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Sleeping Mao sculptor's nightmare over copyright

Thursday, November 23, 2006

An enraged Chinese sculptor is suing an art professor for violation of copyright by recreating his sculpture of a sleeping Mao Zedong in another work called Nightmare.

Wang Wenhai worked for the Revolutionary Museum in Yanan, in the central province of Shaanxi, the heart of the Chinese communist revolution, where he devoted himself to creating thousands of sculptures of the late Chairman Mao, his hero.

Sleeping Chairman Mao, completed in 2002, has the Great Helmsman wrapped in a thick cotton quilt sleeping on a brick bed.

"Chairman Mao sleeps there like a big mountain, that is my intention," Wang told the Beijing Times.

Sui Jianguo, professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, had invited Wang to create the sculpture and even helped paint it.

And then, two years later, Sui's own sculpture, Nightmare, featuring a bizarre dream scene with a sleeping Mao in the middle, turned up at an exhibit in San Francisco, the paper said.

Wang is claiming copyright infringement while Sui's lawyer told the Beijing court the work is an entirely different concept and therefore cannot be an infringement. Wang is also upset at Mao being humiliated.

"I was so angry I fainted," the Beijing Times quoted him as saying when he heard of Nightmare being exhibited in the United States.

"I said at the time: `Ah, Professor Sui, why did you not tell me? You are committing a sin. How can you equate Chairman Mao with the devil?"'

The full name of the sculpture in Chinese means literally Nightmare, a devil in your dreams.

Art involving Mao and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution has found a large audience in the West. Andy Warhol's 1972 iconic Mao portrait sold for almost US$17.4 million (HK$135.7 million) in New York last week.


2005 The Standard, Sing Tao Media Corporation.
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