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Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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    Art Radar Asia News conducts original research and scans global news sources to bring you selected topical stories about the taste-changing, news-making and the up and coming in Asian contemporary art.

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese contemporary art’

Contemporary Chinese photographic aesthetic captured at 3 top American museums

Posted by artradar on October 20, 2010


AW Asia, a private organisation that promotes the field of Chinese contemporary art through institutional loan and museum acquisitions, curatorial projects, publishing, and educational programs, has released a press release announcing that three major US institutions – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum – will include works by Chinese contemporary photographers in major group exhibitions.

Exhibiting artists include: Weng Fen (exhibiting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), Ai Weiwei and Zhang Dali (both exhibiting at The Museum of Modern Art in New York), Hai Bo, Liu Zheng, Song Yongping, RongRong, Wang QingsongHuang Yan, Qiu Zhijie, and Zhang Huan (all exhibiting at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles).

For more details on each exhibition, read the press release below:

For Immediate Release
June 15, 2010


Contemporary Chinese photography is becoming increasingly prominent in the field of international contemporary art. In the coming months, three major US institutions – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum – will include works by Chinese contemporary photographers in major group exhibitions.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York recently acquired a collection of photographic works by Chinese artists from an anonymous donor. Contemporary Chinese artists whose photography is now represented in the Met’s permanent collection include Hai Bo, Sheng Qi, Song Dong, Zhang Huan, Hong Hao, Wang Qingsong, Xing Danwen, and Weng Fen. The upcoming group exhibition, Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography (July 2, 2010 – February 13, 2011), explores themes of dislocation and displacement in our progressively global society, and will feature work by Chinese artist Weng Fen. The exhibition will also feature works by international artists Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Jeff Wall, and Thomas Struth, among others.

At The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today (August 1 – November 1, 2010) will feature photography by Chinese artists Ai Weiwei and Zhang Dali. This show examines the intersection between photography and sculpture, investigating how one medium informs the analysis and creative redefinition of the other. Bringing together over three hundred photographs, magazines, and journals by one hundred artists, the exhibition showcases work by both sculptors and photographers, including Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi, Man Ray, David Smith, Bruce Nauman, Barbara Kruger, Hannah Wilke, and Robert Smithson. Photographic works by Ai Weiwei and Zhang Dali entered MoMA’s permanent collection in July 2008; this is the first show in which these works will be displayed at the museum in a group-exhibition context.

Later this year the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles will present Photography from New China (December 7, 2010 – April 3, 2011). Offering a contrast to the nineteenth-century views of China and other parts of East Asia by Felice Beato concurrently on view in the Getty Center for Photographs, this exhibition offers a cross-section of Chinese photographs produced since People’s Republic leader Deng Xiaoping ushered in a new era of opening and reform in the late 1970s. Highlighting the Getty’s recent acquisition of photographs by Hai Bo, Liu Zheng, Song Yongping, Rong Rong, and Wang Qingsong, Photography from New China showcases several approaches that are characteristic of recent Chinese contemporary art, including performance for the camera, the incorporation of family photographs, and an emphasis on the body. Supplemented by loans of work by Huang Yan, Qiu Zhijie, and Zhang Huan, the exhibition explores such themes as pre-revolutionary Chinese literati, vestiges of the Cultural Revolution, and newly rampant consumerism.


Related Topics: Chinese artists, photography, USA venues

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Ai Weiwei fills Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds

Posted by artradar on October 19, 2010


Ai Weiwei – artist, architectural designer, curator and social commentator – unveils his work for the prestigious Unilever Series for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – Britain’s largest contemporary art commission. It features the first living artist from the Asia-Pacific region to be commissioned for this series. Guest poster Pippa Dennis provides an in-depth look into the production and exhibition of this breakthrough installation.

Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei is a sensory and immersive installation which sees the vast 1000 square meters of the Turbine Hall covered with over a hundred million porcelain replicas of sunflower seeds, ten centimetres deep and weighing in at 150 metric tons. Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project in the city of Jingdezhen, home to porcelain manufacturers since the days of Imperial China.

Each ceramic seed goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. The artist jokes that he made a few himself, but his contribution was hastily rejected by the artisans in charge, such was the level of craftsmanship involved.

Ai Weiwei. Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

“Ai Weiwei has created a truly unique experience for visitors to this year’s Unilever Series. The sense of scale and quality of craftsmanship achieved in each perfectly formed sunflower seed is astonishing. In trying to comprehend their sheer quantity, Ai provokes a multitude of ideas, from the way we perceived number and value, to the way we engage with society at large.” Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, Tate Modern

Initially, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. Image courtesy of Pippa Dennis.

The effect is a highly simplistic and subtle creation, yet complex and powerful in its depth and potential for interpretation. The sunflower itself is a profoundly symbolic object for Chinese people. A common street snack shared by friends and enjoyed by everyone, but requiring a certain skill in breaking the husk and releasing the seed in a singular movement of the teeth and tongue. For the artist it has more personal significance as he remembers it as a staple during the Mao years when material goods were virtually non-existent and food was in short supply. At this time he remembers the sharing of them as a gesture of human kindness and generosity in a period of extreme poverty and uncertainty. It was also a symbol adopted by the Communists. Propaganda pictures from this era depict Mao as the sun, and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him.

Ai has used the sunflower seed repeatedly in his work since his period in New York, such as Hanging Man (1983), and here this simple motif works to examine the concepts of mass production and traditional craftsmanship, an important aspect of Ai Weiwei’s work. The phenomena of “Made in China” and the association that accompanies it – repetition, copying and mass production – are all themes deeply rooted in Chinese tradition whilst recently they have taken on a new significance in the current geopolitics of cultural and economic exchange.

