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Important ArtInsight conference on Middle Eastern art market in London – event alert

Posted by artradar on October 6, 2010


MIDDLE EAST CONTEMPORARY ART LONDON CONFERENCES

ArtInsight, the events partner of leading art market research firm, ArtTactic, has organised what we think looks to be a very important conference for early October in London. State of the Art – Middle East [The Future of the Middle East Contemporary Art Market] will focus on trends and opportunities in the Middle Eastern contemporary art scene.

Artwork by Houria Niati. Image courtesy of Janet Rady Fine Art.

Artwork by Houria Niati. Image courtesy of Janet Rady Fine Art.

As detailed in the latest press release from ArtInsight, State of the Art – Middle East will include talks and in-depth panel discussions with leading figures from all facets of the Middle Eastern art world, including curators, gallerists, consultants, museum professionals, artists, patrons/collectors, auction house specialists and art market experts. With this event, ArtInsight hopes to provide an comprehensive insider’s perspective of both market and artistic trends in the Middle East today, and into the future.

Key issues and topics to be explored and debated at State of the Art – Middle East will include:

  • The impact of substantial museum building plans and activities throughout the region
  • Collector opportunities: The effect of the rapid and growing visibility of Middle Eastern artists across the international art scene and art market
  • The significance of the roles of auction houses, art fairs and galleries, in the development of the region’s art market

Leading speakers listed are:

  • Lulu Al-Sabah: Founding Partner, JAMM-Art
  • Alia Al-Senussi: Collector, Curator and Advisor
  • Bashar Al-Shroogi: Director, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery (Dubai)
  • Maryam Homayoun Eisler: Leading Patron/Collector and Contributing Editor
  • John Martin: Co-founder and former Fair Director, Art Dubai
  • Ahmed Mater: Artist
  • Jessica Morgan: Curator, Contemporary Art, Tate Modern
  • Anders Petterson: Founder and Managing Director, ArtTactic
  • Dr Venetia Porter: Curator, Islamic and Contemporary Middle East, The British Museum
  • Janet Rady: Director, Janet Rady Fine Art
  • Stephen Stapleton: Director, Edge of Arabia
  • Steve Sabella: Artist
  • Roxane Zand: Director, Middle East & Gulf Region, Sotheby’s
  • Conference Moderator Jeffrey Boloten: Co-founder and Managing Director, ArtInsight

State of the Art – Middle East [The Future of the Middle East Contemporary Art Market] will take place on Friday 8 October this year and runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Asia House in London. The £195 conference fee includes a Halal lunch and there is a student discount available. For bookings, visit www.artinsight.eventbrite.com.

MS/KN

Related Topics: Middle Eastern artistspromoting art, art market

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Blog provides ground view of Chinese contemporary art – interview Katherine Don

Posted by artradar on September 28, 2010


INTERVIEW CHINA CONTEMPORARY ART ARTS WRITERS BLOGGING

RedBox Review is one of the most prominent English-language blogs dedicated to Chinese contemporary art. In an interview with co-founder Katherine Don, Art Radar Asia gains some insight into the aims of this sort of online publication, the progressive nature of Chinese art and Don’s personal background.

The blog, which currently has around 8000 subscribers, was founded in 2005 by Katie Grube, Mike Hatch and Katherine Don, also a director of and art advisor for RedBox Studio. It features original articles, event listings, gallery reviews, and commentary on and links to other coverage on Chinese contemporary art. In this way, it is able to provide a unique view of the Chinese avant-garde. RedBox Review is aimed at people who either work with or are interested in contemporary art. Its success is based upon its selection of relevant information vetted by its young, bilingual team of writers who are actively involved in the Chinese art scene.

The homepage of English-language Chinese art blog 'RedBox Review'.

The homepage of English-language Chinese art blog 'RedBox Review'. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Can you tell us about your background and how you became involved in art?

I am originally from Hawaii. I’m American. I’ve always been interested in arts. I went to school in New York at the Columbia University and studied art history there. I happened to spend a summer in China, where I was learning Chinese, and also started to intern for one of the galleries here. That was in 2001. I had travelled to China before then, just with my family. I am third generation Chinese-American…. [It was] through this relationship with China and learning about art when I was in school, that I became involved in the arts. I graduated with a dual-degree in Visual Arts, Art History and East Asian Studies.

So, how did you get involved in writing about art?

I have always wanted to write. The only way to be a better writer is to practice writing. So when I started working for a gallery in New York, focusing exclusively on Chinese contemporary art, I started writing. After two years, I moved to Taiwan to engage more in a faceted art community. But I realised that Beijing is the cultural hub of China, traditionally, but also with the contemporary art scene. So moving here to China was a way for me to get involved with the art scene and to see it on the ground. The curiosity and the desire to learn more about China from on the ground, this is RedBox Review.

You are one of the co-founders of RedBox Review. What is RedBox? What does it mean? How would you describe RedBox Review?

It’s our blog for viewing the contemporary art scene and art in China from [our] vantage point in Beijing. We write it in English, because that’s my mother tongue, but also I feel that there are numerous sites in Chinese that are available for the local audience to give them access to visiting shows or documentation about art. But in English it’s much more limited and if people don’t visit China, it’s very hard to know what’s happening…. RedBox Review is a way to edit the content by selecting which shows, news and articles we feature. We mainly do it objectively, linking to other articles, re-publishing texts that we think are worthwhile for reading. We’re not so interested in writing reviews of exhibitions. We’re more interested in being a research [tool] for people…. We’re not trying to be a critical voice.

Can you tell us the story of how RedBox Review began? What inspired you to start RedBox Review?

When I moved to China, I started… RedBox Studio. RedBox Studio began as… an art consultancy basically. All our projects are focused on promoting contemporary art in China. [RedBox Review developed as] a platform for my colleagues and I to share the information and the activities that we were seeing and doing here in Beijing.

You are also the co-founder for RedBox Studio. Can you tell us about this organisation?

Basically RedBox Studio is the platform for promoting contemporary art in China. We provide a variety of services, beginning with our graphic design studio. We print and publish artist catalogues, maps and guides for the art scene here. We also provide art advisory services.

Inside RedBox Studio, a China-based art consultancy firm.

Inside RedBox Studio, a China-based art consultancy firm. Image courtesy of RedBox Studio.

There are not many organisations like ours in China. The infrastructure is relatively young. I think that there is a need for art consultancy and people who provide a ladder-role between artists, galleries and museums. We are involved in a variety of different projects, basically introducing the art scene to new cultures, both Chinese and foreign.

We are not a gallery, but we are a consultancy, meaning that as an independent organisation, we work with different participants in the art scene – with galleries, with museums, with artists – directly to realise their projects. I do represent private clients and help them acquire acquisitions.

Over the time period that you have been covering art, what changes have you seen in the Chinese contemporary art scene? What are the biggest challenges facing artists in China?

There are many changes in the art scene in China, and that the artists are facing. But frankly, I think, by selecting shows or different articles and events on our website, we’re trying to provide a complete … picture of what might be happening here. Often the media abroad can only focus on, perhaps, sensational topics or the news [of] very well-known and established artists and often can’t really focus on some of the activities that are going on on the ground in China.

