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November 5, 2009

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Does gilding a common cabbage turn it into a work of art?

AN auto smashup and a daydreaming bystander, a fluorescent human skull, men climbing steel bamboo - these are part of a "Passion" sculpture show. Wang Jie reports.

Seldom do local galleries feature a cluster of works by different sculptors, due to cost and transport.

The Levant Art Gallery in Shanghai has decided, however, to "eat the crab" (chi pangxie), meaning to try something raw.

The exhibit "Here We Shape Passion" showcases works by 11 artists, mostly promising young sculptors.

"It's not easy for a gallery to survive through selling sculptures," says Karen Zheng, the gallery owner, "but there is a potential market for them. I hope this show can awaken recognition of the role of sculpture in public art."

Zheng aims to promote sculpture for more ordinary people, and the works on display are daunting in neither size nor price. The market needs to be nurtured, she says.

Works are striking: There's an ordinary cabbage that's been gilded (Does that make it art, the sculptor asks); a huge fluorescent skull and small men climbing a forest of stainless steel bamboo.

Li Chuhui and his mini "environmental" sculptures are notable.

A bald young man, apparently indifferent, stands, lies or sits in unreal surroundings. Sometimes he drives a car in a field of flowers, sometimes he stares blankly at the sky as he stands next to a pileup of clay cars.

Asked if he is that man, 31-year-old Li says: "This is merely a symbol, irony, to be more exact."

Ma Tianyu's sculptures always pose questions.

"Many tiny things, in the eyes of people today, were actually regarded as patriotic in the 1960s," he says.

An example is the humble cabbage - basic winter food for Chinese in the north. It grew readily and didn't spoil in cold weather.

About his golden cabbage, Ma asks: "Is it a sculpture? Is it a healthy vegetable? Is this our true memory?"

Date: through November 15, 10am-6pm

Address: 4/F, 28B Yuyao Rd

Tel: 5213-5366


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