Ai Weiwei believes the role of the artist is not only about raising issues but transforming them. Here the seeds also raise questions about ourselves and society, what does it mean to be an individual in China, an individual in this world? Individualism in China was heavily criticized during the Mao years but now with its radical economic and urban transformation China’s attitude is starting to shift, particularly amongst the younger generations. Ai has commented “From a very young age, I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts and behaviour tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be”.

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of the

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project ... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of

Ai Weiwei’s work has always had an element of political and social commentary and he has not only become an important contemporary artist on the international stage but also a leader of social thought in China and the world. He comments, “My art may be political but I never intended to create political art”. However in recent years these themes, particularly for public commissions, have become increasingly prominent and in interviews and on his blog he openly criticises the Chinese government, calling for freedom of press and speaking up for human rights. He has always said his life is ready-made, “I’m my own ready-made”, acknowledging his most significant influence, Marcel Duchamp.

Life for the artist is art, politics and exchange. The act of individuals voicing their opinions and communicating with one another is of great importance to him and his practice. In Remembering (2009), he harnessed the powers of the Internet to recruit two hundred local and regional participants in the research and archiving of the names of the children who lost their lives in the Sichuan earthquake. This project resulted in five thousand names being collated and recorded and is considered the first civil rights activity in China.

In Sunflower Seeds, he harnesses the powers of social media to take his “social sculpture” to another level. Combining online and video technologies, this commission has enabled the artist to engage in a global dialogue about the work. Below the Turbine Hall, Ai Weiwei has installed a series of video booths to record questions and comments to the artist, whilst outside the Turbine Hall the audience can connect with the artist via Twitter. One to One with the Artist also marks a milestone in the Tate’s use of new media technology and the Internet, transforming the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern into a hub of global conversation.

Marc Sands, director of audiences and media at the Tate said,

“In recent years, Tate Media has found a variety of new ways for visitors to engage with the Unilever Series commissions, from iPhone apps to interactive websites. Ai Weiwei’s own passion for new communication technologies has made it possible for us to develop something really special this year, which we hope people around the world will enjoy”.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

Originally, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. However, after a very enthusiastic response from visitors, staff noticed a fine dust rising off of the seeds, and after it was confirmed that the dust “could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time”, the Tate was forced to cordon the sculpture off. Visitors are still invited to view the installation “from a walkway above the hall.”

The immediate critical response has been extremely positive. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle comments, “I love it. It is a world in a hundred million objects. It is also a singular statement, in a familiar, minimal form – like Wolfgang Laib’s floor-bound rectangles of yellow pollen, Richard Long’s stones or Antony Gormley’s fields of thousands of little humanoids. Sunflower Seeds, however, is better. It is audacious, subtle, unexpected but inevitable. It is a work of great simplicity and complexity. Sunflower Seeds refers to everyday life, to hunger (the seeds were a reliable staple during the Cultural Revolution), to collective work, and to an enduring Chinese industry.”

The Telegraph’s Richard Dorment observes, “For the 11th commission in the Unilever Series, Tate Modern has offered the poisoned chalice to the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei – and he’s come up with a masterpiece.”

With the seeming success of this event and Tate Modern’s curatorial commitment to show art from new territories, we can look forward to more opportunities to see art from the Asia-Pacific region in such significant spaces as London’s premier contemporary art museum.

About Pippa Dennis

Pippa Dennis is a Chinese art specialist based in London. She has an MA in Art History and spent ten years making documentaries for the BBC before living in Shanghai and working at Eastlink Gallery. She subsequently set up Asia Art Forum, an educational platform to promote the understanding of Asian contemporary art.



Related Topics: Chinese artists, installation art, participatory art, political art, London art

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How is Chinese ink painting explored in contemporary art? RedBox Review in discussion with Liang Quan

Posted by artradar on October 7, 2010


In a conversation with Chinese-based art blog RedBox Review the artist Liang Quan (b. 1948), living and working in Shenzhen, China, explains how ink painting is used in contemporary art and how this exploration continues to follow the philosophy of traditional Chinese painting.

Liang Quan is considered as one of the pioneers of contemporary ink painting.

“Ink painting”, also known as “wash painting”, was developed in China during the Tang Dynasty. Ink painting or shui-mo hua in Chinese (水墨畫) is composed of water,  shui and Chinese ink, mo. In Western art, using similar techniques, it is known as drawings.


Liang Quan, "Tea Stain No3", 2008, ink and paper, 63.8x48cm

Liang Quan, 'Tea Stain No. 3', 2008, ink and paper, 63.8x48 cm.


In this conversation Liang Quan highlights to RedBox the difference between ink painting and ink art:

The exploration of using ink and referring to the tradition of Chinese painting is part of a greater narrative to define a cultural identity.

American contemporary artists like Brice Marden and Cy Twombly inspired Liang Quan while he was living and working abroad. On top of using ink painting and water, Liang incorporates paper into his works.

Liang’s ink painting seems abstract but in reality he follows the philosophy of this art. He aims to capture the soul of the subject rather that trying to reproduce the exact appearance of it. As he relates to RedBox,

My use of collage, combining strips of ink and/or tea stained paper, may seem abstract to the unknowing eye, and without direct correlation to a depiction of reality. But my works, collages, are actually diagrams of traditional Chinese landscape paintings and the Chinese still life painting genre of birds and flowers.


