“Mauerreise” – the wall in the world project in China

In recent years, the Chinese art market has experienced an unprecedented boom. Of the 100 most expensive artworks ever to be sold at auction, a third was created by Chinese artists, among them the painter Huang Rui.

The Goethe-Institut has succeeded in recruiting Huang Rui and other leading Chinese artists to work on the “wall” project. Huang Rui, Wang Guangyi, Xu Bing and Zhang Xiaogang, as renowned representatives of the Chinese art scene, are designing four “bricks”. Their works were presented during an event at the German Embassy in Beijing on 13 August – the day on which building of the Berlin Wall in Germany began.

Once they have been brought back to Germany, the finished wall segments will, among other things, be exhibited at the German Historical Museum to which they will be on permanent loan. They are a symbolic gift from the artists to the reunified Germany and as such are not for sale.

On 13 August, the day on which the Berlin Wall went up, the founder of the Stars group will design, together with other prominent representatives of the Chinese art scene, four polystyrene reproductions of wall segments.

The connotations of the word “wall” are very different in China and Germany. The Great Wall, which stretches across the country not far from Beijing, is seen by the Chinese as a historic symbol of the country’s unity and as protection against negative external influences. While the character of the Berlin Wall was divisive, in other words, the Great Wall of China is perceived as something that connects people.

How well will the artists be able to reconcile these two different perceptions and the symbolism of the wall in the world project?
© Goethe-Institut

Video: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”

Martin Roddewig from Deutsche Welle filmed the Chinese artists Wang Guangyi, Zhang Xiaogang and Huang Rui as they designed the bricks.More ...
Xu Bing creating his design. Photo: Nathaniel McMahon

Artistic writing: a visit to Xu Bing’s studio

Chinese conceptual artist Xu Bing has spent years creating his own writing system. Many of his works are concerned with the relationship between writing, pictures and meaning. For his brick design he took Latin letters from a German translation of a poem from the Song dynasty and modified them to make them look like Chinese charactersMore ...
Map China

Information on China

Individual sections are assumed to originate from as long ago as the 5th century BC. In 214 BC the first Chinese emperor Qín Shǐhuángdì began to have fortifications built to protect against attacks from nomadic peoples from the north. Since then they have been building the Wall.More ...