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Jar of French mountain air sells for $860 in China

Broke? Maybe Just Sell A Jar Full Of Air In China


BEIJING (AP) - Beijing artist returned from a business trip in southern France with well-rested lungs and a small item of protest against his home city's choking pollution: a glass jar of clean, Provence air.

He put it up for auction before a group of about 100 Chinese artists and collectors late last month, and it fetched 5,250 yuan ($860).

"Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar," Liang said in an interview. "This is my way to question China's foul air and express my dissatisfaction."

Liang's work is part of a gust of recent artistic protest - and entrepreneurial gimmickry - reflecting widespread dissatisfaction over air quality in China, where cities often are immersed days on end in harmful pollutants at levels many times what is considered safe by the World Health Organization. The chronic problem has spurred brisk markets for dust masks and home air purifiers.

China's senior leaders have pledged to clean the air, partly in response to a citizenry increasingly vocal about environmental issues. But it is a daunting task that must be balanced with demands for economic development and employment crucial to maintaining stability.

In February, 20 artists wearing dust masks lay on the ground and played dead in front of an altar at the Temple of Heaven park in a performance art protest in Beijing.

In March, independent artists in the southern city of Changsha held a mock funeral for what they imagined would be the death of the city's last citizen because of smog.

"If smog cannot be effectively cleaned up, what it will leave us is death and cities of death," artist Shao Jiajun said.

Liang's contribution is a short, ordinary glass preserves jar with a rubber seal and a flip-top. It has three small, handwritten paper labels: one with the name and coordinates of the French village, Forcalquier, where he closed the jar; one saying "Air in Provence, France" in French; and one with his signature in Chinese and the date - March 29.

The auction closed on the night of March 30, and Chengdu-based artist and entrepreneur Li Yongzheng was the highest bidder.

"I have always been appreciative of Kegang's conceptual art, and this piece was very timely," Li said in a telephone interview. "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."

Liang is not the only one to make money from China's air-pollution angst. Entrepreneurs also see the potential, and so do tourism officials in parts of the country where skies are clear.

Chinese President Xi Jinping joked to Guizhou province delegates during last month's National People's Congress that the scenic southwestern province could put its air up for sale. Days later, the province's tourism bureau announced plans to sell canned air as souvenirs for tourists.

"Canned air will force us to stay committed to environmental protection," provincial tourism director Fu Yingchun said recently.

In central Henan province, local tourism authorities promoting a resort scooped up mountain air and gave away bags of it in downtown Zhengzhou, the provincial capital. City dwellers greedily inhaled the air, and some said they planned to visit the mountain resort to get more than a lungful.

Chen Guangbiao, a recycling tycoon who briefly made headlines with his abortive plan to purchase The New York Times, has been selling fresh air in cans under his "Good Person" brand.

Want one? They sell for $3 each on China's online bazaar of Taobao.

Join the discussion

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slmognet66 April 10 2014 at 6:12 PM

Bet I could get $1,000 for a jar of West Virginia Mountain air. I'll even throw in a free download of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Road" . Any takers??

Flag Reply +3 rate up
jgesselberty April 10 2014 at 7:32 PM

Gee, the Chinese are having major pollution problems and cannot breathe. Makes you wonder why the citizens of the US have to make all the concessions to going green when the most populous nation in the world is obviously doing nothing. Hint. Politicians.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
ssteve3844 April 10 2014 at 7:29 PM

Some people have way more money than they have common sense. How does anyone know there is french air in that jar???? Its really hard to REGULATE supidity...................

Flag Reply +3 rate up
gsubedar April 10 2014 at 8:13 PM

China is the most F uped nation in the world, and India is right behind them. Do these people understand the concept of birth control.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
CherMoeLin gsubedar April 10 2014 at 8:50 PM

America's purchases from China and having them manufacture all our goods has most certainly ruined their air quality.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
americanthndr46 April 10 2014 at 7:21 PM

WHAT KIND OF IDIOT WOULD PAY $860 DOLLARS FOR A JAR OF AIR? IDE FART IN THE JAR AND LABEL IT "SMELL THAT" !

Flag Reply +5 rate up
eddieboyeddie.gibson April 10 2014 at 6:46 PM

this is just foolish and, well, just dumb. Bet his gov't over there is not too happy, the bad air is their answer to population control.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
gsubedar April 10 2014 at 8:15 PM

The world would be better off if China and India had a nuke war and desroyed each other. I am willing to live with the fallout to get rid of human rats.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
blackcoffeeparty gsubedar April 10 2014 at 10:40 PM

Let's see, India and China have a nuclear exchange and you think you will survive the nuclear winter that would last for more than one year then go about your yuppy lava life style?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
blackcoffeeparty blackcoffeeparty April 10 2014 at 10:41 PM

I meant yuppie larva life style

Flag 0 rate up
Christian April 11 2014 at 1:03 AM

If you unwrap a gift from a friend and found a jar of air in it, you throw it out a window.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
buckeye3118 April 11 2014 at 6:29 AM

But Al-Jazeera Gore won't go to China.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
prodriverlimoman April 11 2014 at 5:57 AM

P.T. Barnum once said theres a fool born every minute and boy was he right. Dumb ass purchase!!!!!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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