I think that there is a lot of room for development for art… [in] contemporary Chinese society. The way that people view art, the way that people understand art and collect art, is actively changing…. I think that this change is what is really exciting and interesting about the Chinese art scene today.

You also facilitate the sale of artworks. In your opinion, what are the current trends in Asian art?

In the past fifteen years, the Chinese art market has made its mark on the international stage and I think that the diversity of Chinese art, in terms of medium, makes [for] a very rich and engaging art scene in China. Artists are working in performance [and] video, exploiting different scenes such as Chinese painting, … photography, sculptures and oil-painting. There are artists experimenting with all mediums, but all with different kinds of content and different approaches to the art. I think that there is a lot going on in China.

Is there any particular information, news or advice you would like to share with our readers? What advice would you give to our readers about what websites and publications to follow about Chinese art?

Well, my first suggestion to people who want to know more about [Chinese contemporary art] is to read as much as they can. But if those sources are not available, my next [suggestion] is to visit China to take the opportunity to see what’s happening, because things change so quickly. The diversity of Chinese contemporary art goes beyond what can be reported and documented on in a two-dimensional format, meaning online and in pictures.

Installation view of work by Wang Tiande at the NBC Studio, Olympic Media Center (2008).

Installation view of work by Wang Tiande at the NBC Studio, Olympic Media Center (2008). The placement of these artworks was facilitated by RedBox Studio. Image courtesy of RedBox Studio.

How do you see the Internet being used to promote or communicate information about art in China? How important is it? Where and how do you see the art and the Internet evolving in the future?

I know a lot of people involved with contemporary art are trying to use and exploit the Internet and technology as a way to create a wider audience space. And it’s true, there’s a lot of opportunity [that comes] with using the Internet and technology, such as creating a virtual museum or electronic books or websites and blogs. But, I think that the first step is not only to invest in using the Internet, … people need to understand how diverse … art in China is and have an interest in viewing it and understanding what’s happening [here]. The diversity of art in China is really interesting…. It can’t be easily defined into one category. I think that the Internet plays a great role in disseminating information. That is actually quite innovative and I think it’ll continue to change in the future.

What is the biggest problem in obtaining information about Chinese art? What information is difficult to get hold of? What do you think could be improved?

Not reading Chinese. I think the language barrier is one of the biggest problems. I think one characteristic is that a lot more people [from China] can read English than those from abroad can read Chinese. They are very well-read and exposed to international art activity. In regards to writing, practiced critical writing, [this] is something that leaves a lot to be desired in the art scene here. I think objective critical writing is an evolving practice.

Where would you like to see RedBox Review go in the future? Do you have any plans or innovations?

I hope that more people read it and find it useful for understanding the art scene. Our plan is to continue contributing to this site [with] thoughtful and objective descriptions and posts about the art scene.

About Katherine Don

As a writer and specialist in contemporary Chinese art, her writing has been published in local publications, as well as Art in America and Art Asia Pacific. In 2005, she co-founded RedBox Studio, an art and design studio providing a unique combination of art consulting and graphic design services to the art community in Beijing and abroad. As Director, she works with artists, curators, galleries and institutions to realise exhibitions, art programs, and publications dedicated to the promotion of art and design in China.

JAS/KN/HH

Related Topics: interviews, art and the Internet, arts writers

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Rubin Museum breaks tradition to show the first Tibetan art show in New York – New York Times

Posted by artradar on September 16, 2010


TIBETAN CONTEMPORARY ART NEW YORK MUSEUM SHOWS

Until October 18, Rubin Museum, usually New York’s home for traditional art of the Himalayas, will run the first Tibetan contemporary art show in the city. Titled “Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond“, this exhibition showcases the works of nine Tibetan artists born within the period 1953 to 1982. In a review published by The New York Times, critic Ken Johnson comments on each of the artists’ works.

Kesang Lamdark from Zurich presents Johnson’s most highly recommended works. On display is a sculpture made of perforated beer cans. As one peers through the drinking hole they can see a “glowing, dotted-line image of a Tibetan deity.” He also presents O Mandala Tantric, a pin-pricked black disk of four-foot diameter.

The holes on 'O Mandala Tantric' by Kesang Lamdark are back-lighted, such that they create a complex mandala pattern composed of images of skulls and animals, erotic Buddhist art imageries and modern pornography. The work touches upon themes of “debasement of sex in the modern commerce” and the East-West divide over views on eroticism.

The holes on 'O Mandala Tantric' by Kesang Lamdark are back-lighted, such that they create a complex mandala pattern composed of images of skulls and animals, erotic Buddhist art imageries and modern pornography. The work touches upon themes of “debasement of sex in the modern commerce” and the East-West divide over views on eroticism.

The collages presented by Gonkar Gyatso from London are “graphically appealing,” but Johnson notes they would be more impressive if they advanced “the genre of Pop collage or ideas about spirituality and business.” One of the works on display is called Tibetan Idol 15.

'Tibetan Idol 15' by Gonkar Gystso is a collage of “hundreds of little stickers imprinted with familiar logos, cartoon characters and other signs of corporate empire” which form the “atomised silhouettes of the Buddha”.

'Tibetan Idol 15' by Gonkar Gystso is a collage of “hundreds of little stickers imprinted with familiar logos, cartoon characters and other signs of corporate empire” which form the “atomised silhouettes of the Buddha”.

The computer-generated prints by Losang Gyatso from Washington are, according to Johnson, “technically impressive” and “optically vivid”, but should attempt to draw a clearer relationship between “Buddha-mindedness” and “digital consciousness.” Clear Light Tara is one such work.

Large and colorful, 'Clear Light Tara' by Losang Gyatso is a computer-generated print which features “abstracted traditional motifs.”

Large and colorful, 'Clear Light Tara' by Losang Gyatso is a computer-generated print which features “abstracted traditional motifs.”

Ken Johnson comments on the paintings like Water 1 by Pema Rinzin from New York, stating that they are “uncomfortably close to hotel lobby decoration.”

'Water 1' by Pema Rinzin is a painting of “curvy, variously patterned shapes gathered into Cubist clusters.”

'Water 1' by Pema Rinzin is a painting of “curvy, variously patterned shapes gathered into Cubist clusters.”


Penba Wangdu from Tibet presents Links of Origination while Tenzin Norbu from Nepal presents Liberation. Both painters have the greatest “potential for narrative and symbolic elaboration,” but their works are “disappointingly decorous”, says Johnson.

Tenzin Norbu's 'Liberation' is made with stone ground pigments on cloth.

Tenzin Norbu's 'Liberation' is made with stone ground pigments on cloth.

Penba Wangdu’s 'Links of Origination' outlines a sleeping woman whose body contains a “dreamy, pastoral landscape where little people make love, give birth, drink beer and paddle a boat on a peaceful lake.”

