Tony Tetro is many things: fascinating, charming, good-looking, chatty, down-to-earth and a riot to be around. He also happens to be the world’s greatest living art forger, so great that today, he is the only artist in the US who is court-ordered to stamp the back of every painting he does. Back in the ‘80s, he lived a life so obscenely lavish, he quickly became a regular on the police radar as a suspected drug dealer. Jailed for his art crimes in the early ‘90s and released a year later with all records expunged, ACCLAIMmag.com had the pleasure of chatting to the man about his incredible life and career, the 4½ year trial that left him broke—and broken—and how he would spot a forgery himself…
Let’s talk about what you do. What is your job?
I get up in the morning—early—I have coffee and I’m on the job at 6.30 and I copy old Masters with four assistants. That’s what I do now…do you want to know what I did back in the day?
Yes, of course!
Which are you asking about? What I did way back when I got in to trouble?
Yes…but let’s also talk about your beginnings. First of all, how did you start? Why did you start doing this?
Well I was broke, and…I was married and I started copying paintings for something to do because it was an inexpensive thing to do. But it was more than that—I enjoyed doing it. I’d take photographs of Masterpieces: Rembrandts, Picassos, everything, and try to match the colour. This is when I was 20, 21.
Was it therapeutic for you?
Yeah, it passed the time, we’d watch TV and I’d paint…then I’d go to art fairs on weekends and try to sell them. But the art fairs that we had…people would throw up canvases with splashes of colour, abstract modern art, and people would buy them to match their sofas and chairs, rather than for any artistic value. Sometimes someone would have something that was creative, but generally there was never any labour or thought put into them. I would spend two weeks on a painting, whereas they would spend not even two hours. And they were doing it for a living—I worked as a furniture salesman—and mine wouldn’t sell because I’d have to ask more money for them.
One day, my wife and I were shopping, and I picked up a book called, Fake, and I was flipping through the pages and I thought “I could do this,” and so I did it.
My first was a Modigliane drawing, and I went in and sold it to an auction house in Santa Anna, CA. I only got $1600; it was worth a fortune.
Did they know it was a copy?
Oh, no. I showed it to another guy before that, and I told him that I did it. He was having an affair with Jack Warner’s mistress—Jack Warner of Warner Bros—and she left a diamond ring at the auction house that Jack Warner had given her. It was a 24-carat D-flawless, a very valuable ring…
That’s pretty amazing, yeah…
And so he said [to her], “I’ll sell it…I’ll give you $5000 now” and he gave her a bracelet, “and I’ll give you the rest when I sell it.” Now this guy was a thief, this guy at the auction house, and she never got another dime. This was worth at least a quarter of a million dollars, this ring, and that’s how he did everything. He would tell an old lady who’d bring a Tiffany lamp in, “Oh here’s a hundred dollars, I’ll give you the rest…” the lamp would be worth ten thousand dollars, but she’d never see another penny. That’s how he did things and he got away with it.
I didn’t know any of this when I walked into the auction house. He got mad at a guy, he saw my Modigliane drawing and he said, “Oh, that’s fake …” I told them my transmission broke, and I needed the money.
The guy called me, he got hold of me and he said “Either you paint for me, or I’ll break your hands, I’ll cut your hands off.”
So there’s an American artist named Robert Wood and he says, “Can you do these?” “Yes.” “I want these, as many as you can make, and I want you to get them appraised.” “OK.” So I did about 30 of those for him over a period of about a year-and-a-half, two years. And it was like pulling teeth to get money out of him…and I had to be a shill, do you know what a shill is at an auction?
I would sit in the audience of an auction and if he wasn’t getting enough money, he’d point at me and I’d stick up my paddle…
So like a fake bidder?
Exactly. And then he’d do the same thing on my paintings.
Then he wanted a Chagall so I did that. And finally I went out on the street and went to galleries with my Chagalls and Dalis and Picassos and drawings and watercolours. I had one guy, a big art dealer, who bought a bunch of them, and he found out that I did them. People were finding out that I did them, which was bad. And he sold them all. He went around to every art dealer he could find, he went out of his way on a personal vendetta to tell them to watch out for me. He didn’t tell the police, he told every art dealer.