Interesting difference between ink painting in West and East: perspective

Having explored ink painting in Western art, Liang Quan observed a major difference between it and Chinese landscape painting: multiple points of perspective are used where Western painting uses only one or two.  As he relates to RedBox,

To view a Chinese painting, one’s eye usually follows the flow of water from the bottom of the mountains as it meanders farther into the hills and up the composition of the painting.

Following this philosophy and adding paper strips and color makes Liang’s painting abstract.

After exploring the multiple points of perspective in Chinese landscape painting, Liang Quan combined this concept with the ideals of Nan Pai, also known as Southern School. As said in the RedBox article,

By addressing the theme of Chinese tradition, he is distinguished from his contemporaries choosing to use painting as a depiction of or social response to modern society.


Related Topics: Chinese artists, definitions, ink

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New project on Chinoiserie and contemporary art to launch at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum

Posted by artradar on October 7, 2010


Originating in the 17th century to describe the Western fascination with Chinese art and design, the phenomenon of Chinoiserie will be the focus of a new three year project SINOPTICON: Contemporary Chinoiserie in Contemporary Art which opens with a symposium at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in early October this year.


Genuine American Chop Suey Served With Some Hokey-Pokey!, Paper, 33 x 33 cm, Karen Tam, Source: SINOPTICON

Karen Tam, 'Genuine American Chop Suey Served With Some Hokey-Pokey!', 2006, paper, 33 x 33 cm. Image courtesy of SINOPTICON.


Project founders Eliza Gluckman and Gayle Chong Kwan will chair sessions, including a keynote speech by Beijing-based curator and writer Philip Tinari, alongside sessions featuring Ben Schmidt (University of Washington), Ying Kwok (Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK), Glenn Adamson (V&A), Sarah Teasley (Royal College of Art, London) and artists Wu Chi-TsungEd Pien and Erika Tan. Each will set out the key themes of the project, identified as: politics and trade, authorship, interpretation and cultural misunderstanding, fantasy, escapism, fiction and design.

In the words of SINOPTICON, the project aims “to use the metaphor of Chinoiserie to expand the discourse of artistic exchange between the two sides of the globe”. As well as the symposium, Philip Tinari will write a series of critical articles for the SINOPTICON website. Major new works are to be commissioned, including a collaborative pavillion featuring Gayle Chong Kwan and Stephanie Douet in late 2010. Art residencies and a touring exhibition can also be expected as the project unfolds.


SINOPTICON is part-funded by Arts Council England and supported by the National Trust’s ‘Trust New Art’ programme. Places for the symposium are now fully booked but those interested can still contact Eliza Gluckman via the SINOPTICON website to receive updates on future events.



Shot Through: Journey of Connections, 2008, DVD still, Erika Tan, Source: SINOPTICON

Erika Tan, 'Shot Through: Journey of Connections', 2008, DVD still. Image courtesy of SINOPTICON.



Related Topics: Chinese artists, conferences

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

Posted by artradar on September 28, 2010


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.


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

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Curator Tobias Berger talks about Korean contemporary art scene in 4 questions

Posted by artradar on September 20, 2010


Art Radar Asia recently spoke with German-born curator Tobias Berger, who currently holds the position of Chief Curator at the Nam June Paik Art Center, about the Center’s exhibition “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain“. During this interview, Berger also revealed a few of his observations on living and working in the Korean art environment.

Korean art has always been in the shadow of Japanese and Chinese artistic success, often “dismissed as a mere conduit between the two mega cultures.” This may be because few of the local magazines, exhibition catalogues and other art texts produced on Korean contemporary art are available in English. As Berger states, “There are none. They’re all in Korean. There’s nothing really good in English.” And while the local art scene is perhaps not on par with what can be experienced in these neighbouring countries, Berger notes that the art that is being produced in Korea is of a very high quality, due to good art schools, a diversity of art spaces, talented pioneers and governmental support.

This Korean contemporary art sculpture was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation".

'Shamoralta Shamoratha' (2007) by Inbai Kim was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation" in 2009. Korean Eye was founded in 2009 as a way to support emerging Korean artists by providing international exhibition opportunities.

As a European who formerly lived and worked in the Hong Kong art scene, how do you find the South Korean art scene compares?

“The Seoul art scene is probably the most sophisticated art scene in Asia. It has really good independent spaces, good commercial galleries, interesting art schools and good museums. It has this whole pyramid of different art spaces, exhibition possibilities, and it has a lot of really good and wonderful artists. That level of depth and the level of different kinds of art spaces is incomparable. Certainly in Beijing [you] have galleries, but you don’t have any independent spaces, and in Tokyo it’s also very different.”

How do you keep up to date with the Korean art scene?

That is a problem because it’s all in Korean and it’s very difficult to keep up [with]. I mean, you just go to the 10-15 [art] spaces once a month … and you talk to your friends and your colleagues that go to the big exhibitions…. You just have to look at how it is. There was a [recent] survey show called “Bright Future” but it only had twelve artists.

Tell us about the art school system in Korea? How does it differ from other places?

It’s the most sophisticated [system] because it had some good pioneers [and] a lot of governmental help. [South Korea] has some good art schools and it has a lot of good artists that have studied overseas and come back. This allowed a lot of critical discourse and [there were] a lot of magazines. That allowed the art scene to grow well and in the right way.

Korean art is becoming popular with international collectors. “Korean Eye, for example, was shown at The Saatchi Gallery in London earlier this year. Can you tell us why you think this is happening now?

