About He Wenjue’s Dinner Party of Flourishing Age

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About He Wenjue’s Dinner Party of Flourishing Age


 By Wan Jiangwei

Mar. 22, 2011

It is well-known that The Last Supper was created by Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian artist, for the dining hall of Milan Santa Maria delle Grazie. The painting sources from Chapter XXVI of Matthew in the Bible which describes the last supper Jesus and his twelve apostles had before his arrest by Roman soldiers. When appreciating the painting silently, visitors can find various expressions, such as fear, indignation and doubt, gestures, eye expressions and behaviors, all of which are described vividly.

Recently, a multi-media work, named Leonardo’s Last Supper: a Vision by Peter Greenaway has been presented at Park Avenue Armory, New York. Greenaway creates a series of vivid audio-visual environments through ingenious manipulation of light, sound, and theatrical illusion. He presents the essence of da Vinci’s masterpiece, shows the dining hall environment of Milan Santa Maria delle Grazie and brings a meticulously detailed facsimile of The Last Supper to life by using modern audio-visual technology so that visitors can re-appreciate the work as if they were personally on the scene.

The Last Supper has been ingeniously duplicated by many artists from ancient to modern times. For example, John Reardon created Chef's Last Supper in which the dinner plates are as big as washbasins and chicken and other food are served on the table due to man’s desire of more food. He depicts man’s increasing desire vividly. That painting testifies to the fact that art originates from life and that duplication is a kind of inspiration instead of direct imitation. He Wenjue’s Dinner Party of Flourishing age also derives from da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

This painting is composed of virtualized Jesus, Judas and 11 distinguished celebrities who are leaders in their circles in contemporary China, including Ding Lei – the founder of NetEase, Wang Chaoyong – the founder and the president of ChinaEquity, Wang Zhongjun – the founder of Huayi Bros. Media Group, Zhang Baoquan – the founder of Antaeus Group (integrating art into business), Zhang Chaoyang – the founder of Souhu (the best China network brand), Feng Jun – the president of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Co., Ltd. (introducing Chinese digital brand to the international market), Chen Guangbiao – CEO of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources Co., Ltd., Zhang Lan – CEO of South Beauty, Luo Hong – CEO of Holiland, Zhang Yaqin – the vice president of Microsoft Corporation, and Shen Nanpeng – the founder of Ctrip. They are seated in four groups at the table on which empty plates and microphones scatter. The picture’s clear background consists of war full of bullets and fires (man-made disaster) as well as tsunami characterized by house collapses and human death (natural disaster). China witnesses rapid urbanization after globalization. In the process of urbanization, the Chinese have stepped into the consumption culture during the ideology transformation. As leaders in their circles, the above-mentioned celebrities have played an important role in the development of technology and business. They are really outstanding winners and heroes in our age. He Wenjue places these celebrities in all circles under the background of natural & man-made disasters to form a comparison which shows artist’s profound thought of man and society, man and nature as well as man and man.

When appreciating the painting silently, visitors can find the expressions of the characters are different and vivid.

Chen Guangbiao - CEO of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources Co., Ltd.

After May 12, 2008 when Wenchuan earthquake occurred, Chen Guangbiao leaded 120 operators with 60 large machines to provide disaster relief. His total donation amounted to more than one hundred million yuan RMB. In the past years, Chen has actively participated in social charity and public welfare. By Jun. 3, 2009, his total donation had reached over 810 million yuan RMB, thus he was extolled as “Most Generous Chinese” by the media.

In Sep., 2011 and on his company’s website, Chen published the letter to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in which he stated that he would donate all his property – over 5 billion yuan RMB after his death. A saying goes that it's better to teach a man fishing than to give him fish. Therefore, a real great philanthropist often favors the charity in the neglected education and training. In the picture, Chen wears a white shirt with his left hand slightly raised and his right hand holding the microphone. It seems that he is confidently publicizing his concept of beneficence – I am making a show with real money if you think I am making a show. His behavior becomes solidified in the picture, which shows thought-provoking model strength. 

Wang Zhongjun – CEO of Huayi Bros. Media Group

Huayi has created many popular films such as Cell Phone, Kekexili and The Banquet. Wang Zhongjun often takes part in charity. When searching his information in Baidu, one can find his self-evaluation – a simple and sensitive man. In the picture, Wang is seated calmly and peacefully. Charity proper is an action driven by man’s mercy. Wang incorporates charity to life. On Sep. 13, 2007 when Yao Ming Nashi Charity Dinner was held, Yao Ming Nashi Chartiy Game Signature Pack, the first auction piece, was bought by Wang Zhongjun. It cost him 300 thousand yuan RMB.

Ding Lei – the founder of NetEase

Ding once said, “You should spend your money, knowledge, time and vigor in charity.”

When Wenchuan earthquake happened, he invited about ten entrepreneurs and people in all circles well-known at home and abroad to Mianyang, Sichuan to discuss about social responsibility of enterprises. In the picture, Ding Lei is meditating with his chin resting upon his hands.

