It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations, outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. At the one extreme, some works of genius would be sure to miss appreciation. Their very novelty would make them repulsive until the public had learned the new language in which their author spoke. It may be more than doubted, for instance, whether the etchings of Goya or the paintings of Manet would have been sure of protection when seen for the first time. At the other end, copyright would be denied to pictures which appealed to a public less educated than the judge. Yet if they command the interest of any public, they have a commercial value -- it would be bold to say that they have not an aesthetic and educational value -- and the taste of any public is not to be treated with contempt. It is an ultimate fact for the moment, whatever may be our hopes for a change. That these pictures had their worth and their success is sufficiently shown by the desire to reproduce them without regard to the plaintiffs' rights. (emphasis added)May 15-18 Hong Kong hosted Art HK 08, an international art fair (h/t to BusinessWeek Slideshow). Here is how BusinessWeek describes the art fair, and the motivating factor:
Though a great city in many respects, Hong Kong has the reputation as being something of a cultural backwater, at least when you stack it up against places like London, Paris, or new York. But the city is trying to burnish its image and hopes that by hosting the Hong Kong International Art Fair it might be able to establish itself as the pre-eminent cultural hub for visual arts in the region. Already it is the world's third-largest art auction market, so there is no question of the city's buying power . . . Art HK 08, which runs May 15-18, is an attempt to kick-start artistic awareness in the city, while attracting newly minted millionaires from China, Taiwan and Korea.The show's catalogue contains many beautiful examples of art spanning decades in time, and East and West in space. At the risk of exceeding the most obvious and narrowest limits in judging the worth of the works, I'd like to take a short time to comment on what I found to be the most comment worthy piece in the catalogue by a Chinese artist, Bird's Nest No. 3, by Zhou Jun:
The most prominent feature of this photograph is not the Bird's Nest itself, Beijing national Stadium, but the land blanketed in red. It would be no difficult task to BS about the symbolism of red in Chinese, but rather than set myself up for a mistake, I turned to Wikipedia's article on Red, which just happens to have a paragraph on the symbolism of red in Chinese culture:
In China red is the symbol of fire and the south (both south in general and Southern China specifically). It carries a largely positive connotation, being associated with courage, loyalty, honor, success, fortune, fertility, happiness, passion, and summer. In Chinese cultural traditions, red is associated with weddings (where brides traditionally wear red dresses) and red paper is also frequently used to wrap gifts of money or other things. Special red packets called hong bao are specifically used during the Chinese New Year to give monetary gifts. On the more negative end, obituaries are traditionally written in red ink, and to write someone's name in red signals either cutting them out of your life, or that they have died. Red is also associated with both the feminine yin and the masculine yang, depending on the source.This leaves wide open the possibilities of interpretation for the meaning of the piece. What I find most disturbing is that what would otherwise be a symbol of fertility, a bird's nest, is not painted red, but the land around it is painted red. This might mean that the artist is trying to convey that the land of China itself is serving as the fertile bird's nest for the Beijing National Stadium which has become in many ways the symbol for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Zhou Jun could be trying to show that China itself is symbolic for the sporting virtues of courage, loyalty, honor, success, fortune, passion, and, in this instance, summer.
This is certainly of the most optimistic of interpretations. Much grimmer interpretations can be made in connection with drawing the land upon which the Games shall take place in red. And there certainly are reasons for grimmer interpretations including the death of at least 10 workers in the construction of the Bird's Nest.
Any thoughts? Any other pieces by Chinese artists in the catalogue that you enjoyed more? Did any of you attend Art HK 08?