Jar Of Fresh French Mountain Air Sells For £512 In Smog Smothered Beijing

Some poor desperate soul in smog-smothered Beijing has forked out £512 for some fresh air.

Artist Liang Kegang returned from a business trip in southern France with well-rested lungs and a small item of protest against his home city's choking pollution: a glass jar of clean, Provence air.

He put it up for auction before a group of about 100 Chinese artists and collectors late last month, and it fetched 5,250 yuan (£512).

Beijing artist Liang Kegang

"Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar," Liang said in an interview.

"This is my way to question China's foul air and express my dissatisfaction."

Liang's work is part of a gust of recent artistic protest and entrepreneurial gimmickry reflecting widespread dissatisfaction over air quality in China, where cities often are immersed days on end in harmful pollutants at levels many times what is considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

Proving that China’s fight against pollution has moved into the realm of parody, bags containing mountain air were shipped into one particularly smog-addled city in March.

Entrepreneurs are picking up on the potential to make money from China's air-pollution angst, along with tourism officials in parts of the country where skies are clear.

Chinese President Xi Jinping joked to Guizhou province delegates during last month's National People's Congress that the scenic southwestern province could put its air up for sale. Days later, the province's tourism bureau announced plans to sell canned air as souvenirs for tourists.

"Canned air will force us to stay committed to environmental protection," provincial tourism director Fu Yingchun said recently.

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