China hits back after furious protests over art exhibition

Written by Staff Writer China has condemned an exhibition of provocative and controversial artworks that opened in Italy earlier this week, calling it an act of “provocation” against its sovereignty. Opening on Tuesday in…

China hits back after furious protests over art exhibition

Written by Staff Writer

China has condemned an exhibition of provocative and controversial artworks that opened in Italy earlier this week, calling it an act of “provocation” against its sovereignty.

Opening on Tuesday in the town of Burano in southern Italy, the 120 works by Chinese contemporary artists are titled “No Bitches, No Homework” — a nickname used by their critics. The provocative series draws attention to gender inequality in China and the gender wage gap.

The foundation displaying the works, ArtServe UK, countered that they are a “tribute to women that have made tremendous achievements in society.”

The series are the brainchild of Yifang Feng, who died in 2010. Here, her portrait of Hong Kong’s former Chief Executive Carrie Lam is seen. Credit: Yifang Feng (Copyright: ArtServe Foundation)

Ahead of the show’s opening, the Chinese Embassy in Italy criticized what it called an “open provocation against China” against its “core interests and sovereignty.”

“The exhibition, created and promoted by the UK, breaks even stronger the link between peace and socialism,” the statement said.

Yifang Feng was an acclaimed Chinese contemporary artist who was renowned for her erotic portraits. Her manifesto was “no girls, no boys, no boys, no bitches, no homework.” Here, a 2009 portrait of Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, is seen. Credit: Yifang Feng (Copyright: ArtServe Foundation)

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In a statement released Tuesday, ArtServe called the criticism by the Chinese Embassy “provocative.”

“We hope that those people who want to revive Sino-British friendship can make a positive contribution,” the statement said.

The works, dating from 2010 to 2018, include portraits of foreign leaders, including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, along with images of tortured women, including Tiananmen Square protester Liu Xiaobo, Nobel laureate Liu Xianbin and dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Some of the photographs in the exhibition depict politically sensitive incidents — such as actress Gong Li’s nude performance of Richard Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries at the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2005, which caused controversy.

International responses

Critics of the work have seized on their sensational nature, saying they are an example of China’s misogyny.

In reaction to the accusations, Yifang Feng’s husband, prominent Chinese contemporary artist Jiao Yang told CNN that some images depict “illegal” acts that made him uncomfortable.

Chinese artist Yang Guanghel works on an installation piece with support from Yifang Feng’s daughter in 2009. Yang was an admirer of Feng’s personality. Credit: JUI/Xinhua/via Getty Images

He pointed out that a portrait of Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, did not include her public profile, political affiliation or position. Peng is well-known in China and regularly appears in public.

“Personally, I feel she is a pretty girl,” Yang told CNN. “She is a government wife, but in the way they have used her in images she has the air of an air force officer’s wife.”

The Chinese Embassy’s statement echoed Yang’s comments in its objection, noting that the visual sets off stereotypes and stereotypes.

The works by Yifang Feng have been criticized for their provocative content and insensitivity to sensitive events. Credit: © JIU/Xinhua/via Getty Images

Yifang Feng (who was known by her artist pseudonym Shiyi Cunzhi) was well-known for her erotic portraits, which were popular among mainland Chinese female artists, especially younger ones, according to Yang. Feng died in 2010.

Yang was an admirer of Feng’s personality, he told CNN.

The Chinese government has been reaching out to African countries for trade and investment, especially in comparison to trade relations with Britain. In 2016, Wang Yi, China’s special representative for African affairs, said he hopes Chinese companies would make progress in African countries’ production capacity of natural resources such as oil and gas.

A 2017 study by the World Economic Forum noted that “China is to Africa what the US is to the US, the EU to the EU, and Japan to Japan, with very little to no economic diversification,” adding that China’s trade with African countries is “major”, adding that “at present it is not feasible for the US or EU to use their own natural resources on the African continent for export to China.”

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