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Scorned sculptures in China

By Hannah Leung (Global Times)

09:50, December 27, 2012

The hated "Welcome to Wangjing" sculpture (Xinhua)

"Welcome to Wangjing" reads the sculpture that looks like red Legos, childishly stacked into the shape of half a dumbbell. This piece of public art on Beijing's Wangjing Xilu took the No. 5 spot in the country's top-10 ugliest sculptures, a dishonor voted on by about five million netizens last week. Initiated by online media in August, the Wangjing piece was up against other hated sculptures across China.

Such awards pop up frequently in China, prompting many to question the purpose of sculptures here in Beijing. There's a constant inflow of art, but of questionable taste and crowd-appeal. Not only is the Wangjing structure being questioned on aesthetic grounds, but it is also believed to be a miniature rip-off of the China pavilion at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

Other sculptures that made the list cross the taste line more egregiously. Also making the top 10, for example, is a sculpture in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. The piece depicts a small pig seemingly mounting a larger pig with an exposed human breast and nipple. But according to artist Yin Zhengyi, the contested mating pigs are actually a mother and a playful child, Yin's attempt to convey a filial moment.

Many netizens are asking how these sculptors are approved for public art works in the first place. City sculptures must meet the approval of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning before being erected in public places. It's not uncommon for sculptures to be removed after facing disapproval from the public. For example, in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, chair-like sculptures in the shape of blue, nude women, were removed from Suzhou's Jinji Lake in mid-October this year after the public deemed them distasteful.

Now in Beijing, some sculptures are quietly being removed to make way for a different set of art, reflecting a changing aesthetic.

According to Simon Wang, the director of Gallery Yang in 798 Art Zone, many of the sculptures in 798 have recently been replaced by installations from more internationally-recognized artists. It's been a major financial endeavor for 798, costing about 5 million yuan ($801,965).

One of the biggest changes was that Liu Ruowang's Wolf Coming - an aggressive display of 110 ferocious wolf figurines - were replaced with avant-garde artist Huang Yongping's massive model of an airplane wing.

A few of the wolf figurines, meanwhile, have been relocated to the Sanlitun area. A smaller pack of snarling wolves now stand in front of the 3.3 Shopping Mall. The sculptures are entertaining for kids to look at and play with, but the meaning and reason behind their placement seems to puzzle others.

As for the future of public sculptures in Beijing, Wang said that other major world capitals have public art that is both well thought out and widely loved by the public.

"Sculptures and art in Shanghai are a bit more on track, but compared to cities like Chicago, London and New York, there's a lot of space to improve [in Beijing]," Wang said.

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