Art for Millions

100 sculptures from the Maoist period

While the Frankfurt Book Fair showcased literature from China in 2009, the Schirn Kunsthalle presented a unique artwork dating back to the Chinese counter-revolution - the "Rent Collection Courtyard" ("Zhouyuan"). This monumental group of 114 life-sized sculptures depicts scenes from the lives of Chinese rural inhabitants, their oppression and exploitation prior to the communist revolution. Created in 1965, the sculptures were first displayed at the Szechuan Art Academy and were originally intended to be an installation at a former landlord's residence (Liu Wencai, 1881-1949). Shortly after they were made, however, the Chinese government declared the group of sculptures a national model art work and had numerous copies and variations produced which were presented throughout China and other communist countries abroad. As an icon of Chinese collective memory, the group of sculptures became one of the most important works of contemporary Chinese art. Even beyond China's borders, the work became a model of revolutionary art production.
Today, only one "mobile" ensemble of this important work from the Maoist period exists, which was shown in Europe for the first time at the Frankfurt exhibition. "Zhouyuan" is not only integral for understanding Chinese culture of the 20th century, but also Chinese contemporary art. For example, artist Cai Guo-Qiang made reference to "Zhouyuan" in his piece "Rent Collection Courtyard" shown at the Venice Biennial in 1999; the work sparked a debate about the position of the artist and the freedom of art in modern-day China.
The documentation describing the creation and reception of the work group also includes interpretations of the work by contemporary Chinese artists. The project also produced an educational museum brochure for school children and offered an accompanying programme with lectures, discussions and film presentations.

Curators: Esther Schlicht in cooperation with Feng Bin (CA)
Artists: Working artists' group supervised by teachers and graduates of the Szechuan Academy of Fine Arts in Chongqing, China

Venue and schedule:
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (Main), 24 September 2009 - 3 January 2010


Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Römerberg 6

60311 Frankfurt (Main) (external link, opens in a new window)