China’s ‘art ambassador’ makes summit plea to save tigers

Sunday, 21 November, 2010
St. Petersburg, Russia
World renowned artist and sculptor, Yuan Xikun and the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – helped to launch the International Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg today with a special exhibit of tiger paintings mounted at the historic palace where world leaders have gathered to agree on a global plan to save tigers from extinction.

The summit, which is hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has brought together heads of state and ministers from 13 tiger range countries. This crucial event for the future survival of wild tigers also marks the first time that the attention of governments has been focused at such a high level on a single endangered species.

About a dozen of Mr. Yuan’s powerful tiger paintings, which blend the elegant brushwork of traditional Chinese calligraphy painting with western art forms, will be on display throughout the summit to inspire the political will and commitment to action needed to protect tigers from habitat loss, rampant poaching and trade.  

“I have been committed to the cause of tigers for more than 40 years and this may be our final chance to save them from extinction,” said Mr. Yuan. “I hope my art will inspire passion and personal responsibility that will translate into meaningful national and global action to protect one of the world’s most magnificent species.”  

A chance encounter with a wild tiger in a remote Chinese forest in the 1970s inspired the artist on a life-long mission to champion wildlife and the natural world. Since then Mr. Yuan has become internationally renowned for his paintings and sculptures of animals, from elephants and polar bears to raptors and tigers, depicting some of the most endangered species on our planet.

His paintings and sculptures have traveled the world as ambassadors for the protection of nature and animals, from elephants and raptors to polar bears and tigers. In 2007, he created a giant bronze tiger, 21 m long by 12 m high, for the Beijing Zoo. The work, titled Patron Saint of Forest, is considered the world’s largest tiger sculpture.

“Tigers are the patron saints of the forest. With tigers come blessings to the planet,” says Mr. Yuan. “By safeguarding tiger habitats and protecting tigers from poaching and trade, we are ensuring a healthy and blessed future for our children.”

Mr. Yuan is no stranger to the international political scene. He has achieved international reknowned for his series of paintings and sculptures of world leaders, from Bill Clinton to Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, which been collected and exhibited by institutions, governments and museums worldwide. He also serves on a high-level citizens advisory committee consulted by the Chinese government on political affairs and policy. His works are often given by the Chinese premier as State gifts.

Born in August 1944 in Kunming, a remote city on the edge of the rain forest in China’s Yunnan province, Mr. Yuan is one of the most published artists in China and has won more international awards than any other Chinese sculptor. His unique style is described as “Oriental Oil Painting” by western art experts.

“The biosphere has been damaged and human beings are suffering from what they have done,” said Mr. Yuan. “We must help people discover the real beauty of animals and connect with the natural world. This is my mission as an animal painter.”

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