Zhou Tiehai positions himself as an outsider, an independent commentator who eschews all local trends. One of China’s most visible artists for his paintings that faithfully reproduce classics of Western art, only to replace the central figure with a portrait of Joe Camel, his art is an ongoing enquiry into notions of authenticity.
For The Real Thing Zhou Tiehai commissioned a top chef to prepare three French desserts that were then served at the dinner to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, and which are represented here in wax. Zhou Tiehai chose France because the nation is synonymous with cuisine, producing the desserts according to the innovative combinations of flavours and textures for which French food is famed. The sheer accumulation of facts, anecdotes, presumptions, histories, theories and rumour presented as historic justification for each of the three desserts, whose ever-widening sphere of references threatens to take in the whole of French history, undermines the authenticity of the desserts as they seek the firmer to embed them in the authority of a definitive history. They were, however, delicious.