“Here in South Korea you don’t feel that there’s much happening. The Korean scene is nothing compared to what’s happening in China…. On the one side, these shows, where this is popular or that is popular, don’t really mean a thing. There is a lot of good art in South Korea and the quality of the art is really on a high level, because art education has been good for 15-20 years. A lot of people are educated in Europe and America and have very good support and certainly output good quality art…. I mean, you don’t want to buy or you don’t want to show an artist because he’s Korean, you want to show an artist because he’s a good artist.”


Related topics: Korean artists, interviews, Tobias Berger, curators

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist-run, Asia expands, Curators, From Art Radar, Generation art, Globalization of art, Interviews, Korean, Museums, Tobias Berger | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tsong Pu discusses six artworks: Part III – On local recognition of local art and the cube redefined

Posted by artradar on September 15, 2010


When Tsong Pu was studying overseas in the 1970s he would introduce himself as Chinese or as being from China. Later, as China opened it’s borders and more art from the country was exposed to the outside world, Tsong began to introduce himself as Taiwanese. Now, he introduces himself as a Shanghai-born artist who lives in Taiwan.

Cultural relations between Taiwan and China have always been complicated and the current success Chinese contemporary artists are enjoying globally generally outstrips that of artists who are living and working in Taiwan. Although originally from China himself, abstract artist Tsong Pu does not see much collaboration between the two countries.

“Each side does their own thing. At the moment you will find that very few Taiwanese artists show their work in Mainland China, in galleries or in museums. But you will find that many artists from China show their works in Taiwanese galleries or museums.”

Tsong believes that Taiwanese artists and art professionals need to work hard to change this situation, “to give collectors and buyers more confidence in Taiwanese art.” He goes on to state that the Chinese art market is created and supported by the Taiwanese collector.

“Much of the artwork coming out of China is being sold to Taiwanese collectors. The [Taiwanese] government supports Chinese artists, but the Chinese government doesn’t support Taiwanese artists.”

This view is expressed in the installation One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media), which we discuss with Tsong in this article. Blake Carter, writing for the Taipei Times in November last year, talked about the piece:

“I was surprised to find that some of the ropes he installed at the Biennial fall onto a bent metal signpost that reads ‘Taiwan Contemporary Art Museum.’ There is no such place. Many artists complain that Taiwan’s museums – especially in the capital, and specifically the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) – don’t pay enough attention to the country’s artists.”

Blake went on to say that “Taiwanese artists are relegated to the museum’s smaller galleries downstairs while Chinese artists Fang Lijun, Cai Guo-Qiang and Ai Weiwei get large exhibitions at TFAM.” When asked by Blake whether One Comes from Emptiness was a comment on Taiwan’s art institutions and their treatment of Taiwanese art and artists, Tsong replied, “Yes.”

This is part three of a three part series. In this part we relay to you Tsong’s views on the artistic relationship between Taiwan and China and look at two further installations by the artist. Both of these works are tied to the artist’s signature grid pattern, the repetition of 1 x 1 cm squares often intersected with a diagonal line. This grid form is represented in the weave of the nylon rope in One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media) and pulled apart and reconstituted in the separate canvases of Declaration Independence (first presented 1996, mixed media). For more on what to expect from the first and second parts of this series, please read the notes at the bottom of this post.

Tsong Pu, 'One Comes From Emptiness', 2009, mixed media installation, 10 x 1075 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'One Comes from Emptiness', 2009, mixed media installation, 10 x 1075 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

One Comes from Emptiness (2009, mixed media installation) was shown at Viewpoints and Viewing Points: 2009 Asian Art Biennial. In your artist statement for this exhibition you suggested that people from the West and people from the East will perceive this installation differently. Could you explain further?

“I tried to pretend that the rope is just like calligraphy: more natural and softer. This soft line is like Chinese calligraphy or Chinese traditional ink painting. When you see a Chinese courtyard, it makes you feel very natural, it’s soft…. It has something representing the water, the wind, the earth. I used very simple lines or string to create circles. These circles remind me of a Japanese courtyard, its oriental elements, and the lines are like the rain. A traditional Chinese courtyard always expresses these kinds of things. I tried to … merge [this] with Western style.

The steel part is more structural – it has more strength – and represents Western art expression: strong, energetic, long lasting. I am influenced by an artist from England called Anthony Caro who creates sculptures from steel.”

Why do the circles overlay the steel?

“At the very beginning, I tried to present only the circles and the simple white lines but I thought it was too beautiful…. It didn’t have any power. [The circles overlap the steel because] the nylon rope is soft and flexible. It can’t be cut or broken and it will flow over things. Of the material, you can see that one is soft and one is hard, so they contrast. That is the basic structure [of the work]. Different style, different shape, different material, different thinking. But when they come together they can merge.”

So they can exist together?

“Yes, yes. Together they can generate something new, a new way of thinking.”

Is there anything else you’d like to say about One Comes from Emptiness?

“This work was created in 2009. During this year a major typhoon hit Taiwan. This typhoon caused a landslide which covered a mountain village. Because of this event, the natural environment and the view of the landscape was changed. A house that has been moved or destroyed might not actually look so terrible in its new position. After you have viewed it for sometime, you might realise that it actually looks quite beautiful.”

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 1996, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 1996, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

We are interested in your installation Declaration Independence (first presented 1996, mixed media) because you showed it in 1996 and then again this year at your TFAM retrospective, “Art From the Underground“. Can you explain the relationship between the objects and each painting?

