By Luo Zhongxue
The south hemisphere in October is in its early spring with a chill in air. Queenstown is covered in snow at the mountain top all year round. The snow line keeps climbing up or going down, saying summer has not yet come. The sky is so blue that it seems to be painted by an artist. Snow on the mountain top and clouds tangled together and it’s perplexing to tell them apart.
This is Queenstown, New Zealand, a tourist attraction where the film The Lord of the Ringsmainly shot. The grass is turning green in this late-coming spring while the breeze being the only wild thing in nature. Liu’s work Wolves are Coming just settled down here, a golf course on a mountain top.
There are no wolves in New Zealand but Liu brought them here. 110 wolves are displayed here against the blue sky and snow-capped green mountains, as if they could jump off at any moment.
It suddenly drizzled during the opening ceremony of the exhibition, while John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, Bill English, Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand came punctually to attend it after two hours of plane and half an hour of car journey. They viewed Liu’s works braving the rain after a short speech given by John Key in a ceremony chaired by Mike Hill, owner of the private golf course.
Those 110 wolves stand on the mountain in their own positions with hairs flowing. The one behind a tree seems alive when a breeze passes. Prime Minister John Key asked delightedly: “Did you create especially for here?” Indeed, these works look harmonious here. The mountain and wolves seem belong to each other, which totally exceeded Mike Hill’s expectation. However, they were finished two years ago and not exactly meant for Queenstown.
Liu wanted to put Wolves are Coming into fruition after conceiving it for three years in 2007, the eve of the financial crisis, when industries felt the sense of danger. People persuaded him at the beginning: it’s better to save the money since this work costs a lot and the art market is sluggish. But for Mr. Liu, he felt it was the best time or he would no longer find time and mood to do it. “It’s no big deal being what was like a couple of years ago.” Liu, the man from caves in Northern Shaanxi Province didn’t listen to others. He doesn’t mind coming back to poverty as long as his works can be made. And it took him over three years to finish.
Problems came right after this work was done. The most urgent one is where to place it. The artist wants to showcase his works to as many people as possible, since in his perspective, works unseen are meaningless. It was displayed in some art zone for a while under invitation but suddenly was ordered to be removed. He didn’t know the reason until this year from some leaders in its county that villagers for petition increased due to forced demolitions, so the county leaders superstitiously believed that it was those wolves that disturbed that region’s peace.
Liu found another place to relocate his works—the courtyard of the Creative Plaza in 798 Art District. Wolves are Coming was right in the middle. This time, his works were once again gaining a more popular fame than his name. People who had been to 798 between 2010 and early 2012 all know those wolves, and Creative Plaza became a landmark where tourists take pictures with. Some tourists came to see those wolves even after those wolves came to New Zealand and they ask the working staff there: “Where are those wolves?”
798 Art District is perhaps the best place to exhibit Wolves are Coming in a propaganda perspective, but Liu was not satisfied, deep down he believed they should be in a field with wild grass and stones. He had been hoping to establish a public space where the general public can get in touch with art at an easy and relaxed state over a long period of time. And then a good opportunity hit him. Sir Mike Hill was attracted to the work Wolves are Comingthe first time he came to 798 and wanted to collect it. Later Mike Hill came to Beijing several times to find one of Liu’s art agents. This set of works was finally going to New Zealand for exhibition after several consultations and they arrived at Queenstown, New Zealand after over two months of preparation and transportation. Mike Hill had already ordered people to locate a vast land inside his golf course and paved the land just like the 798. Liu flew to New Zealand before the exhibition and immediately knew this is his dream place when seeing the scenery. He vetoed the location chosen by Mike Hill, and came to find the ideal spot with his assistants. Mike Hill was thrilled when those wolves finally got settled and decided to remove another area for perpetual exhibition of Liu’s new work Original Sin, which he believes are somehow meant for his golf course. Frugal Mike Hill entertained Liu and his followers, the highest standard of private banquet in New Zealand. What’s more, he even put Liu in a helicopter to view his works—the first time for Liu to view his work in the middle air and he was almost shocked by what he saw: wolves are approaching the prays in a orderly fashion on a vast field.
The exhibition was better received than he expected. Since there are no wolves in New Zealand, and people there don’t have superstitious ideas about them. Wolves are Coming not only didn’t affect the business of Mike Hill’s private golf course, but drew more attention instead. On that day, besides John Key and Bill English, over 400 people from political, legal and commercial communities came there. They kept taking pictures with Liu and asking about his creation stories. John Key also repeatedly declared his love for this work.
Liu was relieved during his journey back. His proudest works withstood both the rain and sunshine of New Zealand and finally settled in where they belong.