Penba Wangdu’s 'Links of Origination' outlines a sleeping woman whose body contains a “dreamy, pastoral landscape where little people make love, give birth, drink beer and paddle a boat on a peaceful lake.”

Tsherin Sherpa from Oakland, California, presents a large watercolor painting which features, as Johnson describes, an “angry blue giant with a vulture perched on his shoulder and flames roiling behind him.” Another of the artist’s major works, Untitled, features on the official website of the exhibition.

Tsherin Sherpa's 'Untitled'.

Tsherin Sherpa's 'Untitled'.

Tenzing Rigdol from New York presents a large watercolor painting named Updating Yamantaka.

'Updating Yamantaka' by Tenzing Rigdol is composed of “crisscrossing bands” which are “layered over colorfully traditional imagery of deities and ornamentation.”

'Updating Yamantaka' by Tenzing Rigdol is composed of “crisscrossing bands” which are “layered over colorfully traditional imagery of deities and ornamentation.”

Dedron from Tibet is the only female artist in the show. We are Nearest to the Sun is painted to resemble to a “modern children’s book version of folk art.” It is a painting of a village “populated by little bug-eyed characters,” projecting the theme of “nostalgia for preindustrial times.”

'We are nearest to the Sun' by Dedron, the only female artist represented in "Tradition Transformed: Tibetan artists Respond".

'We are nearest to the Sun' by Dedron, the only female artist represented in "Tradition Transformed: Tibetan artists Respond".

Johnson sums up by stating that it is paradoxical that the “freedoms granted by modern art and culture” do not generate much imagination in the show’s artists, who still cling onto that classic Tibetan style of art that has existed “hundreds of years prior to the 20th century.” He conveys a hope that in future Rubin shows he will discover some Tibetan artists with “adventurous minds.”

CBKM/KN/HH

Related Topics: Tibetan artists, museum shows, New York venues, Buddhist art

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Writer Steven Pettifor talks about the old and the new in Thai contemporary art – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

THAI ART BOOK WRITER INTERVIEW

Thailand has long had a small but very vibrant contemporary art scene. Compared with its recently-flourishing neighbours, however, contemporary Thai art hasn’t been getting much attention. Little has been written about it. Back in 2003, Bangkok based Briton Steven Pettifor decided to address this problem with his book Flavours – Thai Contemporary Art.

Flavours was listed on a reading list for newcomers interested in Southeast Asian art, as reported in an earlier Art Radar post. With 23 profiles of artists of different mediums (painting, sculpture, textile, costume, installa­tion, ceramics and photography), the author hoped to provide exposure of Thai artists outside their home country, and to give readers “a ‘taste’ of Thailand’s burgeoning contemporary visual arts.”

It’s now been seven years since the book was first published and much of Thailand’s contemporary art scene has changed. Art Radar Asia caught up with Steven Pettifor to find out more about his book, and to see what he thinks of the country’s current art movement.

Most importantly, this interview has revealed that there is now more non-Thai Asian art able to be viewed in Thailand. Local art galleries are teaming up with other Asian galleries to bring non-Thai Asian art into Thailand and foreign artists are now viewing Thailand as a place to set up professionally. He also identifies a number of important emerging Thai artists and names some of the top collectors of Thai contemporary art.

What prompted you to write Flavours?

I’d been writing about Thai art for about seven or eight years. I was starting to build up quite a body of artists that I’ve written about and covered. There was only one other book on Thai art written in English up until that point, and that was Modern Art in Thailand by Dr. Apinan Poshyananda. His book went up to 1992 and then after that it was nothing, and 1992 was the year I arrived in Thailand, so I felt like filling in the gap from that period onwards. That was my intention.

I was floating the idea for about a year or two before I actually found someone  who wanted to collaborate and publish it, and Thavibu Gallery said yeah okay, we’ll be interested in doing it, we might be able to find someone to back it financially, which they did. They found Liam Ayudhkij, who is the owner of Liam’s Gallery in Pattaya. He’s been collecting art here for thirty, forty years. So Liam kindly backed it. That’s how the book came about.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

What were the main issues and challenges for you when writing and researching Flavours?

I wanted the book to broaden the message about Thai art. I didn’t want to keep the book an academic book, purely for an already art-affiliated readership. I wanted to move beyond that and try and get more general public interest in Thai art. So one point was to keep it accessible in terms of language and to try and cover as broad a scope as possible within a coffee-table sort of format. That was one challenge.

Another was to try and cover as many different mediums as possible, so it was finding sculptures, paintings, installations, photography… I tried to cover as many mediums as possible, and that wasn’t easy, given that some of the less popular mediums… it was hard to find good quality artists working in that field.

Tell us more about your selection of artists in Flavours.

Medium was one big consideration. Also, their career point. I tried to get as many young artists or emerging artists or mid-career artists, so that the book would have relevance ten years on. It’s six years old now and most of the artists are still in their mid-careers. I didn’t want to pick artists that were in their twilight years or have passed away. People ask me why didn’t I include Montien Boonma, who’s considered the father of installation art here. I included him in the overview essay, but because he has passed away, I didn’t want to profile him, because there wasn’t so much currency. His career is not still being carried on, basically.

How did your interest in art, and in Thai art, evolve?

As early I could remember, I could draw and paint. Not self-taught as such, but it was there from an early age. I don’t come from an artistic family at all, so it was never really nurtured as such. But when I reached high school, I then got pushed toward art, just because they saw my natural talent or whatever. So the interest in art has always been there, but I’d say from high school onwards it was developed by teachers.

…It’s not so much as a passion for Thai art. The main art that was in view in Thailand was Thai art, and you just got into it. I got to meet a lot of the artists quite quickly and I found it quite interesting to be thrown in on that level. Back in 1997, there weren’t so many foreigners involved in the art scene and everyone was quite accommodating, inviting you to their studios and things like that. So it was interesting. You got to feel involved.

What makes Thai art different from other Asian art?

Buddhism is quite predominant here. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes that can kind of almost saturate the art that is produced here. If you look at Burmese art or what’s coming out of places like Laos, you’ll see a lot of Buddhist imagery as well. Places like Indonesia and Vietnam… the art being produced in those places is not so religious-focussed. Religion would be one aspect that defines a lot of the art that is made here. Not necessarily the art that is hitting international levels. They tend to deal with work that is more universal, or themes that would fit more into the international art interest. But across the board, a lot of them deal with Buddhist subject matter.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Another thing would be the craftsmanship. I do see it elsewhere in Asia, so it’s not necessarily different but there are different kinds of crafts that are brought into Thai art. Chusak Srikwan uses shadow puppetry, but he does things like modern politicians and symbols of corruption. Montri Toemsombat has used silk weaving and silk crafting in the past. There’s this attention to craft. A lot of technical training goes on here, so they get very good grounding in the technical aspects of art training, so that comes through very strongly as well.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Tell us about the artist training system in Thailand.

