I’m blogging in the Wassenaar Library while the The Dutch Dixieland All Stars are playing in the corner! Just after I arrived last week I dashed to the Museum Beelden aan Zee in Scheveningen – my annual museum card was going to run out the next day and the replacement hadn’t arrived. Body and Soul is the first retrospective in Europe of Zhang Dali: the Chinese sculptor, graffiti and performance artist. Visitors enjoying coffee and cake on the terrace faced the 18 marble nudes of ordinary Chinese people sitting, kneeling, some of them in contorted poses. Inside were the white sculptures of the so-called urban peasants, all of them with white doves attached to them. I found them deeply moving – their bent backs, little rugsacks, small caps, socks, plimsolls.
For Zhang Dali they represent the 300 million or so people who worked in the construction industry in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and who were sleeping in sheds or containers. I visited Beijing in late 1990 when the demolition of the old urban districts and historic housing had just started; people being cleared, often at short notice. Zhang Dali has given each of these sculptures a number.
My new card arrived this morning, so I’ll be going back to Beelden aan Zee soon and (if the weather is good) will go for a walk on the beach afterwards.