William Eggleston © Michael Wolf
Roy Lichtenstein © Michael Wolf
The art of copying famous artwork and hawking it online has become a multi-million dollar business for Chinese copy artists who blatantly rip off copyrighted work and sell it for pennies on the dollar to customers worldwide. Hong Kong-based photographer Michael Wolf‘s Real Fake Art is a discombobulating series of portraits of some of these copy artists posing with their handiwork in the city streets. Seeing these familiar images out of a museum or gallery context is jarring, at the very least. This juxtaposition is, at first, amusing, but this is an industry that earns $60 billion annually and churns these copies out like a factory assembly line. They rip off not only mega-famous artworks—of work both in and out of copyright—but also works by living, lesser-known artists who are more dependent on sales of artwork to support their livelihood. Of course, the masterminds behind this mega-industry know it is impossible for smaller, independent artists to lawyer up and chase them down, so they are able to proceed without any deterrent.
More recently, the export market has decreased dramatically as rent and production costs have increased to the point that it’s scarcely profitable to fill overseas orders. Because foreign demand has been largely supplanted by domestic demand from hoteliers and the growing middle class in China looking to decorate their walls, the shift has been towards reproduction of less foreign art and has even seen an increase in demand for original work by Chinese artists.
Chuck Close © Michael Wolf
René Magritte © Michael Wolf
David Hockney © Michael Wolf
John Wayne © Michael Wolf
Gerhard Richter © Michael Wolf
Jackson Pollock © Michael Wolf
Outdoor Gallery © Michael Wolf