“The idea for this work comes from [Transposition of Light and Water (1992, mixed media installation)] but it is represented in a different space. I took one cube from this work and distributed it into several pieces.”

The way you have used the gallery space in Declaration Independence is quite different to how you have used it in other installation pieces.

“These are canvases, just like [The White Line on Grey (mixed media, 1983)] is a canvas. I used the same technique [to paint them both]. The ones that are the same are grouped together. The paintings are like different pages in a book; the pattern [on the canvases] resembles words without any special meaning.

This [coat hanging on the wall] is an object and this object has some dimension – it is 3D and not flat – but [the paintings] are flat, so when they are placed with the 3D objects they will have a conversation. The paintings are like a code and when I separate them in this way they are like the pages [of a book] on the wall.

The paintings have no meaning, but the objects may project some meaning onto them. Among the objects are some maps. When all these things are separate they have no meaning but when they are placed together they could have some meaning. I am not sure whether the paintings influence the objects, or the objects influence the paintings. When you open a book there is a lot of information in it. It is like this book on the wall has been opened and many things have started to happen. There is a conversation between [the paintings and the objects], a relationship.”

And is it you, the artist, who brings meaning to this book, or is it the task of the viewer?

“It should be both. I hope it is the viewer.”

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 2010, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tsong Pu, 'Declaration Independence', 2010, mixed media installation, 480 x 260 x 360 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

About this series

This Art Radar interview with Taiwanese artist Tsong Pu has been presented in three parts. In part one, Master Tsong discusses two works in which he has used and adapted his most well known technique, a 1 cm by 1 cm grid pattern. In part two, the artist speaks on two very different installation pieces, close in date of construction but not in their theory of development. Part three talks about some of the artist’s most recent installation work.

We have also premised each part with some of the artist’s views on the current Taiwanese contemporary art industry, as developed from his roles as mentor, curator and master artist.


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Posted in Artist Nationality, Business of art, Collectors, Conceptual, From Art Radar, Installation, Interviews, Promoting art, Styles, Taiwanese, Themes and subjects, Tsong Pu, Z Artists | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A testimonial for Chinese contemporary art – Art Radar speaks with Weng Ling

Posted by artradar on August 31, 2010


Weng Ling has been an essential figure over the course of Chinese contemporary art history. Since graduating in art history from the Central Academy of Fine Art (CAFA) in 1989, she has achieved much. In this Art Radar interview, Weng outlines the relationship, as she sees it, between fashion and art and demystifies the perception of her as a “fashion-forward person”, as well as providing insight into the day-to-day activities involved in creating a television art show and running a premier art institution.

She was named director of the Gallery of the Central Academy of Fine Art in 1996, where the likes of Wang Guangyi and Zhang Xiaogang had their first solo shows. In 2001, she curated a breakthrough show called “Towards a New Image: Twenty Years of Chinese Contemporary Painting – 1981-2001”. For the first time, a canon of Chinese contemporary artists showed their works at national museums in China. In 2002, she helped curate the Shanghai Biennale “Urban Creation”. She then moved on to the Shanghai Gallery of Art at Three-on-the-Bund, a high-end lifestyle project backed by Chinese American lawyer and entrepreneur Handel Lee. The gallery enjoyed critical success during the six years under Weng Ling’s direction.

In 2008, she returned to Beijing to run the Beijing Center for the Arts at Ch’ien Men 23, another integrated premier lifestyle development with her long-term business partner Handel Lee. In 2010, she ventured into media to produce and host “Arts China”. “Arts China” was the first in-depth interview program to focus exclusively on the top names in the art and culture world in China, including Xu Bing, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhang Huan, Tan Dun, Cui Jian, and more. Weng Ling blurs the lines between visual art, architecture, design and environmentalism. She collaborates with artists, designers, businessmen, scientists and some of the top institutions and museums in the world.

Art Radar Asia met up with Weng Ling one afternoon to discuss some of her projects.

Weng Ling Portrait, courtesy of Beijing Centre for the Arts

Weng Ling, an essential figure in China's contemporary art community. Image courtesy of Beijing Centre for the Arts.

Weng Ling on “Arts China”

How did you decide to focus on contemporary art when directing the Gallery of CAFA?

It was a natural choice for me. I like art and sincerely wanted to introduce contemporary artists’ reflections on society to a broader audience. I don’t think one has to be a contemporary art connoisseur to have contact with contemporary art itself. Many in the West started promoting Chinese contemporary art because some of the works reflect the conflicts in contemporary Chinese society. After Western capital was injected into the market to raise the monetary value of Chinese contemporary art, Chinese media started following the hype. Neither of the two groups really appreciates Chinese contemporary art based on a very genuine interest in Chinese artists.

Does this partially explain why you ventured into media and produced “Arts China”?

Indeed. The media tends to misinterpret me as a very fashionable person. My work always centers on promoting the most cutting-edge and avant-garde art projects and ideas. So that partially explains why the media could misread me as a “fashion-forward person”. My work can be challenging, as I often face doubt and lack of understanding. This is also the predicament many celebrated artists, designers, architects, directors and musicians find themselves in. So I thought it would be nice to have a casual chat with these friends of mine, in order to showcase the real art and culture figures in China.

The final product looks incredibly real and has a documentary feel to it. How was the process?

It involved a huge amount of work, it sometimes took a full day to record one interview. Luckily, as old friends recounting life and the old stories over all these years, we were very engaged in the conversations. For example, Wang Guangyi looked so carefree on the outside when sharing his longing to hold on to his earliest emotions as a young artist. It was so touching and I almost cried. I have to activate all of the different “channels” in my brain during these interviews, talking like an “insider”. It was quite demanding physically and intellectually. Many museum directors really appreciate “Arts China”, recognising its value in recording Chinese contemporary art history.

