Thursday, March 3, 2016

Cai Guo-Qiang Curates...

Cai Guo-Qiang Curates Chinese Contemporary Show in Doha

Hu Zhijun sculpting in his studio, Beijing, China, 2015.
(Photo by Sang Luo, courtesy Cai Studio)
Chinese contemporary art, like any slapdash categorization predicated on national boundaries, is a minefield of half-baked generalizations, misconceptions, and stereotypes.
But an upcoming exhibition opening March 14 at the Gallery Al Riwaq in Doha, Qatar hopes to demystify some of these impressions by returning to the artworks themselves, and the artistic motivations that underwrite them.

Curated by Cai Guo-Qiang and organized by Qatar Museums, “What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China” will showcase the work of 15 artists and art collectives from Mainland China. As global market interest in contemporary Chinese art continues to surge, Cai urges his intended audience to look more closely at the formal, artistic qualities of their works, asking rather baldly: but what about the art?
At one level, “What About the Art?” is a high-level exercise in cultural diplomacy: it is being held as one of the main events commemorating the 2016 Qatar-China Year of Culture, supported by the China National Arts Fund, Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture, and Shanghai International Culture Association.
However, Cai himself has spared no effort in making this a thoroughly scholarly endeavor: the exhibition is the culmination of three years of extensive field research, during which he studied more than 250 key exhibitions of Chinese art, and interviewed over 20 art historians, curators, and art critics.
The result is a roster that justly reflects the diversity and dynamism of current artistic output in Mainland China. The 15 participating artists and groups are Jenova Chen, Hu Xiangqian, Hu Zhijun, Huang Yong Ping, Li Liao, Liang Shaoji, Liu Wei, Liu Xiaodong, Jennifer Wen Ma, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Wang Jianwei, Xu Bing, Xu Zhen, Yang Fudong, and Zhou Chunya.
One of the self-evident threads here is a certain lineage of Chinese conceptualism that can be traced from “Xiamen Dada” pioneering founder Huang Yong Ping, to the complex linguistic and cognitive investigations of √©migr√© artist Xu Bing, and the more recent nihilistic shock tactics of Sun Yuan & Peng Yu.
Equally palpable in Cai’s selection is a razor-sharp instinct for marketing and commercial strategy, as seen in Xu Zhen’s canny co-opting of the contemporary visual language of design and throwaway consumerism, and Los Angeles-based creative director and video game designer Jenova Chen, whose thatgamecompany produces interactive digital entertainment — most notably “Journey,” which swept multiple awards at the Annual Game Developers Choice Awards and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2013.
There are also some fairly offbeat inclusions: Hu Zhijun, a peasant farmer who is now into his sixties, makes his debut as an artist here with a series of 500 clay sculptures modeled after major contemporary Chinese works that were commissioned by Cai.
As an annex to the main exhibition, Cai has also invited the Chinese art scholar Wang Mingxian to curate a special section entitled “Timeline.” Bringing together a diverse array of archival materials and images dating from 1949 up until the present, Wang’s exhibition will shed light on the historical context underlying the development of Chinese contemporary art and its relationship to mainstream Chinese culture.
Concurrently, “What About the Art?” is accompanied by a documentary film with the same title, directed by Shanshan Xia, that explores the idea of creativity in contemporary China and abroad. Featuring dialogues that Cai conducted with various artists and scholars, this film expands on the premise of the main exhibition through revealing episodes drawn from the planning and making of the show, juxtaposing this with footage of contemporary urban Chinese environments that offer additional insight into the context of its artistic production.
“What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China” runs at the Gallery Al Riwaq in Doha from March 14 through July 16, 2016.
                                       





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