30 August 2013 – 2 February 2014
CURATED BY EDMUND CAPON AM, OBE
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.
Invasive Species—Vegetables, 2010, photographs, light boxes, animation, dimensions variable
A History of China’s Modernisation Vols 1 and 2, 2011, rubber, marble, paper, dimensions variable
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
The Album of Immortal Blossoms in an Everlasting Spring by Giuseppe Castiglione, 2012,
acrylic on canvas, 259 x 194 cm
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
Laboratory—Three-Headed, Six-Armed Superman, 2005,
bone, bone meal, glue, glass, dimensions variable