Monday, January 21, 2013

What me warrior

There’s a great story about Marcel Duchamp (possibly apocryphal) who was seen at his retrospective exhibition in Philadelphia signing a Mona Lisa postcard for one of the visitors. A museum person suggested that given his famous intervention on the image, a signed postcard would be rather valuable. The next day Duchamp was sitting at a small table outside the exhibition signing a large stack of Mona Lisa postcards which were free to all. When asked what he was doing he replied, “Devaluing the currency.” 

We were thinking about this when we saw about fifty terracotta Warriors crated up and ready-to-go behind a small curio shop in Hong Kong. The heads were rather alarmingly packed separately. In 1986 some of the original terracotta figures were shown at the Auckland Art Gallery preceded by the usual blockbuster fanfare and rewarded with the usual public response. The public were rather less enthusiastic twenty three years later when a bunch of reproductions owned by touring exhibition guy Marshall Bird went round the country with good reason. A couple of years before a similar show had tried to slip through as the real thing at Hamburg's Museum of Ethnology but was outed by the Chinese as fakes to the embarrassment of all concerned. 

We saw yet another sorry stage in the warrior downward spiral at a bar last night. There, among the bar stools and tables, was a copy of a full size Terracotta Warrior with its head placed on a jaunty angle. As we took a pic one of the patrons leant over to take a closer look at the figure, turned back to his friend and said, “Unreal.” 

Images: Left Warriors to go in Hong Kong and right hard at work in a Wellington bar