Zhang Chaoyang – chairman and CEO of Souhu

Under the lead of Zhang Chaoyang, Sohu was floated on NASDAQ stock market on July 12, 2000 after four financing. As a famous Chinese network brand, Sohu has become a new multi-media and a leading company of e-commerce, communication and mobile value-added service, which has made a remarkable contribution to network and business practice in China. In the picture, Zhang Chaoyang is making a statement attentively with his hands stretching out naturally. In his opinion, charity can’t be forced but be done by each entrepreneur as per their will. The priority of an entrepreneur is to create jobs and values and to pay taxes. “It is essential that the first Chinese entrepreneurs should make great efforts in the development of enterprise.”

Zhang Lan – the founder of South Beauty

 Zhang Lan, characterized by steadiness, exquisiteness and courageousness, boasts 17-year experience in the operation and the management of catering industry, which has given her rich market experience and a keen sense of judgment. Zhang Lan, a lady with unique charm in the picture, is having a pleasant talk with her head raised. She once indicated in Middlenight Show that the sound operation of an enterprise should be considered as charity because an enterprise could create jobs and pay taxes. “It is better to teach a man fishing than to give him fish”, said Zhang Lan.

Feng Jun – the president of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Co., Ltd.

Feng Jun has made AIGO an international competing brand. On Sep. 9, 2010, he wrote in his blog that he was willing to gradually donate all the property for public welfare and charity during his life time. In the picture, Feng Jun is seated calmly as if he is thinking about man’s responsibility in case of natural or man-made disaster.

Zhang Baoquan – the president of Antaeus Group

Zhang Baoquan has made continuous achievements in the development and the operation of estate and become a renowned estate businessman. People in all circles have spoken highly of his operational concept and creative mind. In 2010, he was elected “Top Ten Persons in Estate”. In the picture, Zhang Baoquan is praying for man. He always mentions that charity is a kind of complex.

Luo Hong – CEO of Holiland

“I’m indifferent to fame and fortune”, said Luo Hong. If Holiland cake has brought customers taste enjoyment, the free tickets of photograph shows and film exhibitions offered by Holiland has given customers spiritual enjoyment. Luo Hong’s action has provided more force and power for the appreciation of Holiland brand. In the picture, Luo Hong is putting her hands in the air as if she is expressing her opinions of everything.

Shen Nanpeng – the founder of Ctrip

Shen Nanpeng is also a founding partner and CFO of Sequoia Capital. He was awarded as “2009 Forbes China Best Venture Capitalists” by the Forbes on Dec. 15, 2009. In the picture, Shen Nanpeng is resting his chin in the hands with his body slightly leaning as if he is reflecting on the response and the responsibility of man in case of natural or man-made disaster.

Zhang Yaqin – vice president of Microsoft Corporation

Having a golden childhood, Zhang Yaqin seems to be more perfectly contented with what he has and more willing to be far from the madding crowd. “I have always been harmonious with the world without any conflict”, said Zhang in a media interview. In the picture, it seems that he is narrating without any tiredness.

Wang Chaoyong – the founder and the president of ChinaEquity

Wang Chaoyong says that he is more willing to be a social entrepreneur than a pure businessman. Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of needs including basic needs, safety needs, belongingness and the need for love, esteem needs and self-actualization. Wang Chaoyong, 40 years old, has reached the highest level of needs in Maslow’s theory. In the picture, he is standing containedly. He says, “I’d like to publish books, make speeches in universities and participate in more charity in the next ten years.” In his opinion, he is just doing what he should.

Disasters such as earthquake, tsunami and war are depicted in clear levels by the use of dark ink. Dinner Party of Flourishing Age seems to tell us the seriousness of disaster we can’t bear and the smallest of man we can’t neglect. The comparison between the two gives visitors strong visual impact. It seems that the elites are discussing about man’s realization of the preciousness of life and peace in case of war or natural disaster. The conflict between social material and human desire is becoming more and more serious. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake occurred in Japan on Mar. 11, 2011. It resulted in tsunami and nuclear leakage, which gained the attention from the whole world. The characters in the picture are discussing about the pain man can’t bear when harmony and peace are damaged by unavoidable disasters. It seems that man is equal and small when faced with war or natural disaster. Maybe saving more life is the only success… Upon the appreciation of the picture, visitors can compose a harmonious melody in their hearts.

He Wenjue adds some fashion elements to the Dinner Party of Flourishing Age by the change from the background of a Bible story to that of modern times with advanced technology and developed material culture as well as the change from the betray of apostles to the material culture and the disaster. It is said that the Chinese have no spiritual home or complete moral system for lack of belief. Every time we are trapped in a difficult cultural situation, the only thing we can do is to initiate a “Renaissance”, i.e. we absorb the essence from the traditional culture as if it is inexhaustible. Now, we are popularizing Confucianism. Whether Confucius (opposed in New Culture Movement) can save us is unexpectable and may be unknown. History will progress in accordance with its law.

The important thing is not art. What can art do? Art can only be considered as an expression of artist’s thought of current issues. In the Dinner Party of Flourishing Age, He Wenjue analyzes and describes the relationship of wealth and belief through different expressions in a silent way. 

We stand silently in front of the Dinner Party of Flourishing Age to appreciate it and enjoy its visual impact. Then, we gain back the peace in our minds to think about life and peace during the change of time and space as well as the occurrence of war and natural disaster. An ancient saying goes that all things in the world are changeable in terms of variableness but are eternal in terms of invariableness. Life is short, but spirit is so long that it can be passed on from one generation to another.