Weng Ling on Beijing Center for the Arts

To you, what’s unique about the Beijing Center for the Arts (BCA)?

We are a hybrid art institution between an art museum and a commercial gallery.  On one hand, we discover and promote good Chinese contemporary art that confronts reality and/or has traditional Chinese underpinnings. On the other hand, we are dedicated to promoting collaborations between contemporary art and other disciplines and creating internationally valuable projects. With no precedent in China, it is very interesting to create this space.

It sounds like BCA is your new brainchild, a way in which many of your past experiences can come together naturally.

Yes. Our “BCA Green Art Project” series last year included “Shan Shui: Nature on the Horizon of Art” and “3D City: Future China”, focusing on nature and the urban city respectively. We cooperated with many top-notch artists, architects, scientists, environmentalists and NGOs, governments and businesses from around the world to realise the project. It was a world-wide conversation well beyond the traditional definition of “art”, but a blending of knowledge from many fields. I have previously created fine art exhibitions, city/architecture exhibitions, seminars and have long supported environmental groups and all of these experiences have become a solid foundation for me to draw from to conceive large-scaled cross-disciplinary projects.

So far in your art career, how do you make decisions about which projects to run? Is it based on your instinct, chances, responsibilities or love of art?

I champion artists’ freedom and bravery – this is the “romantic attitude” I hold. Anyone can be an artist and any project can be realised. Creativity has no limit. Whilst I do believe all the work should aim for a high professional standard in its own right, be it music, visual art, design, architecture or others. Like a scientist, I approach each new art project with caution and a rational mind. There are tons of possibilities to create something meaningful in this era in China, and due to this sense of responsibility, I must carefully review all the potential projects.

Weng Ling on crossover collaboration

You have had vast experience collaborating with partners in various fields, including design, architecture, real estate development, and corporate branding. What do you think of the trendy partnership between fashion brands and art?

Many owners of the fashion houses are art collectors who promote the creation of new art. Many fashion designers have fine art training, too. However, Art and fashion must each keep their independence when partnered up – art can easily be overtaken by the commercial demand of the fashion brand. The most meaningful and lasting collaboration is built upon borrowing the strength from the partner to elevate one’s own strength. Both parties must contribute the best of their own strengths.

Unlike their foreign peers, local Chinese businesses aren’t usually used to the idea of sponsoring art. Is that the case in your experience?

Many Chinese entrepreneurs and businessmen are my good friends. I keep learning many things from them, just like from artists. Chinese entrepreneurs have an enduring power to survive in a complex environment. Since the 90s, I have been receiving sponsorship from Chinese companies. They do not necessarily understand art itself, but want to help the ever changing Chinese art scene in any way they can.

On the other hand, the government should really implement policies to encourage corporate sponsorship. The current tax incentive is far from enough. I believe the government’s attitude is like forward-moving water, so as long as we hold an active conversation with them, things can be changed.

Finally, what do you think of the current vibe of the Chinese art scene?

Oh dear, after visiting many institutions in the UK, I have concluded, it’s so not “romantic” (laughs). Because there is no room to challenge myself, and no possibility to challenge the future. The system is so well-developed and built-up over there. Yet in China, there is a force to create something new and we never know what the height of our achievement will be. The historical meaningfulness might be beyond our imagination.

It’s true that China has many problems to deal with, but I am trying to contribute my own bit. The key is to have a humble heart and peace within, no matter which field one is in. The world doesn’t only rotate around people with money, but is transformed by the most creative individuals.


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Posted in Art spaces, Beijing, Business of art, China, Corporate collectors, Crossover art, Funding, Interviews, Multi category, Professionals, Profiles, Weng Ling | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Top 20 Asian artists June 2010: Art Radar Asia’s most-searched artists

Posted by artradar on July 26, 2010


In January this year, we published the article, “Top 17 Asian artists 2009: Art Radar’s most-searched artists, listing Art Radar Asia‘s most searched for artists to the end of 2009. This was so popular with our readers that we have decided to publish these results again. This list below highlights artists searched for between 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2010.

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami

Art Radar Asia receives an average of 27,000 page views a month. Our readers come to us in various ways: via links from other websites, from Twitter, facebook and other social media, from our email newsletter, from word of mouth referrals and, of course, via search engines.

Many readers find us by typing a specific artist name into Google or another search engine and finding a story written or image published by Art Radar Asia. Our analytics package tracks these search terms for us and we thought you might be interested in this data, too. The search terms used by readers when finding each artist are varied. For example, common search terms recorded for Japanese artist Takashi Murakami included: “takashi murakami”, “murakami”, “murakami takashi”, “takashi murakami art” and “takeshi murakami”.

Art Radar Asia‘s 20 most searched artists – the list

We can’t claim that this list is a reliable proxy for the most-searched Asian artists on the Internet overall (take a look at our notes at the bottom of this article). However, we do think the list throws up some fascinating data, particularly when compared with the 2009 results.