It’s pretty much similar to anywhere else. It’s art school, mainly. It’s an emerging thing. Art school is expanding constantly and courses are expanding constantly here, but it’s still largely focused in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with a couple of provincial centers in the north-east and in the south. A lot of young wannabe artists, when they graduate here, will go through assisting a senior artist in a studio for a couple of years. Again, that’s comparable to anywhere else as well. But I find it quite good that artists get a lot of hands on training through working with the artists when they graduate.

Is the Thai art scene receiving greater external interest, as compared with before?

It was anticipated here around the early 2000s on that there would be a lot more interest on the back of the increased focus towards Asia, with China and India doing very well. Vietnamese art in the mid to late 90s kind of opened up a lot. And it was always expected that there would be more people coming in for Thai art, and for a while there was. There’s a lot more Thai artists now included in biennales and triennales and international thematic shows, but I would say that is comparable to just part of this larger focus on finding art in Asia. I would also say in the last couple of years it has slowed down a lot. Since the coup in 2006, and the financial recession in late 2008, the commercial aspect of art has slowed down quite a bit. But I don’t think it’s just here, I’d say it’s everywhere.

Do Thai artists see international acceptance as one of the criteria for success? How does that compare with domestic recognition?

There are artists here that are quite content to work on the domestic level, but they have to work within a fairly narrow framework in order to succeed there. And then there are those who desire and need the international exposure in order to continue making art of that kind of calibre.

You mentioned in Flavours about a gap between the public and the local art scene, citing insufficient education and exposure as a major problem. Has the situation improved?

Things like education are not going to improve overnight. There are more universities and higher education establishments offering art related courses. But for your average state sponsored school, like high school, there’s still going to be a very limited art practice beyond basic drawing techniques and painting.

But in terms of accessibility, they are trying to change things. They’ve opened the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) here in the last two years, which is a major art center in the heart of downtown. It was always the intention to put it in a very commercial area so that it would be on the consumers’ door step. So they’re hoping to draw in the public to look at art and find out what art is. And there’s another plan to build a national art center in Bangkok. But that’s all very Bangkok-focused.

…one way the void is being filled in the provinces is that some of the artists that have either come from different provinces or have gone there to settle or to set up a studio have built artist-gallery-public places – places to promote their own work, but also places to give something back to the community. Up in Chiang Rai, Thawan Duchanee is a good example of an artist that has made his work open to the public.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

How has the local art scene changed since you published Flavours?

There are a lot of commercial galleries that have opened up in the last  five to ten years, but a lot of them have a less than five-year shelf-life. A lot of galleries are still set up here by people who have an interest in art, but I wouldn’t say that they are specifically trained in how to operate a gallery on a professional level. A lot of them have opened galleries because it’s their passion, but managing it on a professional level doesn’t always work out the way they expect. It’s still tough to make a profit here as a commercial gallery. There’s been a few more non-profit spaces opening as well, but they’re even harder to manage and sustain with no profits coming in and it’s hard to find sponsorship to back spaces like that.

One thing that I think is important to push is that there’s been more diversity of art that’s been on view in the last five years or so. When I first started looking at art thirteen years ago here, it was very Thai. Most of the galleries were showing Thai. Any foreign or overseas art would predominantly be at university spaces and would be by visiting lecturers or hookups with overseas institutions. But now, in commercial spaces, more regional art is certainly being seen. Thavibu Gallery bring in Vietnamese and Burmese art. Gallery SoulFlower, which just closed last year, brought in Indian art on a regular basis. Tang have a gallery in Bangkok, and they bring in a lot of good quality, high-profile Chinese art. And there’s a couple of galleries that bring in Japanese artists, and you’ll see Indonesian art here every now and then. So there’s been more exposure to regional and international art.

Another development is there’s been more foreign artists coming and spending time here, trying to work out of here. Some just setting up their own studios and still working with their galleries overseas… others coming here to make a goal out of it, trying to get involved with the Thai art scene. If I look at foreign artists based here thirteen years ago, it was more of people using art as hobby rather than a serious pursuit. But now I would say that there’s a lot more foreign artists here that are serious about art making and trying to make a career out of their art here as well.

What is the biggest problem facing the Thai art market at the moment?

There are probably only around fifty viewing spaces in Bangkok that attempt a regular or an occasional exhibition schedule, but not of huge amount of that translate into sales. I would say only a dozen or so galleries here manage themselves towards a sustainable and professional gallery that also tries to promote its artists beyond Thailand.

Can you name some interesting galleries and non-profit spaces for our readers to explore?

It’s a bit of a self promoting thing, but I initiated the Bangkok Art Map, which is a useful tool for people arriving in the city wanting to see art, or people living in the city wanting to see what’s happening on a monthly basis. It’s a map of the city’s galleries with the regular exhibition calendar plus highlights of what’s on, and a spotlight focus every month.

…obviously I have to say Thavibu Gallery, because they published my book, and I’m working with them this year on a curatorial project for the course of a year called “3D@Thavibu“. That is my conscious effort with the gallery to promote small-scale sculpture in Thailand towards more collecting base and to push emerging sculptors here that don’t get seen in so many galleries here.

There’s H Gallery, another professionally-run gallery. It’s run by an American, H. Ernest Lee, and it’s in a beautiful colonial-style building. One of the best galleries running in terms of putting their artists into biennales and working with some of the major Asian and Thai artists is 100 Tonson Gallery. Ardel Gallery is run by a Thai artist called Thavorn Ko-udomvit, who curated the Thai Pavilion for Venice last year. DOB Hualamphong brings in artists that are not necessarily commercially minded. Numthong Gallery has been a gallery that’s done very well over the years. [Mr. Numthong Sae-tang] runs a fairly small space out of a co-op building, but he attracts some of the big name Thai artists to work with him, because he tries to help them out and he’s a very good supporter of the artists when they come on board. Obviously the BACC is a place worthy of visiting.

Which artists have been doing interesting things recently in your opinion?

There are quite a few artists. The big names are already on the radar. People like Navin Rawanchaikul, Chatchai Puipia, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Sakarin Krue-on… these are all very good established artists.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

On the younger front, I like Maitree Siriboon. He is an artist I think is worth watching. He’s been using photography to photograph himself to examine his identity as an openly gay guy from Isarn. He deals with the rural to urban migration, exploring on a sensory level what it means for him as an artist and as an openly-gay person to move from the provinces to Bangkok. Yuree Kensaku, a Thai-Japanese artist; I like her brand of painting. She’s also doing some sculptural work. I like Yuree’s work a lot. There’s Tawan Wattuya. He does watercolours, very loose watercolour paintings, all about conformity and uniformity in Thai society. He’s done a lot of paintings of groups of Thais in uniforms. There’s a strong sexual element to a lot of his works as well. Also Sudsiri Pui-Ock in Chiang Mai.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Are there any major collectors of Thai art?

