On the travels of one piece of marble from mine to market we meet the colourful characters whose lives are devoted to the commoditisation of things both ancient and new.
We meet Zhen Congda, an artist who, in 1986, exhibited a copy of the Venus de Milo at a trade fair in Guangzhou, sparking the practice of copying Western-style sculpture for the Chinese and world markets. Zhen enjoyed great success and copied Venus de Milo one hundred times before he ever got to see the original.
The Frenchman worked some 20 years in the States before following the world’s stone market capital to China. Never in his life did he visit a museum until Chinese clients in Paris urged him to visit one and discover the heritage of marble. He lives alone in a vast building, at a time when business this past year has all but dried up.
Mothers and children work side by side, paid by the piece, after school and through summer holidays to meticulously paint in the tiny moulded marble clay souvenirs. They live in spaces adjoining the workroom in poor working conditions with dreams of a better future.
The twins, Marianna and Sophia, were sent by their father to study in Beijing, where they are now entrepreneurs – both cultural and commercial ambassadors for Greece. A local colleague advises the twins that they should not focus so much on the natural beauty of Greece, but on things that can only be purchased.