A few months ago a friend of mine called to tell me that he saw art works at an art fair that could only be described as copies of my work. I saw the photos and to my surprise, the artist used many vocabularies I use–not just one, two or three–and with unmistakable resemblance, and the result should be described as nothing short of genuine ripoff. I was fascinated as to why anyone would do such a thing. What is the point of putting that much effort in repeating what someone else already has done when we have a rich abundant source of awe and amazement buried in our psyche waiting to be shared and added to our collective asset of art. Then it took me about 3 seconds to realize that this person was probably hoping to capitalize on my efforts. Knowing how hard that would be myself, I told myself “well good luck with that lol”. My friend kindly wrote to the artist and to his gallery pointing out what was going on. He received a reply from the artist basically saying that he will stay away from pursuing those works.
I was not going to make the incident public but I realized that it is important that we be open about problems in art communities so that we are given opportunities to contemplate and self-regulate ourselves for smoother and more productive interactions.
Art making, whether it’s literature, music, visual art or any other form, to me, is one of the most important humanistic attempts to reconcile the gap between our secular, practical self and that being which nature endowed as a powerful, mysterious existence as big and complex as nature itself. I take it seriously although with a great amount of playfulness and freedom.
The art world or art community has a peculiar position in today’s societies. Although some artists or art works function with significant weight in corporate dominated societies, most of us–artists and art lovers–do not participate with much power. The art market is not regulated with the same standards based on rule of law as other fields would be. The infamous financial system recklessly putting forth its self-serving agendas to our political system, judicial system, and economic system seems rather orderly when you look at how selected art works are priced to function as something which they were never meant for or how big art institutions collude with financial powers to set agendas regardless of intrinsic values of art they show, often involving financial gains of parties involved. And beyond all the fanciness and the ugliness, there are countless artists, art dealers, curators and all the people who love art trying to make sense out of our daily struggles often encountering shadiness which you are less likely to face in other fields.
The reason why I’m talking about our predicament is not to despair or even to suggest the need for governmental regulations. We are outsiders. But with the power. We are connected to the power to guide our future based on our intrinsic values deriving from the mystery of nature. I hear people laughing. I hear people renouncing the cruelty of the society. But there is no way around the fact that we are special with the power. Let’s respect that fact. And let’s be respectful to each other. And when we share, do share with courtesy and intention to contribute to our collective asset of art. We are here to ground humanity to the depth and richness of the universe which only our hearts can touch.