And all the art dealers contacted me. From that point on, which was about three years after I started, I just worked for art dealers. They would commission me to do work. There were only about six or seven that I worked for throughout the years. I didn’t work for them; I was an independent contractor. They would say, “I need a Chagall oil, I need a Chagall gouache, I need Miro lithograph, I need an edition.” Then they’d all go to Paris and buy, let’s say four Chagalls, real Chagalls with certificates of authenticity from a prominent place, and they’d say, “I want you to make me 50 or a 100 of these”, since they already had the provenance…. Chagall did editions of 50, or they’d do the same thing with Dali, or the same thing with Miro, they asked me to do this.
Now, you’re going to ask me about the guilt factor. There was no guilt, there was no right or wrong, this was me going to work every day. And it got overwhelming, I had all these people barking at me “I need this, I need this, I need this.” I knew an Asian painter, this was 25-27 years ago, he was very good doing portraits. Sometimes I needed a Dali oil, I would get the right canvas, prepare it then bring it to him and I’d do a drawing, and I’d say “Can you do this oil for me because I don’t have time.” And then he’d do the base and I would make it a Dali after he was done with it. Dali didn’t have much texture anyway and Asian paintings generally don’t have texture.
They’re quite flat, yeah…
Yeah, and he was very good at them, he had a Masters degree in painting, he was from Korea. When I was overloaded, I would go to him. Now he didn’t read American newspapers or watch American television. They had Korean networks for television, he lived in a Korean neighbourhood. He lived 30 miles from me. So I’m just trying to tell you I had so much work I have had help with it, but he didn’t know at all what I was doing.
What about your own style? Why were you never interested in that?
I enjoyed what I did. Don’t take that as I enjoyed screwing people. I enjoyed the ageing, the rusted nails…
…and learning about the process?
Developing it, not learning it…there was no learning. Art forgery 101 is coming up with new ideas. But wait a minute, it’s not that I’m a genius at this. I mean, I tried to open a bottle of water the other day, and it went all over me, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. It looked like I’d wet my pants. I have a dumb streak, trust me. If you told anybody who knows me, that I was a genius, they’d start laughing. But I came up with some really ingenious things when I was doing this, a lot of the techniques were my own. And the ageing, and the copper nails I would use…I was really a perfectionist when it came to some of the things I would do for these things.
How long does it take to make a piece?
That’s a question I can’t answer. A drawing? A Reubens with 20 people in it, that’s 7ft high? What is a painting? Do you know what I’m saying? Like right now we just finished a Giovanni with 50ppl in it 7ft x 16ft. Well, we did that with three other paintings at the same time, all of them huge, like 6ft x 8ft. So that’s a question I’m asked often.
Let’s say I did one painting, I concentrated on that one, worked on it everyday, I’d say three weeks.
Right. What about things like sourcing materials, research, ageing…
Tony turns to his PR rep, Criss and asks if it’s too late to show me the Dali. She tells him to do the interview first then show me.
I’ll show you this painting. When you see it, it’ll explain a thousand words. There’s ageing, there’s cracking, there’s patina. Patina’s the colour that is ‘age’ and I love patina, it brings all the colours together. I love to paint. And now I’m just…monkey see, monkey do. I paint every day, it’s work now.
The work that you do now, what sort of clientele do you have?
Oh, very wealthy. All of them ask to not put my stamp on the back. Oh! My stamp. I have to put that on everything. I’m the only person in the United States that has to, I’m ordered by the courts. I put three big stamps on them so they don’t get into commerce.
They’re billionaires. And they pass them off as real. They just hang them…I’ve got more work than I can handle…then they tell their friends, then their friends commission me…wealthy people hang out with wealthy people.
Why would they choose one of your pieces over the real thing?
Because the real thing costs over $100mil.
So it’s just a price thing?
Sometimes. I’ve had insurance work, not that often, maybe seven or eight times, where I copy a Monet or a Van Gogh for a museum…they do that because insurance is 5% annually and on a Monet at $20mil, 5% of that is a lot of money. They don’t pay me that, they don’t pay me 5% of what it’s worth, but they pay me a lot. I’m doing better now than I ever did, way better than back then. I have four assistants and I tell them I’m the boss and I go away once a month. I go to Costa Rica once a month.
Do you? What do you do there? Just hang out?
I have a girlfriend.
