ART FOR THE MILLIONS
100 SCULPTURES FROM THE MAO ERA
In conjunction with the Frankfurt Book Fair’s focus on China, the SCHIRN Kunsthalle Frankfurt will be showing, for the first time ever in the West, the spectacular Chinese sculptural group “Rent Collection Courtyard”. This ensemble of more than one hundred life-size figures is among the most important works in modern Chinese art history and is firmly fixed in China’s collective memory. Created as a site-specific installation in Dayi in 1965 by teachers and graduates of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing, the figural group soon became a model artwork of the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966. Several variations of the work were made and exhibited throughout China in subsequent years, only one of which survives today. In a dramatic sequence of scenes, which unites traditional Chinese, Soviet, and Western elements, the work depicts the merciless exploitation of the rural population by a rich, pre- Communist era landowner. In recent years, young Chinese artists have repeatedly returned to the work, and it has found its way into current discussions on contemporary art in China.
I was deeply impressed and touched by the sculptures and I will try to mediate my impressions in the photographic works of these series. Let me do this carefully, with respect for the artists and especially for the people depicted in sculptures which had suffered an incredible painful life.