Over the last several years, Chinese contemporary art has fully established itself in the international arena. We can now see how the artists successfully transformed contemporary Chinese art and culture, fundamentally altering the ways in which the nation represented and reflected upon its own circumstances. From its nascent stages, collectors saw in this movement not just the tentative yearnings of a then-underground avant-garde, but imagery, concepts and techniques unlike anything they had seen before.
Such is the case with the twenty lots from an Important Private German Collection which Christie's proudly offers as highlights across our Evening and Day sale auctions. Born into a well-known German collecting family, long ensconced in the European art world and dating back to the salons and galleries that produced the great German Expressionists of the early 20th century, this collection of historic Chinese works served as the cap on a lifetime of living and breathing every trend in Western art, perpetually searching for new areas of inspiration.
The bulk of the collection was acquired in Hong Kong in the 1990s, and offers a range of works that highlight not only the historic changes taking place in China, but also the ways in which these works simply did not look like anything that had come before.
Across the day sale we further see experiments in the use of private, mysterious, and provocative symbolic systems in the works of Yue Minjun and Mao Xuhui; explorations of calligraphy, ink painting and traditional Chinese aesthetics from Fung Ming-chip, Qiu Zhijie, Qiu Shihua, and Gu Wenda; forays into highly conceptual approaches to representation and mediation in the works of Feng Mengbo and Yan Lei, and more. Taken together these works represented radical new approaches to subjectivity, representation, and narrative that were understood, first, as fresh and inspiring new approaches to contemporary art-making, long before the world came to see them, additionally, as harbingers of China's transformation as a nation and formidable player on the global stage. It is in collections like these that we see the double-edged value of Chinese contemporary art as it revolutionized Chinese culture itself, while simultaneously discovering unexplored new territory in contemporary art.
If Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe were the most popular symbols of public culture, then video game must be equipped with the most typical elements of Pop Art's visual form. In the 1980s, Nintendo and SEGA dominated the home video games market, Feng Mengbo and countless young people of that time switched from traditional entertainment games to this virtual world of a race, hoping to search for the missing excitement and satisfaction in life. Video games originally is innocuous private behavior, the player can temporarily forget about all realities limitations to enjoy the adventure, challenge the crisis and indiscriminate violence, but not afraid to get hurt, it is because even though there is failure, just click the television screen's "play again" magic button, life will regain salvation, until "game over", when the power is off and everything is back to the laws of nature, being in the virtual world will never have the slightest sense of original sin.
Feng Mengbo graduated from Central Academy of Fine Arts' Department of Print Making. He used to dream about designing his own video games. He likes to use his childhood's hero idols to express his works. The Video Endgame Series: Three Martyrs of the People-Liberation Army (Lot 1599) is when he uses related software's technology and the important resources of his early paintings, the horizontal war screen is derived from the once popular video games world (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), then use the traditional drawing techniques to develop into like a hand painted work. The learning experiences make Feng Mengbo become very interested in the video games flat screen and the color contrasting images, he is particularly obsessed with the rough texture games screen of the eighties (8 dip) production, the old fashioned television as compared to the vague image scanning effect, in his eyes is unusually tasteful, these unique qualities are vividly reflected on the canvas.
In the painting in the People's Liberation Army Hero, it was in the 1950s during the "Korean War", Huang Jiguang helped the back-up army to win a major highlands North Korea mission. He courageously used his body to resist again the enemy's machine gun and was killed on the spot. Feng Mengbo tries to make this image became a popular revolutionary hero in his work and regains a new life. His transparent body becomes a spirit that will never die, the classic posture is alive. Fate has once again faced the relentless artillery bombardment. The road of revolution is still with obstacles, the well-known enemies of generations have become the faces of the United Nation forces. In replacement is the western secular capitalism, the new challenger Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The video game's plot is like a repeat of history, Huang Jiguang may once again heroic sacrifice, but the flesh has gone beyond the boundaries of the People's Heroes and has not been turned back. In the video game world in order to "play again" as the best amulet, or he will understand the game to the end is just a short and frenzied self-anesthesia, when the "game over" light is on, we know it is a non-rational stubbornness, hope one can choose the mid-way option of quitting the game?