(laughs) I like it just the way it is. She called me this morning and she woke me up and I thought “Jeez, it’s my first night’s sleep and you wake me up” because of the time difference, you know…
Yep. What do you think about the art scene now…I mean, you talked before about your clients passing off your work as the real thing…
To their friends. It’s important. It’s not real, they don’t sell them…but they ask “Is this real?” and they’re all “done from the School Of…” meaning it was done by one of [the artist’s] students are assistants, or attributed to Giovanni Verenisi. That’s the first Verenisi I’ve done, and it was so difficult. Sometimes I’m working on something and someone will ask “What’s this?” “Hell, I don’t know…” and I’m the one painting the picture. A lot of Reubens I’ve done recently and they’re all huge and time consuming. And I do them on contemporary, modern canvas, no ageing now incidentally.
This New York director—one of my customers—buys a new mansion every year and this really famous NY interior designer came in and wanted five paintings aged and my customer liked it so much that I’m ageing ten now and he’s shipping in 35 more on June 15th for me to crack and age. He loves it. It’s more believable. But it’s all on brand new canvases, and stretcher bars…they don’t pass as real AND they have my stamps. So…but all those people out there, they want this art. He couldn’t have his jets probably and his mansions and his islands if he bought real ones.
Do you think there’s still a real art snobbery that exists?
Of course. Snob appeal, the signature, of course. In the ’80s it was more prevalent than it is today. Conspicuous consumption. I was certainly a part of it.
So going back to the old days, when the art dealers commissioned you, did you think you were doing anything wrong? Were you just doing your job?
I knew I was doing something wrong. They supplied certificates of authenticity, and the provenance, and had the credibility to pass it off as real; I did not. So they did it. Each and every one of my art dealers made much more money than I did. I wanted it that way because I didn’t have the business savvy to do it. Had I known how much money they were making…I didn’t know, but I did find out before I was arrested, I found out on the day Chagall died and my prices doubled (Tony smiles and shakes his head). The day Chagall died! I bought a new Rolls Royce the next week, it was conspicuous consumption at the time. The more you have, the better.
That was during the ‘80s, yeah?
Yeah. Miro died first, and I didn’t have many Miros, but when Chagall died after…he was almost 100 when he died…I had more Chagalls than anybody. You couldn’t tell. Same paper, same everything, the signature was perfect. Often I would have waste. I’d have Chagalls I’d throw out if I thought the signature wasn’t just right. I was good, I was a perfectionist…I didn’t want my work out there being kicked back. Anyway, so that’s what I did…
What about your lifestyle back then? Why were you drawn to that? People have called it ‘salacious’…
That’s what I’m talking about. The ‘80s. It was that way. The more you had, the better it was and I was part of it.
Were you in LA at the time?
I lived in Claremont. I had a beautiful home and I had a collection of cars: three Ferraris, a Lamborghini, a new Rolls Royce…and I don’t know. Like I said, the more you had, the better. My neighbours hated me…
Oh really? They wouldn’t chat or anything? They wouldn’t say ‘Hey, how you going?’
Oh when, I was arrested all the curtains were like this…(pretends to peer out from behind the curtains)…but everybody at the time…were you at the press conference? At the forum the other day?
No, I wasn’t there…
I said this there. I would work late at night. An artist would know this. I worked late at night til early in the morning, sometimes 4 or 5. I get up late, so I’d get up at the crack of noon or 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
My neighbours would see me leave in one of my cars, and they would never see me in the mornings and they were certain I was a drug dealer. And the police thought I was a drug dealer. I even had a friend, this girl, one of my friends would say “Oh yeah, I get all my drugs from Tony” and I’d go “Why the hell would you say something like that?” Then I’d get people calling me for cocaine and I’d be all “Why are you calling me? I don’t deal drugs.” and they’d go “Oh yeah” then ‘click’ they’d hang up and be mad at me.
There were some people who were absolutely positive I was a drug dealer. All the drug dealers in town loved me, they cracked up. I’m serious, 500 times my girlfriend would hear conversations that I was a drug deal. If I were a drug dealer, I’d be the world’s dumbest drug dealer.
