German artist Anselm Kiefer protests over the holding of his first show in China— and the organizers say they are within their rights to do so, Deng Zhangyu reports.
Anselm Kiefer in China.
The show, which is being held at the art museum of the academy, displays more than 80 pieces by Kiefer, a leading figure in German neo-expressionism movement since the 1960s, covering sculptures, paintings, installations and photos.
In the last few days, a heated debate surfaced on Chinese social media about ethical and legal aspects of the show, which is not only a solo exhibition but that of a prominent living artist whose agreement wasn’t forthcoming.
Four days before the show’s opening, China Daily received an email from Kiefer who said he was writing in response to an earlier report in the paper on the show’s opening.
He said the show was being held “without his involvement and consent”.
“Throughout my career I have been heavily involved in all my major international exhibitions. It is a matter of deep regret and frustration that the organizers ofmy first show in China have seen fit to excludemefrom this process,” Kiefer, 71, wrote in the email, adding that he wanted the exhibition canceled.
On Thursday, he also issued an official media statement about his positionontheshow that went viral.
The show involves several organizers, including Germany’s Bell Art Center and the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
Li Jiayi, a representative of the Bell Art Center in China, told China Daily that Kiefer’s works on show are from both private collectors and art institutions, which have authorized them to show the works in China. The MAP collection and Ludwig Museum Koblenz in Germany provided the pieces.
“The show legal,” Li said.
The exhibition only shows the German artist to Chinese audiences and does not involve sales, she added.
A special ticket for the show was 60 yuan ($8) in contrast with a general ticket of 10 yuan on Saturday, when long lines of people waited outside the museum before the opening.
Li said it took them two years to prepare the show and that they had informed Kiefer and his studio about it.
“We invested heavily to bring the show to China,” Li said.
But she refused to talk about the amount of money they spent on it.
In his email to China Daily, Kiefer said that he “wasn’t consulted about this planned exhibition ofmy work in China”. is completely
Wang Huangsheng, director of the art museum at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, said it’s not easy to hold a show of Kiefer, because his works are usually large. For example, the largest work for the Beijing show is about half a ton in weight and up to 5 meters in height.
The museum issued a statement on Friday in response to Kiefer’s general media statement. It said the show complied with the law and was authorized by both individual and institutional collectors as the German co-organizer said. The statement said it chose to stage the show because of respect for the artist and also with the aim of bringing an important show to the academy.
Fan Di’an, president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, told a media conference in October that he had long been eager to introduce Kiefer’s works in China and wrote emails to the artist once the academy’s art museum decided to stage the show.
The show’s venue also changed a fewtimes. Baijiahu Art Museum in Nanjing was previously expected to be the first stop of the touring show. It wasn’t until several months ago that the art museum at the Central Academy of Fine Arts signed up with the Bell Art Center to hold the first show in Beijing.
Wang Jun, a senior partner with the Yingke Law Firm, told Artron, a Beijing-based website on art news, that according to China’s copyright lawandGermany’s copyright law, an exhibition right belongs to the owner of the original copy (of an artwork).
But Kiefer didn’t elaborate on the reasons behind his refusal to back the show.
Chinese artist Lin Tianmiao wrote on her WeChat account that she once visited Kiefer inParis and that he was “very serious” about holding his own solo show in China, and that he sent his wife to China to choose a venue.
Speaking of Kiefer’s protest, WangHuangsheng called it “a pity”.
Kiefer isknownfor his large pieces in clay, lead, ash and dried plants. His work To the Unknown Painter was sold for a record $3.6 million at Christie’s inNewYork in 2011.
After Beijing, the show is scheduled to tour Shanghai and Guangzhou.