MADE IN CHINA – The Politics of Acquisition

Made in China – Mergers and Acquisitions Parts 1-3, inspired by 'Traces of the Boxer War in German Collections' .  Contemporary Chinese imports, pigment and shellac.  Heights from 8 – 27 cm.


This project is the result of a year of conversation and collaboration with the research project 'Traces of the Boxer War in German Museum Collections' a collaborative research project involving: 7 German museums and the Palace Museum in Beijing.The research is led by Christine Hawald and Kirsten Pannhorst who have been so generous with their time and with sharing so much information. 


My aim has been to make a series of ‘Museum Cabinet’ objects as a response, using objects made in China and collected in Germany.  These sculptures are constructed from contemporary Chinese goods and covered in at least 40 coats of ‘European’ lacquer.  European lacquering methods were developed in the 17th century as attempts to copy the original 'urushi' tree resin used on Chinese artefacts.


The use of contemporary, mass-produced objects is a feature of my practice.  In this case it is particularly relevant as the sculptures draw attention not only to Colonial looting practices in China the 19th and early 20th centuries but also to current day attitudes to Chinese imported objects and global production.


The Making Process


After my initial research period making studies and visits, I went hunting in Berlin for objects imported from China – from plastic bowls to hair clips; children's teacups to ashtrays, each piece in the collection contains objects 'Made in China'.


Using resin and bio resin with mesh, I 'collaged' the sculptures together and smoothed and sanded them, before applying many coats of shellac mixed with cadmium red, earth colours and vermilion pigments.

How I started


This project started at the Humboldt Forum when I attended 'Mitgenommen' the first symposium run by the seven museums in the Traces of the Boxer War in German Museum Collections in February 2023.


My process involves four distinct phases – initial research, models and paintings to help me scrutinise my subject; hunting for discarded and mass-produced plastics and other objects to use in the sculptures; making; placing the objects within relevant contexts. 


These paintings were part of my initial look at the the objects being examined by the research team.


Mergers and Acquisitions – Boxer War.  Oil on linen. 25 x 50cm;  Watercolour sketches and cyanotype;  Playthings.  Hand-coloured photos on watercolour paper.  42 x 16.5cm

What's next


This ongoing research in Germany is the first part of a larger project which will look at objects looted by the British and the French in the second Opium War, as well as at plants and flowers sent to Europe by Jesuit priests and botanists who had access to new parts of China between the Opium and Boxer Wars.


Contact for further information

Gallery: Maria Stathi