There’s Narong Intanate. He has been collecting more conventional Thai art – modern Thai artists but not necessarily contemporary. But he’s recently started to branch out into contemporary. Disaphol Chansiri has a really interesting collection of Thai and international contemporary art. His collection is open by appointment, he’s housing it in an apartment space that he’s opened up as an art-viewing space on Sukhumvit Road. His collection is very contemporary, probably the most contemporary I’ve seen in terms of the artists he’s collecting. Jean Michel Beurdeley is a French collector who has lived here for decades. He has a collection that he opens up in quite a nice traditional Thai house where he lives. Again, viewable by appointment only. One more worth mentioning is Petch Osathanugrah. He’s collected contemporary domestic art. I don’t think his collection is housed in any permanent space at the moment. For awhile he was going to open a private museum, but I don’t think that has materialised.

Are there any books or websites you would recommend for learning more about Thai contemporary art?

I would say our website, the Bangkok Art Map, would be a site to mention. The Rama IX Foundation is very well supported. Until recently, they’ve focused more on senior conventional artists. I think there’s more diversity to their website, but there’s a lot of contemporary artists not on there. But it’s a good website. Several of the gallery websites have good listing info.

As I said before, there are only two books out there, Modern Art in Thailand and Flavours. They’re the only two English-language books that have been written on Thai art in the last fifteen years.

About Steven Pettifor

Born in 1968 in London, Steven Pettifor graduated with degrees in fine arts from both the Wimbledon School of Art and Liverpool Polytechnic. The writer-artist-curator has been living in Thailand since 1992, immersing himself in the local contemporary art scene. He is currently the Thailand Editor for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News.

VL/KN

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3 young Chinese artists awarded prizes at inaugural Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Posted by artradar on May 21, 2010


PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL BEIJING AWARDS

As part of the launch of the first annual Caochangdi PhotoSpring festival, held in Beijing, China, from 17 April to 30 June this year, three young Chinese artists were awarded a prize for their outstanding work in photography. The three award winners were selected out of 20 semi-finalists who in turn had been chosen from over 200 submissions from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of the world.

International panel of experts awards photography prize

A panel of international photography experts including Eva Respini (Associate Curator, Photography Department, Museum of Modern Art, USA), François Hébel (Director of Les Recontres d’Arles, France), Karen Smith (Photography Critic and Curator, UK), Kotaro Iizawa (Photography Critic, Japan), and RongRong (co-founder of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, China) made up the members of the jury and selected the recipient of the Three Shadows Photography Award 2010.

The festival was directed by well-known artist couple RongRong & inri, founders of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, together with Berenice Angremy. The director of Les Rencontres d’Arles, François Hébel, acted as guest curator. According to the event’s website, the award aims to support and encourage new talent and give them greater exposure both locally and internationally.

This year’s 3 winners

The winner of the third annual Three Shadows Photography Award and the 80,000 RMB cash prize was 28 year old Shandong province native, Zhang Xiao. In his They Series of 2009 he deals with ordinary people who, because of their jobs, are often relegated to the fringes of society. The artist describes his work: “In real life, they are a group of very ordinary people, with their own lives and careers, but in these photographs, they seem strange and absurd, and very unreal. Behind this ostentatious city there is always grief and tears, indifference and cruelty. I met them by chance and I longed to understand each of their lives and experiences. Perhaps our daily lives are all absurd. I long to understand the meaning of our existence.”

Zhang Xiao, They Series No.01, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Zhang Xiao, They Series No.01, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Winner of this year’s Shiseido Prize and a 20,000 RMB cash prize was Wang Huan. Born in Shandong Province in 1989, her Alley Scrawl Series (2009) of black and white images was taken of the people, animals and places of the small town of Zhuantang, near Hangzhou. The artist was drawn to recording the lives of its “simple, decent” inhabitants. “It was this simplicity that… made me want to record their lives and engage in this narration about life’s vicissitudes” says the artist.

Wang Huan, Alley Scrawl series No. 2, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Wang Huan, Alley Scrawl series No. 2, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The haunting black and white works of the winner of The Tierney Fellowship a and 5,000 USD cash prize, Huang Xiaoliang, deal with memory and a yearning for a better future. The Hunan Province-born artist (1985) presented his An Expectation or a New Miracle Series (2008-2009), with its shadows and dream-like images drawn from the artist’s memory. The artist states, “Many things from my memory appear in these works; these things are from scenes that I remember.”

Huang Xiaoliang. An Expectation or a New Miracle Series No. 15 2008-2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Huang Xiaoliang. An Expectation or a New Miracle Series No. 15 2008-2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Caochangdi PhotoSpring and Arles in Beijing

The photo festival was held at one of Beijing’s top art districts, Caochangdi. Caochangdi PhotoSpring partnered with 40 year old French photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles. This is the first time that the Arles’ exhibitions have been shown outside of France.

Caochangdi PhotoSpring offered a myriad of exhibitions from 27 participant galleries featuring both Chinese and international artists. The festival also featured slide shows and discussions, documentary film screenings, book launches and even musical concerts. Some exhibitions and activities run into the month of July.

The main hub of activity, including the venue for the opening ceremony and the announcement of the festival winners, was at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. This centre, which was opened in 2007, focuses solely on photography and video art. The Centre was designed by Chinese artist/architect Ai Weiwei.

Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The courtyard of the Ai Weiwei designed Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing, China. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

The semi-finalists: 20 young and upcoming Chinese artists

The semi-finalists, whose work was showcased at the Three Shadows Photography Centre Galleries, are: Chen Ji’nan, Feng Li, He Yue, Huang Xiaoliang, Li Chunjun, Li Liangxin, Li Yong, Liao Wei, Liu Jia, Liu KeMu Ge, Qi Hong, Song Xiaodi, Tian Lin, Wang Huan, Xiao Ribao, Xue Wei, Zeng Han, Zhang Jie, and Zhang Xiao.

Tibetan-born artist Qi Hong submitted hand-painted black and white images of the three gorges damn 15 years after they were taken with the intent “to gradually develop the landscape and life of the Three Gorges that I remember.” His images depict the inhabitants going about their activities of daily life such as boatmen pulling a boat against the current, or mountain inhabitants moving a house.

Qi Hong. Backpacker in the Ra, Three Gorges series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Qi Hong, Backpacker in the Ra, Three Gorges series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

With regards to his Stone City Series 2009, He Yue states, “Cities are created by piling things up and such is the case with life and thoughts.” For example, in Moth (2009) we admire the beautiful pattern on the wings of a moth only to realize that it is resting on a toilet seat. Or in Electric cables (2009) we can still find beauty in the pink hued cloud that is hovering in the blue sky, even if this view is intersected by electric cables.

He Yue. Dove, 2009. City series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

He Yue, Dove, 2009, City series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Li Yong presented his Daily Series 2006-2009 in which he documents the effects of rapid economic development in China and its often harmful impact on the environment. One of his photographs depicts a man fishing in a pond that has a partly submerged building in it without any concern as to how this might affect the toxicity of the fish he will later consume. Another depicts a man calmly sitting in the water surrounded by submerged buildings and trees heedless of its possible effect on his health. The artist states, “The people in these photographs are like me in the sense that we cannot change this environment; we can only indifferently accept it and calmly live in it.”

Li Yong. Fishing, 2008. Daily series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Li Yong, Fishing, 2008, Daily series. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Song Xiaodi has no formal training but managed to capture the attention of the judges and the public with her images of fish and flowers in ultra-bright colours.

