Chinese Artist Sells $860 Jar of French Mountain Air to Protest Smog

Beijing artist Liang Kegang collecting a jar's worth of fresh French air. Photo courtesy of Liang Kegang.
Beijing artist Liang Kegang collecting a jar's worth of fresh French air. Photo courtesy of Liang Kegang.

One Chinese artist has come up with a tongue-in-cheek solution to China’s troubling air pollution problem: importing glass jars of fresh air from the bucolic French countryside.

After returning home to Beijing from a vacation in Provence, Liang Kegang auctioned off one such jar to a group of collectors and artists. The unusual lot fetched 5,250 yuan ($860) from a bidder who shares Liang’s dissatisfaction with the country’s poor air quality. Conditions in Beijing this year have been compared to a nuclear winter by the Australian, and are threatening crops and residents alike.

In an interview, Liang stated that offering the jarred air for sale as a conceptual artwork was meant to remind Chinese residents that “Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar.”

In response to worsening conditions, the anti-smog environmental cause has become increasingly popular among artists. According to the Associated Pressrecent protests have included 20 artists in dust masks playing dead in front of a Beijing temple, and a mock funeral held for Changsha’s last citizen, a victim of air pollution, organized by artists in the southern Chinese city

Though Liang’s auction would appear to be more symbolic than anything else, there are real indications that fresh air is becoming a commodity. Following what seemed to be a flippant suggestion by Chinese president Xi Jinping, the comparatively pristine Guizhou province recently announced plans to sell canned air to visiting tourists, as reported by the South China Morning Post. A Henan-based travel company also staged a promotional event that shipped blue bags of air from a resort on the Laojun Mountain down to Zhengzhou, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Blue Sky app in action. Photo: courtesy OgilvyOne Beijing.

The Blue Sky app in action. Photo: courtesy OgilvyOne Beijing.

Another problem caused by out-of-control air pollution? Photos ruined by dull, gray skies. This one, however, is easier to fix. The Huffington Post shares news of an iPhone app that will filter your images, turning smoggy skies blue. Called Blue Sky, it hopes to remind users about how much they miss blue skies so that they will feel compelled to find “solutions of their own to lessen air pollution.”


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