The Film

Abode of Illusion: The Life and Art of Chang Dai-chien

If asked to list the world's greatest artists, few Westerners would include a single Chinese painter despite the fact that China has nurtured the world's oldest continuous painting tradition. Indeed, many "innovations" attributed to 20th century Western art have been in the China's art mainstream for centuries. Abode of Illusion challenges this oversight, providing an intriguing portrait of Chang Dai-chien (1899-1983), considered by many to be the "Picasso" of China. Chang was a prolific artist who produced over 30,000 original paintings during his lifetime ... and unknown numbers of forgeries.

Chang was revered throughout Asia for his versatility and ability to reflect Chinese art traditions in his paintings. Yet despite his fame, Chang spent his life in constant search for inspiration and new ideas. Abode of Illusion traces his journeys: from his Sichuan birthplace to the cabarets of Shanghai, from the Yellow Mountains of Huangshan to the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in the Gobi Desert, from Hong Kong to Paris, and from the Brazil to Taiwan, where Chang built an idyllic garden estate he called "The Abode of Illusion."

Chang was equally famous for his forgeries of Chinese masterpieces. His copies span a thousand years of Chinese art and demonstrate a virtuoso talent for emulating, and even improving upon, the work of painters before him. Today many of these forgeries, still attributed to others, hang alongside Chang originals in museums worldwide.

Abode of Illusion shows how Chang Dai-chien's art - fake and genuine - illustrates essential differences between Western and Chinese approaches to art, and how originality and tradition, and abstraction and representation, are interpreted and valued across cultures.

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