The amazing story of Pei-Shen Qian has given the art world pause. A struggling Chinese immigrant, Qian painted fake works attributed to the stars of abstract expressionism — Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell.
A woman would pick up the pictures at Qian’s shabby house in Queens, N.Y., paying him a few thousand dollars each. She then drove them to Manhattan, where the big-league galleries sold the paintings for millions.
Qian didn’t make copies of the famous painters’ works. He produced originals that the most practiced eyes took for the drippings of the most celebrated abstract expressionists. If you think this kind of art surges from the soul of genius, then Qian was one such font.
The question naturally arises: What makes art valuable, really?
The fancy dealers were happy selling Qians. The rich collectors were happy owning Qians. The museums and sponsors of international art shows happily displayed Qians.
Everyone was happy with the