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Swiss curator Klaus Littmann attracts public attention. At the recent ShContemporary art fair, he upstaged his compatriots before visitors had even entered the venue.
Right on the doorstep of the Shanghai Exhibition Centre was a large group of Chinese students holding placards, some featuring slogans such as 'Stop looking!' and 'Free the women artists!', others with the pink laughing face (right) that has made artist Yue Minjun an international name.
The hordes of security people barely reacted. At dusk, Littmann instructed the students to return the next morning and put them in a coach. It became clear the protest was, in fact, a showpiece.
Public Viewing is a 'temporary art intervention in the public arena' by the Littmann Kulturprojekte which aims to bring art to public spaces and institutions, 'materialising in places where one least expects to find it'. Littmann says this is the first time a similar event in China has introduced pictorial motifs by western and Chinese artists. Artists involved include Yue, the Guerilla Girls, Robert Rauschenberg, Christian Boltanski and Jochen Gerz.
He says that in our apparently familiar world, 'the association between the art intervention and the history of the place generates statements that ... are modified with each change in location'.
He believes that we are constantly surrounded with advertisements and commercial messages. He and his artists want to create art that has a message, be it about climate change or anti-violence. 'We want people not only to look at the art but what lies behind it.' Another project in Europe, Move For Life, also aims to raise awareness of global social and political issues through 'public art-action'. Littmann rents the exteriors of long trucks to cover them with artwork that travels the continent.
'Move For Life leaves the sites originally reserved for art, such as museums, galleries and art halls, and is present where people live and work,' he says. 'Famous international artists design these 'monumental statements' against poverty, violence, Aids, racism and environmental destruction. Trucks designed by Robert Rauschenberg, Jochen Gertz and Studio Van Lieshout are already on the road.'
Littmann plans to take Public Viewing to other fairs and biennales. He says artists are paid through sponsorship while his projects remain non-commercial and non profit-making. 'But I am not interested in [being rich]. What I have is a rich life.'