We proudly present the extraordinary art collection of Shirley Shen from Shanghai. Supported and presented in Germany by Fang Biefang and Andreas Weber. The idea: To share information and to find partners for workshops and exhibitions in Germany.
Shen, Wei Yuan was born in 1972 in a little village close to Ning Bo on the east coast of China. As a daughter of an antique dealer she grew up with the treasures preserved during the Cultural Revolution which were mainly folk art. When she was 20 years old she moved with her father to Shanghai where he opened a small antique shop in the heart of Shanghai. Wei Yuan was interested in her new environment and exposed to the international way of living. She started to attend an evening school to study English and also take computer classes.
At age 24 Wei Yuan took a western name, Shirley, like many Chinese people do. At that time she started her own antique store but her focus was different from most. Shirley was interested in the cultural heritage of China and started dealing and collecting: Chinese emperor robes, ancestor paintings, bound feet shoes and king fish feather jewelry. Her big, international, success came with the internet in 1999. Now she had, as one of the first Chinese antique dealers, a window to the outside world which did not go unnoticed.
With western magazines interest in her collection but even more her life story, Shirley became a small icon. As she grew in knowledge and ‘fame’ so did her collection. Wei Yuan uses her extensive collection of robes, shoes and jewelry to educate and show the beauty of the Chinese history.
Unknown to the western society and forgotten and misunderstood by Chinese Shirley Shen wants to bring back awareness of the Chinese cultural heritage.
Ancestor portraits, also called genealogy paintings, were used for worshiping ancestors during the Chinese Spring Festival and were passed through generations. Characters on the paintings should wear court robes and ornamentations. Official titles and ranks were also required on the paintings.
Ancestor portraits were in elaborate style and were mounted on central scrolls (Zhongtang). At ordinary times, they were treasured in ancestral halls.
Qing Dynasty Costumes
Qing Dynasty costumes can be divided into two categoriescourt robes and folk costumes. Styles of court robes are fixed with different patterns to distinguish official positions. With their styles, textures and patterns different from court robes, folk costumes are more enriched and diversified in their forms.
With an endless variety of embroidery techniques and with textures representing implied meanings and connotations, Qing Dynasty costumes have become one of the best fabrics that have artistic and ornamental values.
Kingfisher Feather Art
“Cui” in ” Dian Cui” (also known as kingfisher feather art) means the feather of kingfisher. Kingfisher feather art is a perfect combination of Chinese traditional metal art and feather art.
Kingfisher feather accessories give an expression to a beauty with a perfect balance between resplendence and plainness, representing the uniqueness of oriental accessories in their details and implicit beauty as well as delicacy of their techniques.
The Three-Inch Golden Lotus Shoes
It’s a unique custom in China. Women in old times started foot binding from childhood, making their feet as small as the bud of lotus. When the foot size is within three inch, it’s called golden lotus, within four inch silver lotus and bigger than four inch iron lotus. The shape and size of women’s feet were regarded as an important standard of women’s beauty.
Shirley Shen explains the secrets of her art collection
Andreas Weber and Fang Biefang via email: