Planet China

Stolen time


Zhang Daqian is one of the most famous Chinese artists of the 20th century. He was also one of the nation’s most talented frauds. His works impersonating the varying styles of Chinese masters have been shown in American art galleries, and Zhang delighted in revealing that they were bogus.

Not all Chinese forgers are as talented as Zhang, however. And some don’t even have the good sense to wait until their subjects have passed away before attempting to replicate their works.

Wendy Taylor, a British artist, recently found herself the victim of such an audacious fraud. Her iconic Timepiece sculpture has stood next to the Thames in London since 1973. Then last week it miraculously appeared next to another famed river: the Huangpu in Shanghai (see photo).

The sculpture is of a sundial, anchored by heavy chains and pierced by a pointer resembling a dockyard nail, sat on a cobblestone plinth. The whole structure is a tribute to the history of London’s dockyards. As such, the artist insists that it “cannot have been recreated by accident or coincidence”. Shanghai’s local authorities appear to have conceded this point.

Early on Wednesday last week, a few days after news of the imitation spread, the Pudong New Area Planning and Land Resources Administration said the sculpture was going to be demolished immediately.

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