Chinese artist sells jar of French air for €600

Containers filled with air from Provence village of Forcalquier

Air pollution in Beijing is frequently many times the level considered safe by the World Health Organisation. Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images

Air pollution in Beijing is frequently many times the level considered safe by the World Health Organisation. Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images

Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 01:00


Day after day, the people of Beijing have to put up with foul, yellow-tinged smog. But the pollution has inspired one artist – to sell a jar of air from Provence for more than €600.

That an art collector was prepared to spend such a large amount on some air in an airtight container speaks volumes about the growing dissatisfaction with the environment in China, and about the growing market for conceptual art.

“Air should be the most valueless commodity – free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar,” said artist Liang Kegang.

“This is my way to question China’s foul air and express my dissatisfaction.”

Liang auctioned a small glass preserves jar, filled with air from the village of Forcalquier, at a sale attended by numerous artists and buyers. It was bought by Chengdu artist and entrepreneur Li Yongzheng.


Off the charts
There are frequently days when Beijing is off the charts in terms of smog, when the air pollution is many times the level considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

Checking smartphone apps every morning for a smog reading has become de rigueur for urban dwellers. The government is trying many measures to counter the smog – banning some cars on specific days according to their number plates and seeding clouds to bring rain to wash the dirt away. There are also rumours the government wants to use drones to attack clouds of smog.