Wang Jin - Contemporary Art London Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Exhibited

    Inside Out: New Chinese Art, 2000 (traveling exhibition to New York, San Francisco, Monterrey, Seattle)

  • Literature

    Centre Pompidou Paris, Alors, La Chine? Paris, 2003; V. Tam, China Chic, p. 275; P. Lu, ed., 90s Art China, Hunan 1999 (ill.); M. Gao, ed., Inside Out: New Chinese Art, Berkeley 1998, p. 32 (ill.); H. Lu, ed., Conceptual Art, Hunan 1999, p. 58 (ill.)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The conceptual artist Wang Jin was born in 1962 in Datong, a coal-mining city in northern China. He graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1987, and now lives and works in Beijing. Like many of China’s best conceptual artists, Wang displays an effortless versatility with the mediums of sculpture, performance, and photography. His artistic concerns center around the social conflicts raised by China’s rapid modernization, as well as the personal dreams and confrontations that arise in this new society.

    To Marry a Mule (Lot x) is Wang’s most critically acclaimed photograph which has appeared in countless publications. The poignant genesis of this photograph is the artist’s numerous futile attempts to join his wife in the United States. After Wang was denied a visa eight times, the couple eventually divorced. In the wake of this bitter event, the artist staged a performance to express his emotions in which he “married” a mule dolled up in stockings, rouge, and a flowered headdress.

    Wang’s most famous sculptural series is Dream of China. Each unique sculpture from this series is crafted after a Beijing Opera costume in the extremely utilitarian material of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Beijing Opera costumes date back to the mid-14th century, when these magnificently colored, highly elaborate robes symbolized a character’s role, gender, status, and other attributes: the more intricate and theatrical the robe, the more noble the character. The present lot from 1998 is one of Wang’s earliest sculptures in the series, a perfect exemplar of the extraordinarily intricate detail and craftsmanship that characterized these costumes. The resulting sculpture is ethereal yet distinctly contemporary: while the robe is stripped of its symbolic and practical function, its aesthetic form emerges as the compelling focus.

    Most recently, Wang’s works have explored another type of relationship between China’s booming economy. He paints banknotes of various currencies on Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) stones from Beijing’s Forbidden City; the significance of each work varies with each currency. The present lot, featuring the Chinese renminbi, signifies China’s commodification of its national culture as a “currency” that it transacts with the rest of the world.


To Marry a Mule

Color photograph.
74 7/8 x 49 3/4 in. (190.2 x 126.4 cm).
Signed, titled and dated "To Marry a Mule [in Chinese] 1995 July 28 Beijing, Chao yang qu, Guang Yinxiang [in Chinese] Wang Jin [in Chinese and English]" and numbered of three on lower center. This work is from an edition of three.

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £26,400

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm