[Clayart] Rent Collection Courtyard

Snail Scott claywork at flying-snail.com
Mon Jul 24 15:03:08 EDT 2017

On Jul 23, 2017, at 11:43 AM, Dorothy Parshall <dorothyp at whidbey.com> wrote:
 [Rent Collection courtyard]  
> "Sculptures of Oppression and Revolt" which form the main part.  Published by "Foreign Language Press" in Peking in 1970, I am wondering if these marvellously expressive sculptures are still in existence…

Expanding on my previous response:  The original sculptures date to the Cultural Revolution. They were the work of several artists, some of whom are still alive. The Chinese government, at the urging of Mao’s wife, made a set of fiberglass replicas which toured throughout China, Eastern Bloc Europe, and other Communist countries. The clay originals are still in their original setting: the actual front courtyard of a pre-Communist landlord. I’m not sure about any of the fiberglass replicas. The book which Dorothy mentions seems to be occasionally available through online book dealers, both the original and a newer edition.

The sculpture was brought to renewed attention outside China when the expat Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang hired nine artists to reproduce it for the 1999 Venice Biennale. I believe these replicas were actually unfired clay over an armature and were intended to be temporary, just for duration of the Biennale. There was a flurry of both praise and condemnation for the revised meaning created by being re-contexturalized in a new, unrelated place (both pro and con), issues of appropriation versus intellectual property, colonialism, capitalist critique AND communist critique (both at the same time!), as well as a renewed discussion of representational art in current contemporary art. There was a lot of press at the time of the Biennale, which can still be found online. The best I’m familiar with is this one from the New York Times:


Cai Guo-Qiang is mainly famous for his ‘paintings’ with gunpowder and the performance events which produce them, as well was some very striking installation pieces utilizing found and repurposed objects, often with a historical or social critique in mind.


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