Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ai Weiwei redux: selling art

Readers of this blog will recall recent posts about the work of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. There's a few links to review our discussions here: a) and b) He's back in the news for the sale of a limited edition of his sunflowers. What value does this inscribe to the work when it is reproduced or, even, disambiguated and then sold? I am reminded of the writings of Walter Benjamin, his "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" particularly, where he comments on the social and political implications of seeing a work of art repeatedly, because it is made available. I realize that Weiwei's work --all 100,000 of these sunflowers--are made by skilled artisans. Is each an original? Or, rather, where is this singular, original sunflower? In the context of Weiwei's work, what is an original? Where does authenticity lie? I'm interested in hearing thoughts on this, particular from students whose work employs multiples.
Side note: AHRG (also known as AHRECO) meets today at noon. We'll discuss Degas with readings selected and led by Elizabeth. Please join us!

1 comment:

Prof. Darrell Kincer said...

I think this issue is one of the reasons I enjoy producing one-of-a-kind photographic works, such as photograms or pieces that encorporate the mordancage process. There may be similar prints, but no two alike. In this way they do have a somewhat higher level of authenticity and perhaps value. Not surprisingly, I've always found it a lot easier, emotionally, to sell a print I can reproduce as to one that I'll never be able to make again.