This one time, this big, BIG drug dealer…we were in a bar, it was called Magnolia’s Peach, we walked out and he says “Tony, I wanna show you something,” and he opened up the trunk of his Toyota Turcel. I think it was the first time they made the Toyota Turcel. Do they still make them? I don’t know…but it was the most inexpensive Toyota ever made…I don’t know…but it was small. He opened up the trunk and there was nothing but bricks of cocaine in there, in a car that cost $5000, $7000. And I go “Why are you showing this to me?” and he goes “Oh, I don’t know, I thought you might like it. By the way, if I don’t make it home, you’re dead.” Why would I say a word? (laughs). But they got a kick out of it because I got all the heat.
Because everyone was watching you so they could quietly do their own thing…
(nods) Exactly. Then when I got arrested, it was first local, then national, then world news and…I wasn’t around for a while, and when I came back my attorney says “I know you’re still selling drugs.” (laughs) and I was all “God, get away from me!”
How did you feel about that? That everyone presumed you were something you weren’t?
I thought they were incredibly stupid. I said I was an art dealer, I never said I was an artist and nobody saw me painting because I painted late at night. I thought it was more credible to be an art dealer, do you know what I mean? I had a hidden studio, or I painted on my patio, my patio was covered and nobody could look in. I had it ventilated. I had a secret room…where I kept this painting that I want to show you…I have to go and get it for you…let me run and get it, and I can explain more about what I did, how I age things…I think that would be better…
Tony leaves the room and returns a few minutes later with a black folio case. He pulls out a Dali oil and its preparatory drawing, and as I look at it, I’m still confused as to whether it’s the real thing or not…it’s amazing.
This is something that Dali did, it’s in the Vatican museum in Rome (he points to the drawing). It’s just Christ floating in the air. And then this would be a painting in between (now showing me the oil), and then he would do his masterpiece. It’s called Corpus Hypercubus. Anyway, that was one of his masterpieces, probably worth $100mil.
Tony fiddles around with his phone, trying to find an image of the real thing.
Now, this is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and…it’s huge. Dali did this. Now, let me show you…(he searches his phone again for ‘Dali Vatican’)…this is the end result. This (the sketch) would be his preparatory drawing, this was his thinking (the painting). See how there’s a thin crucifix [in the real thing], then I thought “Oh, how about a fat crucifix…”. That’s the Dead Sea where he was crucified, and he’s rising above the Dead Sea, so that’s what I was thinking and if you look, there are little cracks starting. It takes 50 years for an oil to dry, and they’re not cracks, they’re islands – the oil is shrinking. This is a neglected oil, something that’s been in hot, cold humidity, and see how it’s shrinking, the canvas is shrinking here along the edge? That’s what happens when a painting gets older. Signature’s flawless…that’s the way Dali applied paint, I know because I’ve been around.
The back of the painting is just as important as the front (he turns the painting over) and it’s aged 50 years…that’s Dali’s handwriting which I practiced, practiced, practiced…that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice…and the signature. I renamed it, I gave it the name Christ Rising Above the Dead Sea Ascending Towards Heaven. A friend of mine who lives in Spain taught me how to write it, so it’s correct grammar, know what I mean? If I got it off Google, it wouldn’t have been correct.
So he’s trying to come up with something…so when he did this, he didn’t say “Okay, there it is…” he had to think about it. It evolved into the masterpiece. So this drawing would be like an oil sketch, and when I did it…well, now it would be worth $25mil. I kept this in my secret room. Twenty five cops ripped up everything, my wallpaper, everything, but they didn’t find my room!
Yeah, there was a button…and you’d press it, the door to the secret room would kick open in the spare bedroom…
Yeah, it was at ground level…
How did you get all your stuff? Someone had to go and grab it all for you?
You mean out of the room? Oh yeah, had to wait until things cooled down…and a friend of mine came over with his truck and we just gutted it.
We had Mexican helpers that couldn’t speak English…
I just want to find a picture of the painting that’s in the Vatican…I think it’s called Christ Rising…
How long did this take to do?
The drawing and the painting…about a month. And I had the case made for it, that gives it a nice touch. And also, when someone wants to buy an nice painting, they want to see it…they want to flip it around and see both sides…
Tony finds the image of Christ Rising and shows me…
That’s in the Vatican in Rome. See how it’s just Him? The background…he probably did that first, this is in between, he liked the angle, I do…it’s an interesting perspective, it’s logical that he would do this, but he didn’t, I did it in mine. So someone knowing Dali would look at my painting and go “Whoa!” and they’d buy it, an expert would buy it. Experts would authenticate my work all the time.