Song Xiaodi. Light Series, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Song Xiaodi, Light Series, 2009. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Haunting images of China’s Xinjiang region were taken between 2005-2009 by Tian Lin, her series, Children of Yamalike Mountain, depicts the inhabitants of the main shanty town in this region, known as the “slum of Urumqi.” These children, from migrant families, play and live in this dusty rubble with a sprawling modern city as their distant backdrop. According to the artist, tens of thousands of migrant workers from different ethnic backgrounds, such as Uighur, Hui, Han and Kyrghiz live here but with no legal papers or standing.

Tian Lin. From the series Children of Yamalike Mountain, (2005-2009). Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Tian Lin, from the series Children of Yamalike Mountain, (2005-2009). Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Taiwanese artist Xue Wei used a scanner to construct full-size images of her body. She had to scan her body section by section between 18 and 24 times to reach her desired effect.

Xue Wei. Self-Portrait - Side, 2005. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Xue Wei. Self-Portrait - Side, 2005. Image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

For more information about the festival visit the website.

Watch for part two of Art Radar Asia’s coverage of Caochangdi PhotoSpring which will highlight a number of exhibitions including some from the Arles program.

Read part two here: Beijing first to host Arles program outside France

NA/KN

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Asia Art Forum 2010 meets growing demand for art collector education in China – Jing Daily

Posted by artradar on May 5, 2010


CHINESE ART COLLECTING

Jing Daily, an online news source covering “the business of culture” in China, spots a new trend: burgeoning demand for collector education.

According to Jing Daily,

Along with the growing interest in buying and collecting art in China — whether for personal or investment reasons — has come increased demand for information and educational resources from the country’s “new collectors.”

To address this information gap, new books and online resources, along with more forums and conferences, have appeared on the scene in mainland China and Hong Kong, designed with Chinese collectors and art enthusiasts — rather than just academics and curators — in mind.

The publication cites several recent examples:

  • The upcoming Asia Art Forum, to be held in Hong Kong from 21 to 23 May, 2010. This is the third edition of a three day gathering of talks and artist studio visits with influential curators, collectors and experts designed for emerging and established collectors. This year’s forum focuses on Chinese art, with luminaries Phil Tinari, Valerie Doran and Karen Smith speaking. Read more about why organiser Pippa Dennis set up the Forum here.
  • The Global Collecting Forum was held in October 2009 in Beijing. According to Redbox Review it was a “‘private forum [of] a star-selection of 25 invited international art professionals, curators and authorities from the US, Europe, Russia and China [who met] to discuss and exchange ideas on the topic of global art collecting.”
  • The first meeting of Chinese art collectors at the Songzhuang Art Festival in October 2009.

We have been watching this trend and spotting some new education sources, too. To explore further, read in the related posts section below about a well-regarded book surveying the next crop of Chinese born artists and an online resource which tracks the collecting activities of international museums in the Chinese art arena.

KCE/KN

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The Power 100: curators up and artists down on ArtReview’s annual list

Posted by artradar on December 2, 2009


THE POWER STRUCTURES OF THE ART WORLD

ArtReview: The Power 100What a difference a year makes. Last month, ArtReview magazine released its annual list of the one hundred most powerful people in art (see list here). ArtReview’s introduction to the list outlines that the financial crisis of 2008 caused a lot of big shifts in the art world and the list is a reflection of these changes: a third of last year’s entries, both artists and collectors, have fallen off the list and been replaced by newcomers. For instance, Director of MoMA Glen Lowry was not even on the list last year, and this year he enters the chart at number two. The magazine praises the likes of Lowry for being part of a new generation in the art world that they describe as follows:

“…percolating up from the middle ranks is a new generation of highly networked, flexible, globetrotting curators – men and women at the very centre of a new way of working.”

Curators top the list while artists have less clout and websites have more

Overall, it was curators who had one of the strongest presence on the list, with Swiss curator and writer Hans Ulrich Obrist at the top of the list and Sir Nicholas Serto, the director of the Tate Gallery, at third. Artists, by contrast, did not have such a strong presence in the top ten: the first artist on the list was not until American Golden Lion Winner Bruce Nauman at number ten.

The Independent newspaper goes so far as to suggest it is “The Year of the Curator”, which suggests that curators have a stronger influence in shaping what we know about art than the artists who create it. A change in the system of endorsement was also reflected by the increase in webmasters included on the list. It seems that technology now also plays a significant part in disseminating notions of what “art” is.

Profession 2008 vs. 2009

Professions in the list: 2008 vs. 2009

Questions of power

So who gets to be on the list and how they do they get there? ArtReview explains that its entrants are ranked as follows:

” [It is] a combination of influence over the production of art internationally, sheer financial clout (although in these times that’s no longer such a big factor) and activity in the previous 12 months – criteria which encompass artists, of course, as well as collectors, gallerists and curators.”

That said, it still remains ambiguous as to what exactly it takes in order to get a mention in the Power 100. For example, how does ArtReview compare the merits of two entirely different professions? How do they rank success when success in the art world is often based solely on a system of endorsement? In other words: how is power in art defined? Perhaps future lists will provide us with more answers to such questions, or at least continue to prompt us to reflect on who really is in charge of the art world.

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more market and auction house news

RM/KCE

 

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Why do critics like Zhang Huan but not his show? Live pigs installation at White Cube 2009 – review roundup

Posted by artradar on October 20, 2009


CHINESE ANIMAL INSTALLATION ART REVIEW

Zhang Huan is known for his performance acts of physical and psychological endurance. This time, however, he left that act up to a couple of pigs.

Zhang Huan’s first show at White Cube

Zhang’s first exhibition Zhu Gangqiang at the White Cube Gallery in London (to October 3rd 2009) featured two live pigs in a make shift pigpen. The pig duo were intended by Zhang to stand in for a remarkable pig in China that survived for 49 days under debris after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed more than 60,000 people.  Now known as the “Zhu Gangqiang” or “Cast-Iron Pig”, the rescued pig has subsequently achieved celebrity status in China for its miraculous tale of survival.  

Zhang’s exhibition was to pay homage to the remarkable Cast-Iron Pig; critics, however, found the exhibition wanting.  For some, the live pig production was far less impressive than Zhang’s portraits of human skulls and the Cast-Iron Pig that comprised the rest of the exhibition. Here is a selection of their reviews:

Zhang Huan "Zhu Gangqiang", 2009 (installation view)

Zhang Huan, Zhu Gangqiang, 2009 (installation view) Two Oxford Sandy and Black gilts, straw, wood, plants, soil, DVD projection, DVD, plasma screen, sound and vinyl

Just a headline grabber

Mark Hudson, writing in The London Daily Telegraph, speaking on behalf of London audiences, declared that large-scale ‘playful’ exhibitions like Zhang’s are no longer inspiring to local audiences:  “We’ve grown so used to headline-grabbing fun-art installations,” he writes, “that Zhang’s pigs feel like just another addition to a list that includes Carsten Holler’s slides in Tate Modern and Antony Gormley’s plinth project in Trafalgar Square.”  

