In Shanghai, the best shopping deals are secreted away from the high-street glitter in ever-changing locales: the fake-goods market is currently located on level B1 of the Science & Technology Museum metro stop, where countless little stalls offer, for a fraction of the original price, counterfeit Balenciaga sneakers or Rimowa suitcases. At these rates, even the matron of Jia Jia Tang Bao, a tiny little greasy spoon that serves delicious dim sum (an institution), can afford a “Gucci” T-shirt. But the fact is that wherever you go, from the stalls of Shanghai to the clandestine stands of Clignancourt, copies are everywhere, and the phenomenon is global.
Unblinkered observers of today’s world, Cattelan and Michele seek less to celebrate the copy than to give meaning to this incessant flow of reproductions, which reflect multiple realities
Indeed the virulent copying virus has also attacked the art world, a fact that the Yuz Museum in Shanghai – founded by mega-collector Budi Tek – is currently acknowledging with the exhibition The Artist is Present. “Originality is overrated,” exclaims the introductory manifesto. So long live the copy? The show, curated by Maurizio Cattelan in partnership with Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, asks the question with a certain irony.
Cattelan is too often reduced to his bravado and sense of derision, both of which he certainly needed to celebrate the copy in Shanghai with Gucci, one of the most copied brands on earth. But neither Cattelan nor Michele stoop to simple provocation, nor do they evoke level B1 of the Science & Technology Museum metro station. Unblinkered observers of today’s world, Cattelan and Michele seek less to celebrate the copy than to give meaning to this incessant flow of reproductions, which reflect multiple realities: copy-pasting of internet images; a copy of the Lascaux caves to welcome hordes of tourists; copies on glossy paper of the Mona Lisa; pirate copies of films and music.