So I’m trying to show you the detail and that’s why at my trial…it lasted 4½ years, the prosecution would put black ads in the paper, looking for victims. “Did you buy a fake Chagall?” “Did you buy a fake Dali?” “Did you buy a fake Miro?” “Did you buy a fake Rembrandt?” “Did you buy a fake anything?” and so we expected five, ten people to come forward grieving…nobody came. I had a hung jury.
I went through life thinking I did a victimless crime…until about five years ago. There’s a program on American television called American Greed and it showed it from the victim’s point of view…I used the same pigments on this that Dali used, I went to Paris…I know what pigments he used. I know when he painted in the US, but this wasn’t of that era. So it’d be difficult to find anything wrong with this, even with technology.
My point is, eventually someday, somebody’s gonna be hurt. They’re gonna think they have a multi-million dollar painting then they find out that it’s not. And I only came to this conclusion about five years ago.
Do you mind if we talk about your case?
Sure, everything’s open.
How hard was it? How stressful was it to go from the life you were living to all of a sudden not having any of that?
My attorneys hosed me. They’re the ones who dragged it out for 4½ years. Do you remember OJ Simpson?
Robert Shapiro was my attorney. I was his client just before OJ. I canned him. He wanted to just plea me to the judge. And I said ‘No, I want my day in court.’ I’ll tell you a tidbit of info that you probably didn’t get in the Australian press. Bob Shapiro, he never, ever, EVER went to trial. His thing, all over the US, every attorney knew, that Bob’s thing was he would plea bargain his clients. That was his thing. OJ originally went to Howard Wiseman, the best attorney in LA, he’s the one who got Bob Delorean off, the guy who made cars.
Then [OJ] went to Bob Shapiro and Shapiro smelled fame and fortune and got his dream team together and they went to trial…but he wasn’t gonna go to trial for me, I wanted my day in court. But…anyway…they charged me for everything. $2000 for incomplete telephone calls, incomplete, not counting the completed calls! I spent thousands of dollars for parking to go to court…and they just hosed me. I didn’t make a penny for 4½ years, all I did was spend, spend spend. They’d say “Oh, I need another $20K, I need another $30K for this and this” so half a million dollars later I’m sitting there and I have a hung jury…and they’re gonna try me again. I got no money, I have no work…so they offered me a year, I said “I’ll take it…” If I had’ve gone with Shapiro, he would’ve got me a year-and-a-half. I should’ve done that, I would’ve kept everything…
Did it break you?
Yes. For almost a decade. I don’t know how I survived. Nobody wanted to touch me, no art dealer. They wouldn’t talk to me. They all lawyered up…all my customers. They told me I could walk, all I had to do was give them the names of all my customers, but I wouldn’t.
Do you remember the moment the verdict was delivered?
I kind of knew what would happen. It’s okay. I knew, my attorney told me that he’d talked. I sort of accepted it. They built a studio for me, said I could paint. Then they would let me leave…I’d have to go to high schools and teach kids to paint murals on traffic safety…so I had it better than most.
Did it change your perspective on what you do, or what you were doing at the time?
Yes, I never wanna go back. I just…hated them…being locked up and being told what to do constantly, every little thing…I never wanna go back. But I had it easier than everybody else, just imagine if I was 24/7 locked up and couldn’t leave like I could.
But…I was so ‘lily white’ and when I left, it was all expunged. Today, I’m no longer a criminal, today on my criminal record it says Not Guilty and I have nothing on my record. I was so ‘lily white’ I can’t stand myself (laughs)! I’ve done nothing wrong…
I kept this around (points at the Dali), this was in my studio since 1989. I could’ve sold this when I was down and out, it was like my bottle of booze that a recovering alcoholic would keep in the cupboard in case they ever wanted to go back.
Going back to your work again, how did you choose what to paint? You’ve spoken before about ‘dangerous’ pieces, pieces that you won’t paint…
Oh, I didn’t paint them because I thought I couldn’t do them…sometimes, like an abstract art, something that someone scribbles real fast and I don’t know what the hell they’re doing…I would never try…
Are there any artists you just blatantly wouldn’t touch at all?