For Hudson, the highlight of the show was Zhang’s depictions of the rescued pig made out of burnt incense rather than the live pigs in the pigpen-utopia (where the pigs appear to have plenty of straw, a football and tire to play with, and exotic plants to eat).

The pig portraits demonstrate the most interesting aspect of Zhang’s work to the Western audience, which is, according to Hudson, his “ambivalence with which he blurs Eastern and Western traditions. The way he offsets strategies borrowed — apparently — from Western operator-artists such as Joseph Beuys and Jeff Koons with scarcely fathomable Oriental philosophy is refreshing in a contemporary art scene in which much has become painfully predictable.” 

Hudson concludes the review by cautioning Zhang not to fall into the trend of artists who have exhibited at the White Cube (such as artist Damien Hirst) and have since become “brand over content.”  According to Hudson, the current prices and high profile of Zhang’s exhibition demonstrates that he “may already be in danger of losing his value as a voice from elsewhere.”

Zhang Huan "Zhu Gangzing", 2009

Zhang Huan, Zhu Gangqiang, 2009- Ash on linen

 

The London Evening Standard’s Brian Sewell, however, disagrees: “I think him [Zhang Huan] a better, wiser and more contemplative artist than…these Western models.”

Tate Modern berated

Sewell’s review describes Zhang’s remarkable and prolific history of performance art works and details the symbolic force they have had on audiences.  He emphasizes Zhang’s mystical mastery of his work and goes so far as to berate the Tate Modern for not yet having acquired any of Zhang’s work for their permanent collection.

Unfortunately, the glowing description of Zhang’s oeuvre to date ends with his exhibition at the White Cube Gallery.  Sewell highlights the element of the exhibition that troubled most critics: the insincere relationship between the live pigs and their audience. “Visitors are invited to lean on the fence,” he writes, “and like Lord Emsworth in the PG Wodehouse novels and Jay Jopling’s father (once Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), admire these little Blandings beauties and contemplate. But contemplate what? The leap from the amusing comforts of the urban farm to the tragedy of Sichuan is far too great for me to see in it pathetic fallacy.”

Zhang Huan Felicity no.3, 2008

Zhang Huan, Felicity no. 3, 2008- Ash on linen

For the London Times art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, it is a similar story of incongruity. He admits that Zhang’s live pigs were “lovely,” but continues that they were, in fact, “too lovely.”

Trite “Greenpeace story”?

After looking at the exhibition in its entirety, Januszczak found himself troubled by how trite and shallow the exhibition’s “contemporary Greenpeace story” seemed to be: “How dare this pampered modern artist, showing in the plushest gallery in the plushest corner of London’s Mayfair, toy so glibly with Buddhism and death, with human survival and the real meaning of the Sichuan earthquake? Even the accompanying video, in which Zhang retells the pig’s story, is so badly shot that it constitutes a disgrace.”

Human skulls better than live pigs

Zhang’s portraits of human skulls were more favourably received.  Januszczak described them as “just about haunting enough to survive their awful familiarity…Zhang’s skulls…are particularly bare and vulnerable.” This positive reaction to the portraits led Januszczak to conclude that Zhang “is a better artist than this show suggests.”

Links: Zhang Huan website

RM/KE

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Posted in Activist, Art spaces, Ash, Chinese, Critic, Death, Gallery shows, Installation, Interactive art, London, Painting, Participatory, Performance, Political, Reviews, Sculpture, Shows, Zhang Huan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iran Inside Out review round up – 56 artist survey show in New York described as mesmerising, a privilege

Posted by artradar on September 3, 2009


IRANIAN ART SURVEY

56 contemporary Iranian artists are presented in the attention-grabbing and timely  Iran Inside Out exhibition at Chelsea Art Museum in New York (June 26 – Sep 5 2009).

Surprisingly – or perhpas not – only 35 artists in the show reside inside Iran and the other 21 dispersed outside Iran. Together they contribute 210 works of painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation on themes such as gender, war, and politics. Complemented with forums and film screenings, theatre performances, music recitals, and panel discussions, Iran Inside Out is part of Chelsea Art Museum’s 2008-2009 “The East West Project”. 

In this round up, art experts and critics from the New York Times to the Huffington Post give their perspectives on this exhibition and report that they are enthralled, mesmerised and surprised.  In this rich and challenging show unexpected findings and themes abound. Be sure to scroll down and read Huffington Post’s Marina Bronchman who discovers a controversial new view of the veil and its effect on sexual and gender expression.

 

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, Digital C-print 2008 copyright artist and courtesy Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery
Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell’s Puerto Rico Performance Still, Digital C-print 2008 copyright artist and courtesy Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery

 

 

Chelsea Art Museum: Curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

The curators explain that Iran Inside Out defies the traditional perceptions of Iran and Iranian art:

An intimate look into the people, both inside and outside a country that is more complex than images of veiled women, worn out calligraphy and what a handful of other emblematic images would suggest…an examination of the means through which a young generation of artists is reconciling the daily implications of cultural and geographical distances with the search for individual artistic expression…offers an unexpected insight into the artistic energy of a culture that is constantly evolving as Iranians living both in and out of the country, come of age living and working in contentious societies.

(Art Radar editor note: the curators of Saatchi’s Middle Eastern show ‘Unveiled’ (in which Iranian art predominated) earlier in 2009 also claimed to go beyond the ‘worn out’ to present a more nuanced and alternative view of art from the Middle East – this was hotly contested by some reviewers who were surprised to find that, on the contrary, bloodshed, repression and gender inequality were ubiquitous and courageously expressed. See related posts section below for the review round up of  Saatchi’s show).

 

Yet there are differences between insiders and outsiders say the curators:

Ironically, contrary to one’s expectations, the artists living abroad often draw more on their cultural heritage, while those on the inside focus more on issues of everyday life without much regard to what ‘the outside’ views as specifically Iranian references. Yet, within these disparities, one element stands strong: the recurrent references, sometimes ambiguous, at times emotional, often nostalgic and on occasion satirical and even tragic to Iran the country, Iran the past, the Iran which has been lost and that which could be found.

New York Times: Holland Cotter

Holland Cotter elaborates on how Iranian cultural references run through the show in this 30th-anniversary year of the Iranian revolution. For this critic, whether inside or out, artists are in touch with their cultural history. 

Golnaz Fathi, who lives in Tehran, walks the line between calligraphy and abstraction in his paintings; so does Pouran Jinchi, who lives in New York. The heroic epic called “The Book of Kings” is given an action-hero update by Siamak Filizadeh of Tehran, but also in film stills by Sadegh Tirafkan, who spends part of his time in Toronto.

