30 August 2013 – 2 February 2014


A slogan of the 1966–76 Cultural Revolution, “Serve the People” meant serving the great cause of socialism. Artists were crucial to that effort, but they had to make the right kinds of art: Soviet-style socialist realism or ink painting on revolutionary themes. All other art forms, Western or Chinese, were banned, and those who dared to practise them were vilified as capitalist-roaders and traitors.

The “opening up” that began in the 1980s led to a more expansive view of artists’ role: now they would serve the people by boosting China’s national image and income. “Today,” says artist Liu Dahong, “we have a new cultural revolution.” The art market is booming and artists have unprecedented freedom to experiment and travel. And they serve people—and not only China’s people—in wildly different and distinctly individual ways. Many are rediscovering and revitalising the traditions that the Cultural Revolutionaries set out to destroy. Some struggle to separate history from ideology; others question the overlap—greater than ever in the digital age—between fact and fakery. Critiques of consumerism are common; a few artists express cautious criticism of corruption and censorship as well. But even those who focus on personal themes serve others by helping them see in new ways.

SERVE THE PEOPLE surveys the best works of this new revo­lution, all as individual as their creators: from Yan Siwen’s old-fashioned love story and MadeIn’s glorious multicultural mash-up to Chili’s comic opera and Jin Feng’s 100-year history, printed from tank tyres and a broken statue of Mao.

SERVE THE PEOPLE is drawn completely from Judith Neilson’s renowned White Rabbit Collection.
CURATOR: Edmund Capon AM, OBE

Please click on the artists’ names below to discover more information about each artist and their work.


wang zhiyuan
Object of Desire, 2008,
fibreglass, vehicle duco, lights, sound,
363 x 355 x 70 cm

Wu Yuren
A Sentence, 2012,
LED light boxes, dimensions variable


Chen wenling
Happy Life—Family, 2005,
bronze, vehicle duco, 195 x 60 x 85 cm

Find Light in the Rain, 2007,
wool on cloth, 12 panels, each 50 x 50 cm

GUO Hongwei
Paradise, 2008,
acrylic paint, dimensions variable

Huang Ying
Metamorphosis No. 15, 16, 2010
digital prints, 200 x 150 cm

jin shi
Small Business—Karaoke, 2009,
mixed media, 220 x 70 x 165 cm

Immortals’ Trails in Secret Land, 2012, mixed media, 350 x 240 x 20 cm

meiya lin
The Times Are Summoning, 2007,
video, 2 min 40 sec

Fabrication No. 3—1 and 2, 2009,
paper, 170 x 130 cm each

Yan Siwen
His Series, 2012,
black-plate ambrotypes, 40.6 x 40.6 cm

You SI
Transforming, 2012,
acrylic ink on rice paper, 180 x 180 cm

Zhang Jianjun
China Chapter 5, 10, and 12 2005, 2011, silicone rubber, various dimensions

Zhang Peili
Last Words, 2003, video
Happiness, 2006, video


cang xin
Shamanism—Untitled, 2005,
pencil on paper, 200 x 250 cm

Chen hangfeng
Invasive Species—Vegetables, 2010, photographs, light boxes, animation, dimensions variable

Ink History, 2008–2010,
black-and-white animation, 3 min

Red Star Motel, 2009,
12 C-prints, each 80 x 80 cm

jin feng
A History of China’s Modernisation Vols 1 and 2, 2011, rubber, marble, paper, dimensions variable

Liu Dahong
Old Spies and Evil Henchmen, 2011,
oil paint and charcoal on canvas,
100 x 80 cm
Scummy Dregs of the Old Society, 2011, oil paint and charcoal on canvas,
100 x 80 cm

Calm, 2009,
rubble, waterbed, carpet, motor,
15 x 500 x 350 cm

Shi Jinsong
Baby Stroller—Sickle Edition, 2007,
steel, 116 x 65 x 80 cm

Su meng-hung
The Album of Immortal Blossoms in an Everlasting Spring by Giuseppe Castiglione, 2012,
acrylic on canvas, 259 x 194 cm

Yao Peng
Five Masterpieces, 2011,
book, glue, dimensions variable
Someday, 2011,
newspaper, dimensions variable
What, 2011,
oil paint on card, 24 x various dimensions


chen lingyang
Twelve Flower Months, 1999–2000,
12 photographs, various dimensions

Nortse (Norbu Tsering)
Father’s Violin 2, 2007,
mixed media on canvas,
134.5 x 134.5 cm
Guarding Against Catching a Cold, 2007, mixed media on canvas, 130 x 130 cm
The State I Am In, 2007,
mixed media on canvas, 130 x 130 cm

shen shaomin
Laboratory—Three-Headed, Six-Armed Superman, 2005,
bone, bone meal, glue, glass, dimensions variable

sun furong
Nibbling Up—Tomb Figures, 2008,
mixed media, dimensions variable

Zhou Xiaohu
America Likes Me, 2012,
oil paint on aluminium plate, animation video, 122 x 217 cm
Steppenwolf, 2012,
oil paint on aluminium plate, video animation projection, 157 x 122 cm

Close Menu