Jackson Pollock (laughs). Too hard. I even did Norman Rockwell who I adored back then. But today…no I just copy them today. For the last five years or so, it’s been old masters only.
What are your thoughts on art crimes today? How big is the problem?
That I don’t know. I’m completely out of the loop. Back in my day they said 10%, now they say 15%. It’s probably happening, but I don’t think it’s as bad as 15%. I’m the worst person to ask, I’ve been out of the business for so long. I do know this: when I was arrested, it stopped in LA. I think it stopped in the States because my arrest was BOOM! The end. Everyone gutted their galleries. Dealers were gutting their galleries, so for a period of a few years at least, I know that it stopped in the US.
What happened to your art dealers?
They weren’t imprisoned?
They all lawyered up, waiting for me to…I heard your Australian term last night: to dob. I’ve never heard that (laughs)!
It’s the same as ‘to rat’…
Yeah, they were waiting for me to rat or drop a dime and they all lawyered up and…nothing…and they certainly wouldn’t commission me to do any work. When I got out of jail, they wouldn’t talk to me and then about ten years after…there were only two of them I talked to…one of them bought me a new Mercedes, I didn’t have a car…
What’s the difference between copying and forging and emulating?
Emulating is the same as forging, it’s just a nicer word they used in my case. That’s what we used. That was semantics, that’s all. Emulating is that I emulated his style…tomato/tomato…remember, I just didn’t want to go jail. Everyone who goes to court is not guilty, you know that…
So now you copy pieces…what’s the difference between emulating and copying?
Oh copying is that you copy them exactly…that’s all I do now…
So without the ageing process…
Oh, no…that piece (the Dali), I made that up. That’s my painting in his style. Now I copy them exactly, there’s a big difference…that’s something you should be aware of. Back then, I did my own paintings, but put their names on it.
And in my trial, we’d set a legal precedent about art and that was that the signature is an integral part of the painting. If the artist’s signature is there on the painting, I could copy that too. But also, I still have to stamp the back of everything I do, only person in the US.
Is that because you’re so awesome?
What sort of art do you own?
Nudes. All my girlfriends…there’s not that many…it sounds like I’ve got a lifetime of girlfriends.
Did you paint them yourself?
Yeah, of course. I could have any painting in the world, I just paint what I want. I don’t let my granddaughters in there though. They go “Where does Papa Tony live?”…they’ve never seen my place, they’re not gonna. They’re not gonna see that their grandfather’s a dog!
Can you personally pick a forgery pretty easily?
On an artist that I know a lot about, yes. Not easily…how would I know? There could be someone out there better than me.
What would you look for if you were buying a Dali?
A Dali oil?
I’d go up and look at the texture, I’d smell it, I’d look at the wood, I’d look at the back. The provenance, the paperwork to back it up is more important than the work now. And you can follow it, follow the provenance…who sold it? That’s very important. The signature in oil…I’ve screwed up signatures in oil, you can fix it in an oil, oil can be fixed…you smear it off and do it again until it’s perfect…and pencil, you can erase it and do it again. Watercolour…watercolour is the most difficult. You have no chance, it’s timing. When you lay down watercolours on top of each other, it’s all timing…so watercolour is difficult.
From my knowledge, when I look at a Dali, I can tell Dali’s hand…how it worked…I’ll give you a little hint about Dali, something I just noticed myself and I did so many of them…he was an incredible draftsman, he could draw so beautifully. And if he did a beautiful picture, he’d have a very neat, perfect signature. But if he did a sloppy picture, a loose, sloppy rendition, he’d have a loose, sloppy signature that would match his drawing. So if somebody did a nice drawing with a loose signature: fake. I saw one guy who did all these neat drawings, all in the same amber ink, he was an Italian from Italy…and he had a sloppy signature with a neat painting. And the paper he uses is always the same…you gotta know what paper Dali used.
Tony Tetro was recently in Melbourne to participate in the Art Series Hotel‘s competition, Which Warhol’s Warhol’s? For the competition, Tetro was asked to paint nine Warhols to sit alongside one piece by Warhol himself, with hotel guests given the opportunity to select their choice for ‘the real thing’ and going in to the running to win the genuine piece or one of Tetro’s pieces, collector’s items in their own right. Tetro believes the hotel’s cause—to bring an awareness to art forgery, and place it in the cultural discourse—is an important one, hence his participation in the competition.