Fake Out

Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset put on a 20-year retrospective under the guise of an art fair.

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Artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingaar Dragset installing work at UCCA.
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For nearly the next four months, Beijing's Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) will seem to be holding an extended art fair, decked out with repetitive white-walled sections, a cordoned-off VIP lounge, and even a program of talks. But there's something strange about this fair: Every booth features work by the same artists. Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset, best known for their fake Prada store in Marfa, TX, are behind the exhibition, a commentary on the increasing commercialism and homogenization of the art world.

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The generic art fair structure is both an unconventional retrospective and an exciting debut in China for the duo, who are showing work from the past two decades. On display are such pieces as "The Named Series" (2012), where professional conservators from institutions like the New Museum, the Guggenheim, and Centre Pompidou have removed white wall paint from their museums to be displayed as a monochrome series; "Secondary" (2015), a mirrored auction room with two podiums and a soundtrack of two auctioneers; and "Emergency Exit" (2015), a set of collapsed stairs that lead to an exit door no one will be able to reach. Each booth is organized as if it's its own solo show, but as a whole, the works come together to represent Elmeer & Dragset's signature de-contextualized style. For the duo, the exhibition is more than just another of their cheeky, but critical narratives—it's a major power play aimed directly at the procedural sales events that have become an art world staple.

Elmgreen & Dragset: The Well Fair will be on view through April 17. For more information, visit ucca.org.cn

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