Mao's Little Red Book Becomes a Collectable; ANTIQUES & COLLECTING A Unique Collection of 20th Century Chinese Propoganda Art Is at the Centre of the Latest Antiques for Everyone Fair. SALLY HOBAN Reports on a Quiet Revolution

Article excerpt


The latest Antiques for Everyone fair will feature around 400 specialist dealers from every area of antique collecting and period design at Birmingham's NEC next week.

You will find traditional antiques, collectables and decorative accessories at the fair, including 2,000-year-old antiquities, Steiff teddy bears, French clocks, fine engravings, working barometers, tea caddies, early tinplate toys, scientific instruments, arms and armour, garden statuary, kitchen antiques, decorative brass and copper, samplers, sculpture and textiles.

Antiques worth an estimated pounds 10 million will change hands during and after the fair.

This event is always worth a visit if you are new to collecting. Prices range from less than pounds 50 to more than pounds 100,000, so there's something for every budget and dealers are on hand to provide help and advice before you buy.

The fair is also fully vetted by a committee of several hundred specialist experts. They inspect the exhibits for quality and authenticity before the fair opens, ensuring that you can make your purchases with confidence. Over the last couple of years, Clarion Events NEC - organisers of the Antiques for Everyone Fairs - have introduced specialist exhibitions to the show, usually about historically important works of art and antiques.

This fair's display is a unique collection of 20th century Chinese propaganda art, curated by Peter Wain, who is a recognised authority on the subject.

He has lectured all over the world and written articles, catalogues and academic papers. Peter has held groundbreaking exhibitions of artist signed Chinese ceramics of the late 19th and 20th centuries and invited senior masters from Jingdezhen and Yixing to demonstrate their ceramic art at exhibitions held in London, New York and Birmingham.

Peter's search for new material takes him on regular visits to China where he has sourced important works of art from the New China period.

"The arts of the Mao era remind many Chinese people of a time that left terrible physical and mental scars," he explains, "but as historical documents they are important for their socio-political content as much as being a record of an art form unique in Chinese history. In 1976, after the death of Mao, artistic freedom (although not political freedom) began to return. Senior masters were once again allowed to sign their own work.

"Aluminium badges were called in to be smelted for their metal content and Mao's little Red Books were collected and shredded. Most of the larger masterpieces with revolutionary images were destroyed or hidden away as mementoes of a period best forgotten, so surviving original works are now quite rare."

Peter and wife Susan's collection includes porcelain figurines, carvings, lacquer plaques, badges and political posters.

With the complete disappearance of Maoist slogans, architectural monuments, sculptures, dresses, films, plays and mass parades from everyday life in China since the early 1980s, these artefacts are now a unique visual reminder of this historically significant period, and in the future will no doubt act as a poignant reminder to later generations of the power of totalitarian regimes.

The exhibits offer insights into the changes of patronage, technique and style in the decorative arts. Some reveal the stories of the personal lives of the artists and their living conditions while others show the relationship between Maoist art and the doctrine of art for the masses. …