Leila Pazooki – Fair Trade
Leila Pazooki’s new project at Galerie Christian Hosp, ‘Fair Trade’ is a dynamic installation that serves to investigate the ever-relevant themes of artistic production and exhibition in a globalized art market. Drawing a conceptual relationship between the National Gallery in London and the art workshops of Dafen, a small village in China where skilled workers turn out reproductions of any paintings they are given, ‘Fair Trade’ invites audiences to consider the ‘ownership’ and intrinsic qualities of an artwork, in relation to the mass-commercialization, and consequent ubiquity, of museum-quality artworks.
Striking a theoretical standpoint between the rarified world of museums and the shabby, industrious workshops of Dafen, the uniqueness of an artwork is contrasted with the world of cheap counterfeit merchandise, seen in luxury goods, clothes – and art. For a relatively inconsequential price, you too can own a masterpiece. This intriguing correlation between art and consumerism is at the heart of ‘Fair Trade’.
In fashioning ‘Fair Trade’, Leila Pazooki set out to replicate a typical museum space, in the form of Room 17A at London’s National Gallery. She travelled to Dafen and commissioned the village’s painters to reproduce each work hanging in the space. The replicated works, as is customary in Dafen, are reproduced to a fixed quality scale, depending on the fee paid. Thus, for a premium price, a ‘museum-quality’ reproduction is available, yet ‘Fair Trade’ questions this very process, asking how the intangible aura of the work, its intrinsic character and distinct quality translate via a hard, commercial transaction and efficient, impersonal reproduction.
Furthermore, Pazooki brings out a subtextual commentary that explores the disparity of artistic processes in two distinct cultures. Chinese craftsmen reflect none of the post-Romantic bourgeoise perceptions of artists as Bohemian outsiders, as they are commonly perceived in contemporary Western culture.
Whilst in China, Pazooki invited 100 Dafen painters of varying abilities, to fabricate a copy of Justis of Luca de Cranach in a competition setting, an event that comments on the industrialised and highly-methodical process of production. The competition is the artist’s reaction to the highly-formalised technique and phenomenal work-rate of the painters.
The competition entries and Pazooki’s replica of Room 17A, as well as a selection of ancillary items constitute ‘Fair Trade’, presented at Galerie Christian Hosp, in an exhibition that questions some of the most fundamental themes relevant to the production, dissemination and cultural value of art in today’s global marketplace.