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Save Yourselves

Artist Auctions A Jar Of Fresh Air For $860 To Raise Smog Awareness In China

This isn't your average Mason jar.

by Zach Sokol
10 April 2014, 3:00pm

Image via The Guardian

Artist Liang Kegang sold what might be the world's most expensive jar for $860 in an auction last month. The container itself was simple, but its contents—sweet, sweet air from southern France—are invaluable in a country with air so toxic that the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified Chinese air as "carcinogenic to humans" this past fall.

In front of group of roughly 100 Chinese artists and collectors, Kegang hustled this pure air for 5,250 yuan in what was part-gimmick, part-performance art, but ultimately a clear plea that the air quality in China is in a dire state. 

“Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar,” Liang said. “This is my way to question China’s foul air and express my dissatisfaction.”

Kegang's oxygen auction is one of many notable conceptual art projects to call attention to smog in China this past February, a group of 20 Beijing artists wearing dust masks played dead in front of an alatar in Temple of Heaven park, and in March, a different collective of artists organized a mock funeral in Changsha for the death of the city's hypothetical last citizen to succomb to the air. 

An artist named Li Yongzheng bought the jar, noting “I have always been appreciative of Kegang’s conceptual art, and this piece was very timely. This past year, whether it was Beijing, Chengdu or most Chinese cities, air pollution has been a serious problem. This piece of work really suits the occasion.”  

On a less conceptual and more pragmatic approach to eradicating air pollution in China, revisit our coverage of Studio Roosegaarde's plan to turn smog into actual jewelry. We'd definitely pay $860 for that. 

via Japan Times

conceptual art
air pollution
environmental art
china smog
Studio Roosegaarde
Liang Kegang