.
It seems almost a miracle that Frida recovered so quickly from the accident which almost killed her and left her physically and emotionally marked for life.
Beyond the artistic value this painting, has a biographic meaning as it captures a young, serious Frida in the year when she started to paint intensely to express her pain and feelings.
The painter is Cui Tao,
39 year old, Chinese artist
known in China for his portraits of families during the Cultural Revolution.
Cui Tao lives in Beijing since 2004 and has exhibited his works in Da shan zi (798), the most famous art district in Beijing.
THE SONG ZHUANG ARTIST COMMUNITY
Song Zhuang is the art colony where the Frida Kahlo artists live and work.
Located one hour east of Beijing, it is the most famous and biggest artist community in China. More than 4000 artists live there.
Originally representing the avant-garde, the area now accommodates artists who paint in varying styles, ranging from the avant-garde to the academic. Sculptors, photographers, art critics, film directors also call the area home.
The “Song Zhuang spirit” truly exists; it is the spirit of idealistic Chinese artists. The roots of this artistic community can be traced back to the grounds of the Old Summer Palace in the north-east of Beijing.
It was there that in the 1980s, like-minded free spirits congregated, living relatively poorly, though freely, escaping from the rat race and pressures of modern society.
Artists arrived from all over China, celebrating a creative community and period of intense artistic exploration. This fertile artistic ground produced artists later to find international recognition and fame, most notably Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun and Yang Shaobin.
In an effort to preserve the spirit of the avant-garde, Fang Lijun, Zhang Huiping and Yue Minjun took the bold initiative in the spring of 1994 to relocate to the farming area of Song Zhuang Township. Liu Wei, Zhang Huiping, Wang Qiang and Gao Huijun were also in this first wave of artists to move.
By the end of the year a quite formidable group of talent had succeeded in keeping the flame burning for Chinese avant-garde art.
Here, the old-style farmhouses, many with small front courtyards or gardens, proved an ideal living and working space for the artists, more of whom would subsequently arrive following the official closure of the Old Summer Palace community in 1995.
The communal artistic lifestyle and essence of the avant garde was preserved and remained intact by transplantation to Song Zhuang.
About present day Song Zhuang, native artist Cheng Da Qing said, “The future of Chinese fine art is in Song Zhuang.” The artistic community now has over 4000 artists, 10 museums and over 80 art galleries, centered mainly in the village of Xiaopu.
Painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, conceptual/new media artists and dreamers live side-by-side in the largest gathering of contemporary artists certainly in China if not in the world.
A replica is the repetition of the original work either made by the artist or, after the artist’s death, authorized by the holders of the artists’ rights. A replica must represent 100% of the original.
Replicas have a legal connotation (it is authorized) and a quality connotation (it is a faithful repetition of the original). In most countries the artist’s rights expire 70 years after the artist’s death, in the case of Frida: in 2024.
Why show replicas of Kahlo’s work?
Frida painted her life; her paintings are like an autobiography on canvas.
To understansd her life, it is essential to be able to see all her paintings. However, exhibitions with originals by Frida are only able to show a maximum of 40 paintings of an estimated 134 she painted because:
-some of her paintings are in her Blue House in Mexico and are not allowed to leave,
-some are privately owned (e.g., Madonna is a Frida Kahlo collector), and some of the owners never lend them for exhibitions,
-the rest are scattered around the world.
The Frida Kahlo collection covers all the paintings, (123), for which there is a documentation in color; it allows the visitors to follow her entire life, from the very beginning as a hobby-painter to the maturity and to her last works before she died. This is only possible with replicas.
Who painted the replicas?
In some countries in the world, art academies teach art by demanding that the art students copy the masters. China and Japan are among them. This copying of the masters is a way to learn art: by copying the masters over and over again, the students learn not only the masters’ techniques but the spirit behind the creation of the painting as well.
Four experienced Chinese artists replicated Frida Kahlo in Beijing during 2008 and 2009. They do not copy paintings for a living, they are artists known in Beijing for their own work.
They live and work in the largest artist community in the world: Song Zhuang, one hour east of Beijing. The curators selected Chinese artists because of the disciplined culture of faithfully replicating masters that Chinese artists have.
The artists are between 38 and 42 years old with proven outstanding technical and creative skills.
The curators would have loved to have the replicas made in Mexico, which has a long tradition of exceptional art quality, but they work and live in Beijing so they selected artists from Beijing. The process of painting replicas requires a daily follow up, monitoring and working very closely together with the artists.
Opportunities and Challenges with Reproductions
As I travel the country talking to museumers, one of the most frequently asked questions is "in the future, will people still value ‘real’ things?" People wonder, naturally enough, whether constant exposure to virtual worlds, digital depictions and ever more accurate replicas will erode the respect accorded to the collections we work so hard to amass and maintain. Why should people subsidize collections care and conservation if they are just as happy with a good copy? If, in the future, anyone can fabricate a good facsimile of any object, what happens to the competitive advantage museums hold in being able to mount only-see-it-here exhibitions? This week, Jasper Visser, who blogs at The Museum of the Future, shares his thoughts on the repro v. real based on his recent experience opening an exhibit at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam.