China art master Wu Guanzhong returns art to the people

Fri Apr 24, 2009 5:23am EDT
 
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Wu Guanzhong never accepted the Cultural Revolution's practical approach to art and how it had to be for the masses. Now, in his 90th year, the Chinese contemporary art master is proving his works really are for the people.

Wu, whose oeuvre spans five decades of Western-style oils and the more Eastern ink as well as theories on art, has recently donated almost all his works to museums in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, which received the largest number.

"Wu Guanzhong is one of the most significant Chinese and contemporary artists today and his works and life are a window into 20th century multiculturalism, of both East and West," Kwok Kian Chow, Singapore Art Museum director, told Reuters.

"He always rejected the idea of art as an illustration, the social realism of the Cultural Revolution and yet he left nothing for his family, saying that everything he has done in terms of artistic expression must go back to the people."

Wu donated 113 oil and ink works, painted during the years 1957-2007 and worth S$73.7 million, to the Singapore museum, which is exhibiting them under the title "An Unbroken Line," which takes its name from a famous quote by the artist "the unbroken line of a kite."

The quote, based on a Chinese metaphor about linking relationships and ties across generations, refers to art as the "kite," the string its connection between the daily life that inspired it and the link between the artist and his community.

Born in August 1919 in Jiangsu Province, Wu graduated from what is now known as the China Academy of Art before traveling to Paris in 1947 on a government scholarship to continue studies at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Art.

He returned to China in the 1950s to teach, introducing his students to several aspects of Western art, especially that it was an individual expression and that paintings should incorporate and draw on daily life.   Continued...

 
<p>Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong's "Crane Dancing " (2002, ink on paper) in an undated handout released April 24, 2009. Wu never accepted the Cultural Revolution's practical approach to art and how it had to be for the masses. Now, in his 90th year, the Chinese contemporary art master is proving his works really are for the people. To match Reuters Life! ARTS-GUANZHONG/ REUTERS/Wu Guanzhong/Singapore Art Museum/Handout (SINGAPORE SOCIETY) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS</p>