  1. Takashi Murakami – male Japanese anime painter and sculptor – 36,086  searches (34,000, December 2009)
  2. Shirin Neshat – female Iranian photographer – 4,532 searches (2,200, December 2009)
  3. Anish Kapoor – male British-Indian sculptor – 4,246 searches (3,500, December 2009)
  4. Marina Abramović – female New York-based Serbian performance artist – 3,092 searches (not listed, December 2009)
  5. Yoshitaka Amano – male Japanese anime artist – 829 searches (460, December 2009)
  6. Cao Fei – female Chinese photographer and new media artist – 672 searches
  7. Terence Koh – male Canadian-Chinese photographer, installation and multimedia artist – 634 searches
  8. I Nyoman Masriadi – male Indonesian painter – 625 searches
  9. AES+F – Russian photography and video collective – 521 searches
  10. Hiroshi Sugimoto – male Japanese photographer – 503 seaches
  11. Subodh Gupta – male Indian painter, installation artist – 417 searches
  12. Ori Gersht – male Israeli photographer – 408 searches
  13. Ronald Ventura – male Filipino painter – 393 searches
  14. Farhad Ahrarnia – male Iranian thread artist – 377 searches
  15. Farhard Moshiri – male Iranian painter – 363 searches
  16. Jitish Kallat – male Indian painter – 329 searches
  17. Gao Xingjian – male Chinese-French ink artist – 301 searches
  18. Bharti Kher – female Indian-British painter, sculptor and installation artist – 270 searches
  19. Shahzia Sikander – female Pakistani miniaturist – 264 searches
  20. Zhang Huan – male Chinese performance artist – 237 searches

How has the top 5 changed?

As with the last list, published at the end of 2009, Takashi Murakami is still holding the title spot with more than 36,000 searches. This is compared with 34,000 in 2009’s list. Shirin Neshat and Anish Kapoor have switched places since the previous list, although the difference between their numbers is somewhat insignificant. Yoshitaka Amano is new to the top 5, moving up to 5th place from 6th place in 2009, perhaps due to the 2010 announcement that he has established a film production company called Studio Deva Loka, in addition to directing a 3D anime named Zan. These announcements followed a small solo tour of his artwork. Marina Abramović has surged into the top 5 this time around, particularly notable as she did not appear on the 2009 list. This is most likely due to her 2010 MoMA exhibition, “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present”.

Marina Abramovic, 'Happy Christmas', 2008, silver gelatin print, 53.9 x 53.9

Marina Abramovic, 'Happy Christmas', 2008, silver gelatin print, 53.9 x 53.9

How has the list changed since it was first published?

The following artists have returned since the 2009 list was published, but many have moved up or down by one or two places: Cao Fei (4, 2009); I Nyoman Masriadi (5, 2009); Ori Gersht (7, 2009); Terence Koh (8, 2009); AES+F (9, 2009); Ronald Ventura (10, 2009); Hiroshi Sugimoto (11, 2009); Farhad Moshiri (12, 2009); Subodh Gupta (13, 2009); Farhard Moshiri (12, 2009) ; Farhad Ahrarnia (14, 2009); Gao Xingjian (15, 2009); Jitish Kallat (16, 2009).

There are some new additions: Marina Abramović, perhaps due to her 2010 MoMA exhibition, “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present”; Shahzia Sikander, whose medium has recently become popular with collectors and critics and who has herself surged into prominence with a win at ART HK 10 ; Bharti Kher, whose works are currently auctioning for large sums; and Zhang Huan, who has had a number of permanent sculptures installed in US cities this year, and whose company designed the permanent public sculpture for the US pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Only Chinese ink artist Wucius Wong doesn’t reappear. His surge in popularity in 2009 may have been due to the retrospective exhibition, “Myriad Visions of Wucius Wong“, at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Preferred media of most-searched artists: miniatures and performance art rising in popularity

Most of the arists work in various media but in this list we have tagged them with the media they are best known for. Six of the artists are known primarily for painting, compared with only five in the 2009 list, and once again, this list is dominated by photographers, new media artists and sculptors. Miniature painting and performance art seem to be new topics of interest for readers.

Artist Age

Most of the artists were born in the 1960s and 1970s, as you would expect for a contemporary art website.

Interestingly, Shirin Neshat (Iranian photographer), Anish Kapoor (British Indian sculptor), Marina Abramović (Serbian performance artist), Yoshitaka Amano (Japanese anime), all born before 1960, were listed as number 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Of course, due to their age and time spent working in the arts, they each have large bodies of work which are consistently being exhibited, collected and discussed.

Artist Gender

male 14 (13, 2009); female 5 (3, 2009); mixed collective 1 (1, 2009)

In the year to June 2010, there were more female artists on the list though men still dominated (approx. 75 percent). Those female artists who were on both lists appeared higher up this year than last.

Breakdown of artist nationalities

Chinese 4 (4, 2009); Indian 4 (4, 2009); Iranian 3 (3, 2009); Japanese 3 (3, 2009); Serbian 1 (not listed, 2009); Israeli 1 (1, 2009); Indonesian (1, 2009); Filipino (1, 2009); Russian (1, 2009)

As you can see, this result is almost identical to the previous result, with the edition of one Serbian artist (Marina Abramović, Serbian performance artist). Once again, artists from China and India are among the most searched nationality, despite fears the Indian art market would be slow to recover after the 2008-2009 global art market turndown.

Shahzia Sikander working on a mural in the USA.

Shahzia Sikander working on a mural in the USA.

This list is not a reliable proxy for the most-searched artists on the internet overall. Here is why: If we have not written a story on or tagged this artist, the search engines will not bring us traffic for this search term and it won’t appear on our traffic analysis stats page. As we have only been up for 18 months it is quite possible that we have not yet covered some higly-searched artists. And even if we have referenced an artist on our site and the artist is highly-searched, the searcher will not come to us unless we have a good page ranking for the story on the search engine.  For example if the story is, say, after page 4 of the search engine results, the searcher probably won’t find our story and will not appear in our stats. Despite these limitations the data is likely to be a reliable indicator for certain trends. Finally even if we have a story and the story is well-ranked, it may be that other stories on the same page are more alluring than ours and readers do not find their way to us.


