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    Art Radar Asia News conducts original research and scans global news sources to bring you selected topical stories about the taste-changing, news-making and the up and coming in Asian contemporary art.

Guggenheim shows copy of Cai Guo Qiang sculpture

Posted by artradar on July 25, 2008


CHINESE NEW YORK EVENT “Unbeknownst to the casual viewer, Cai’s spectacle, “Inopportune: Stage One,” isn’t the real thing. It’s a copy. The original is 3,000 miles away at the Seattle Art Museum” says Newsweek.

A small army of assistants and a team of rock climbers under the artist’s direction transformed the Guggenheim’s famous rotunda into the site of an explosive tumble of nine cars decked out in blinking lights—an installation that Guggenheim director Thomas Krens says “may be the best artistic transformation of the Frank Lloyd Wright space we’ve ever seen.”

But unbeknownst to the casual viewer, Cai’s spectacle, “Inopportune: Stage One,” isn’t the real thing. It’s a copy. The original is 3,000 miles away at the Seattle Art Museum. It’s made of more or less the same parts—white automobiles and LED light rods—but it’s oriented horizontally rather than vertically. The only clue for Guggenheim visitors that they weren’t seeing the “original” was the small print on a wall label that labeled the piece an “exhibition copy.”

But what exactly is an exhibition copy? If the artist oversaw its creation, why isn’t it an original? The Cai exhibit, which drew huge crowds to the Guggenheim, raises questions that many museum goers have probably never considered. And when we’re talking about contemporary art made from common or mass-produced materials, how do we know when a work of art is the “real thing”?

Cai’s car piece may be the single most extravagant exhibition copy ever made. It came about because its owner, the Seattle Art Museum, didn’t want to loan the flashy artwork, which is its lobby centerpiece. At that point, according to Guggenheim curator Alexandra Munroe, Cai came up with the solution of creating the copy.

There is very little consensus in the museum community about who has the authority to copy a work of art and what constitutes “good” reasons for doing so. Last October, the Tate Modern in London held a conference called “Inherent Vice: The Replica and its Implications in Modern Sculpture,” which raised heated debates about just these issues.

Most commonly the question comes up when a work of art degrades, and if the artist is alive, he or she gets the final say on what to do. (Think Damien Hirst’s decaying shark in a tank of formaldehyde, which after a time needs a fresh carcass.)

But if an artist has died and an artwork has deteriorated beyond recognition, is it better to repair it, re-create it entirely or let it die? If it’s re-created from scratch, should the replica and the deteriorated version be exhibited together, as co-representatives that add up to the most authentic possible whole?

Part of the reason for the endless nuance has to do with sculpture’s historically complex relationship with replication. A painting has no mold, but a sculpture can be recast. In the 19th century, all the great American museums proudly displayed plaster casts of classical sculptures, thinking they’d never be able to get their hands on the originals and that copies were better than nothing. When originals became all-important, museums destroyed or stuffed away entire collections of copies.

Of course, artists are always ahead of the curve…..for full story http://www.newsweek.com/id/140167/page/1

Source Newsweek   http://www.newsweek.com/id/140167/
Image details Cai Guo Qiang: Inopportune Stage One

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