 

“Zaal arrives to help Rostam, ROSTAM 2 The Return” by Siamak Filizadeh(2008)
“Zaal arrives to help Rostam, ROSTAM 2 The Return” by Siamak Filizadeh(2008)

 

 

Female artists are  given the spotlight, too:

Alireza Dayani’s fantastical historical drawings; Newsha Tavakolian’s photographic study of a transsexual; Saghar Daeeri’s paintings of Tehran’s boutique shoppers; Shirin Fakhim’s sculptural salute to the city’s prostitutes. Abbas Kowsari documents cadet training for chador-clad female police officers in Tehran. Less interestingly, Shahram Entekhabi draws chadors in black Magic Marker on images of dating-service models.

However, not all of them advocate social causes. Some artists employ a less aggressive tone:

Ahmad Morshedloo’s tender paintings of sleepers, Reza Paydari’s portrait of school friends and the mysterious little films of Shoja Azari are in this category.

Nevertheless, ambiguity does not equate with absence of politics in these artwork: 

Repression both inside and outside Iran is under scrutiny in a piece by Mitra Tabrizian about the roles of both the West and Muslim clergy in Iran’s modern history. In photographs by Arash Hanaei, brutal scenes from the Iran-Iraq war and Abu Ghraib are played out by bound and gagged dolls.

Flavorpill New York: Leah Taylor 

 

Sara Rahbar, 'Flag #5', 2007. Textile/mixed media, 65x35 inches
Sara Rahbar, ‘Flag #5’, 2007. Textile/mixed media, 65×35 inches

 

Taylor praises Iran Inside Out as one of the timeliest exhibitions in history:

With violence and political unrest roiling in that country, this exhibit takes a closer look at its inherent contradictions, tradition, culture, identity, and struggle — especially as faced by its younger generation of artists. As gruesome descriptions and footage of the election-protest clampdown continue to slip through Iranian censors daily, having Iran Inside Out‘s creative insight into the country seems a privilege, indeed.

Huffington Post: Marissa Bronfman

Shocked and enthralled by the creative artwork at the exhibition, Bronfman comments: 

A sense of duality was apparent in all the various pieces I saw at the exhibit, and there is an interesting geographical duality influencing the artists as well. The artists still living in Iran must struggle with avoiding government censors while not compromising with self-censorship, and those living outside strive to assume an “unlabeled artist-status” within a West-centric contemporary art world. The museum reminds us of their important commonality, however, such that all 56 artists desire to “establish an individual artistic identity free from the stigma of “stereotype” and “locality.” 

She explains what draws her the most about the Tehran Shopping Malls by Saghar Daeeri:

 

Saghar Daeeri, Shopping Malls of Tehran - Acrylic (Aaron Gallery).
Saghar Daeeri, Shopping Malls of Tehran – Acrylic (Aaron Gallery).

The paintings came to life with a stunning palette of vibrant colors and women depicted in a grotesque, almost fantastical rendering. Heavily made up faces, lacquered nails and peroxide hair instantly made me think these Iranian women were influenced by typical American ideals of beauty. However, Hanna Azemati, who works at CAM and presided over the show, offered a wonderful perspective that I hadn’t originally considered. She told me that, “Because of the compulsory veil, women express their femininity through venues that are allowed in exaggerated ways. They resort to excessive make-up, overdone highlighted hair, thin eyebrows, long colored nails and even suggestive behavior.” This dualism that Iranian women must grapple with, between veiling and self-expression, was communicated with profound contradiction and was really quite mesmerizing.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Ullens Center shows three Chinese Contemporary Art Award winners

Posted by artradar on December 11, 2008


Liu Wei Purple Air

An exhibition of the works by the winners of the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards is on at the Ullens Center until December 21 2008.

About the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards

The  awards were founded by Uli Sigg in 1997 as a nonprofit entity to enhance the position of Chinese contemporary art both domestically and internationally. With the growth of the art market in the ensuing decade, the purpose of the awards has shifted to emphasize a critical position on the conversation over what constitutes meaningful art in current Chinese production. In the words of Uli Sigg, “The market is today the dominant force to validate artworks. To balance and enrich this debate, an institution such as the CCAA plays an important role.” The awards offer a platform for artists to become recognized on the world stage and to allow foreign curators to identify some of the most interesting art in greater China.

About the exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

”We are really proud to present CCAA at UCCA. In showing the 2008 award winning artists, UCCA is committed to the future of Chinese art and recognizes its value beyond market forces” said Jerome Sans, UCCA Director.

Liu Wei, Tseng Yu-Chin, Ai Weiwei, were selected by a jury committee consisting of

  • Hou Hanru, Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs and Chair of Exhibitions and Museum Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute;
  • Ken Lum, Canadian artist of Chinese heritage who has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, enjoyed a career in education, and has participated in many major exhibitions;
  • Gu Zhenqing, curator and critic in charge of the recently opened gallery Li Space;
  • Chris Dercon, Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich;
  • Ruth Noack, curator of Documenta 12;
  • Huang Du, independent curator and critic who co-curated the sixth Shanghai Biennale;
  • and Uli Sigg, founder of CCAA.

The artists were judged on the display of ‘original and unique talent in artistic creation’  to help stimulate debates about artistic value in the currently booming art market.

The exhibition of the winning artists’ works is accompanied by a publication written by Pauline Yao, who received the newly-established Chinese Contemporary Art Award for independent art criticism in 2008. (Buy book here)

Liu Wei (1972) – Best Artist

Liu Wei was born in 1972 and is based in Beijing. His installation and conceptual artworks have achieved great success on the international art scene. In his experiments, he continually revises his system of artistic production and methodically interrogates that which most artists take for granted. He has shaken our understandings of both the definition of contemporary art and the role played by the exhibition in this system. Liu Wei does not fear failure, and often begins again after unsatisfactory projects. In this way, he gestures towards a future beyond the current boom in the Chinese art market against a background of global production and consumption.

Ai Weiwei Descending
 

 

 

 

Tseng Yu-Chin – Best Young Artist

Tseng Yu-Chin, born in 1978 and based in Taipei, is recognized with the Best Young Artist award, creates work characterized by a deep and subtle humanism. He is largely concerned with the role of the individual in the context of a changing contemporary society, especially in terms of the perceived demise of traditional configurations of community and family; his practice, however, is also filled with hope and redemption. His films and videos are in turns compassionate and voyeuristic, pushing depiction of his subjects almost to a point of representational crisis. In this way, he pays homage to the pioneering video art of Zhang Peili while developing a unique aesthetic voice. These pieces often appear as video vignettes borrowed from a particular model of Taiwanese cinema, allowing his work to act as a bridge between the changing modernities of mainland China and Taiwan.

Ai Weiwei – Lifetime Achievement award

Ai Weiwei, born in 1957 and based in Beijing, is recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Perhaps no artist has mirrored the volatile and challenging history of Chinese contemporary art more deeply and accurately than Ai Weiwei. His work has transcended the category of contemporary art and penetrated the very heart of Chinese society, engaging with China’s complex social and political dynamics and contributing to its radically changing architectural and designed spaces.

“These exhibitions and this book will shed more light on the winning artists Liu Wei, Tseng Yu-Chin, and Ai Weiwei. They were selected in a very intense jury meeting and they deserve all the attention the CCAA book and exhibitions can create!”
-Uli Sigg

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