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Gao Minglu’s maximalist exhibition blurs boundaries between traditional and contemporary Chinese art

Posted by artradar on June 25, 2010


Contrasts Gallery Shanghai was the host of the recent exhibition “Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts” curated by distinguished art scholar and curator Gao Minglu. While visually the works in the exhibition referenced Western modern or conceptual art, the philosophical underpinnings were quite different. Artists Zhu Jinshi, Zhang Yu, Lei Hong and He Xiangyu participated in the show.

All works in the exhibition where chosen because they fall under the term “maximalism”, a term used by Gao Minglu when discussing the philosophical core of Chinese abstract art. Gao characterises the art in “Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts” as being “incomplete and fragmented records of daily meditation.” According to the him, they are like a diary or running account showing the daily workings and activities of the artist, be they trivial or not, rather than a complete work of art. In this way, they present some similarities with Western postmodernist deconstruction.

Zhu Jinshi, Hui neng's work, 2010

Zhu Jinshi, Hui Neng's Work, 2010, ink on rice paper, 2000 x 72 x 130 cm.

Generally, the work of artists in the maximalism tradition is less popular or has largely been ignored. According to Gao, this is partly because of its lack of political subject matter and partly because of its literati aesthetics. Literati painters were Chinese scholar-officials who were not concerned with technical skill and commonly created black ink paintings. The style of the brushstroke was said to reveal something about the inner life of the artist.

“Although it [Maximalism] has never achieved mainstream popularity (in comparison with Political Pop and Cynical Realism), for decades some Chinese artists have devoted themselves to this low-key avant-garde practice.” Gao Minglu, taken from his essay ‘Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts’

How can we come to understand works created in the maximalist tradition? The curator states in his essay, Does Abstract Art Exist in China?, “to decode these works, the audience must do more than read the physical form of a work (that is, it’s surface, or text). It must understand the entire process of making the art, the context underlying the work.”

The four artists: Zhu Jinshi, Zhang Yu, Lei Hong and He Xiangyu

Zhu Jinshi (b. Beijing, 1954) is one of China’s leading avant-garde artists and was a member of the now legendary Stars Group, an artist collective active between 1979 and 1983. Zhu has dedicated the bulk of his career both in China and Germany to the exploration of abstract art and installation work. His medium of choice is Chinese rice paper and ink which he also uses in the exhibited installation, Soaking. Here he fills a metal container with ink and places a pile of rice paper partly immersed in this ink. The half of the paper that is outside the ink gradually changes colour without intervention from human hands. It is a work in progress and uses rice paper and ink; these literati characteristics put the work squarely within the maximalist tradition.

Zhu Jinshi, Soaking 2008

Zhu Jinshi, Soaking, 2008, 170 x 100 x 50 cm.

Like Zhu Jinshi, Zhang Yu (b. Tianjin, 1959) has also chosen rice paper and ink for his installation. For the past twenty years he has been using his finger prints; he dips his fingers into paint or water and randomly places them onto ink painting scrolls. He uses this “language” to express the relationship between our bodies and life. According to curator Gao,”[b]y being transformed from individual identification into repetitious ‘abstract’ marks, the fingerprints lose any expressional and symbolic meaning but regain a universal beauty and infinity through the process.”

Fingerprint 2004.10-1 Zhang Yu 2004

Zhang Yu, Fingerprint 2004.10-1, ink on rice paper, 200 × 260 cm.

For The Coca-Cola Project, young artist He Xiangyu (b. Dan Dong, 1986) cooked tens of thousands of litres of Coke which crystalized the dark liquid. He then made ink out of the created substance and used this “ink” to create his paintings and for writing calligraphy.

He Xiangyu, Skeleton no. 1, 2009 125 x 80 cm

He Xiangyu, Skeleton no. 1, 2009 125 x 80 cm

Lei Hong’s (b. Sichuan Province, 1972) work has the characteristic marks of Western abstract art – with its myriads of dots, lines and squares – but conceptually his motives are quite different. According to the artist, these marks are not born out of artistic concepts but rather out of imagery, akin to traditional Chinese ink painting.

Gao Minglu

The curator of the exhibition, Gao Minglu.

Gao Minglu and Contrasts Gallery

Gao Minglu, is an author, critic, curator, and scholar of contemporary Chinese art. He currently serves as Head of the Fine Arts Department at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts and is a Research Professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He has curated many exhibitions in the U.S. and China including the “China/Avant-Garde” exhibition (1989), “Inside Out: New Chinese Art”(1998), “The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art” (2005), “Apartment Art in China, 1970s-1990s” and “Yi School: Thirty Years of Chinese Abstraction” (2008). An art research center in Beijing is named after him, the mandate of which is to work as an alternative research space into contemporary art in China that is neither involved with the government nor with commercial art galleries.

Contrasts Gallery is a Shanghai based gallery which was founded by Pearl Lam in Hong Kong in 1992. The focus of the gallery is to promote cultural dialogue and exchange between the East and West, not only in art but also in design and architecture.


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Posted in China, Chinese, Conceptual, Curators, Drawing, Events, Gallery shows, Groups and Movements, Ink, Painting, Professionals, Scholars, Shanghai, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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