Posts tagged 798
This past Sunday, I finally made it to the exhibition “Christian Dior and Chinese Artists” at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing’s 798. I had heard it was great but was skeptical. Was this exhibition going to be one big, classless advertisement for Dior? Fashion has an obvious connection to art made public by many museums, so how was this unique?
Sometimes I believe in the concept in Fight Club that you have to “hit rock bottom” in order to truly appreciate life. I didn’t hit rock bottom this weekend, but I came pretty close. Three days ago, I was pretty sure I’d be on a plane to Seattle by now. Now, I know I can eventually renew my visa and stay in the country. The events I’ve written about in this post are the icing on the cake, and the reason I don’t want to leave Beijing anytime soon. Times like this make me so happy I happened upon this city as my post-graduation home.
Friday night, I tutored my awesome Korean sibling students for two hours, as I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I taught the 16-year-old one of my favorite songs, “The Best of Me” by The Starting Line. Right after tutoring, I met up with my friend Chris, another expat from the Pacific Northwest. We had delicious, authentic pizza with almost authentic Caesar salad and this Chinese-Italian shrimp thing, oh, and my first draft beer ever. (For those of you gasping, I’m much more of a cocktail person.)
Saturday afternoon and early evening my work hosted our most successful exhibition opening since I’ve been here. The show looks excellent and we had a great turnout, both in terms of numbers and prestige. It was the 2008 Pierre Huber Creation Prize Nomination Exhibition. This year, all of the nominees were 2008 graduates of the China Academy of Art New Media Department. Pierre Huber himself attended the opening and congratulated us on the visual appeal of the show, and we announced the prize winner and runner-ups at the opening. I found out who they were before almost anyone else because I helped our director translate “first prize” and “runner-up.” Saturday night, my co-gallery assistant and I could not find the celebration dinner that the rest of our coworkers and VIPs attended, so we had dinner together right by where I live. The food was delicious, and I had fun chatting with him because he’s one of my favorite coworkers.
Sunday, one of my other coworkers helped me clear most of the hurdles to resolving my visa crisis. I basically get to chill out while the public security bureau is closed for the next seven days for a national holiday. Sunday night, my roommate’s work in 798 hosted five hours of rock concerts to kick off the 798 Art Festival. It was a blast, and I ate hot pot with a few friends after.
Every once in a while I have an experience that reminds me why I want to work for arts clients. My visit to the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) on an unusual Friday off was one of them. Most of the works in the current exhibition made me smile, some made me nearly cry, and even fewer made me grimace. Overall, this art center is a reminder of the positive effects of globalization and art’s vital role in society.
UCCA is considered China’s first nonprofit art organization. Its founders and some of its upper management are foreign, but almost all the art is Chinese, and all of it is contemporary. It’s the only organization in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone to charge admission, but every Thursday is free, and I went during the end of a period about two weeks long of free admission every day in celebration of the Olympics. The bulk of the current work comes from the personal collection of Guy and Myriam Ullens, the center’s founders. Most of its art is from really famous artists, so it inspires to me to see this work available for viewing and experiencing in such a publicly accessible way.
I almost had a heart attack when I discovered “Bloodline Series – Family Portrait 1” by Zhang Xiaogang tucked away in the main exhibition room’s corner. This series will probably be as famous as Andy Warhol’s portraits someday, if it isn’t already. Unlike most of the other fragile work by famous artists at UCCA, it was hung at eye level, making it vulnerable to vandalism, both unintentional and intentional.
I maintain that because Chinese people like to touch visual art much more than I’m used to, good artists who create art for Chinese visitors make it interactive. To enter the exhibition, visitors go through “Space Time Tunnel” by Wang Du, the same artist who created “International Kebab,” my favorite exhibition I’ve seen in 798. Its entrance contains a claustrophobia disclaimer with directions to an alternate entrance. One of my favorite Chinese artists, Cao Fei, made a Second Life world called “RMB City” that is a futuristic combination of famous buildings in all Chinese cities that visitors can explore on a computer.
UCCA may also be one of the best places in Beijing for tourists to shop. I wish I could buy all my postcards there, but alas, they are quite pricey: 10元 (currently about $1.50) each. I may reserve UCCA postcards for family members.
Have you ever had an experience with art that inspired you personally or professionally? Please tell!
I knew sports and entertainment public relations were similar – both involve obtaining sponsorships and managing perceptions of personalities, for starters. But I had failed to notice the direct connection the Olympics has with the arts. This is especially apparent to me, as I work in and live right by the Beijing 798 Art Zone, which has been compared to New York’s SoHo.
In terms of how this affects my daily life, my neighborhood, despite its distance from any major Olympic venues, is clad in Olympic fever. Every shop directly across the street from the 798
The entire city is flooded with tourists, my work, T Space, being no exception. It seems like every gallery in 798 but mine is presenting an Olympic-themed exhibition; however, everyone has a different take on presenting the Olympics. Galleria Continua’s response is to host “Unmoved,” which forces you to take longer than you usually would to look at works in a
And why wouldn’t they? The New York Times reported that the Olympics will bring 10,000 guests a day to 798, three times the typical number. One of my coworkers told me that half the diplomats visiting
Have you observed any connections between art and sports? What are your thoughts on art’s relationship to the Olympics? I welcome your comments.
A public wall a five-minute walk from the 798 part of Beijing, which I work in and live across the street from, has been covered in graffiti art for at least the past month. Yesterday, I purposely walked on the same side of the street as the wall so I could more carefully appreciate it. It took me at least 60 seconds to realize that the graffiti was not only an Adidas advertisement, but based on the same Adidas the New York Times recently wrote won an international advertising award. View the article here.
I vividly remember my own experience walking and coincidentally stopping in front of the award-winning ad in the picture the New York Times took, above. I remember the tag line, “Impossible is nothing,” because of its absurdity – it’s grammatically correct but a native English speaker would rather say, “Nothing is impossible.” Also, as my friends and I stopped in front of the ad to discuss our plans for the night, I noticed Chinese people taking pictures of each other posing with the people in the advertisement. Note how this ad is meant for Chinese people. The award-winning ad is located on Wangfujing street, one of the most famous areas of Beijing, where many tourists and rich people go for entertainment. I haven’t noticed this ad anywhere else in the city.
I know that graffiti advertising is fairly common, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in person. The graffiti version of the ad’s placement is quite clever as it’s near an art district where artists already graffiti. Also, my neighborhood is somewhat affluent, and the ad is located less than 100 feet from a pedestrian bridge on which hangs a banner containing the 2008 Olympic slogan, “One World, One Dream.” The Adidas ads are specific to its Olympics sponsorship.
Yesterday, my supervisor, our gallery curator and I visited four exhibition openings in or near the art district I work in. They were all fabulous, but by far the best was “Unmoved” at Galleria Continua. This is a shining example of the unexpected aspect of what makes ideas stick in the book “Made to Stick.”
A sign displayed in the front window of the gallery read, “Enter gallery at your own risk.” I thought, “What the heck is going on? Since when is it risky to enter a gallery?”
Shortly upon entering the building, we saw two perpendicular white walls about 20 feet tall joined at a banged up corner. Small pieces of drywall lingered below. Other parts of the two walls showed damage, but not as much as the corner. I thought, “Did they damage the wall during the exhibition construction and not have time to fix it?” Then I realized this must be deliberate; maybe it was an installation meant to comment on the rapid combination of destruction and construction in China’s cities, a common motif in Chinese contemporary art.
After obtaining a glass of delicious, chilled champagne – alas, the gallery had run out of the Italian food I’d heard would be there – I returned to the same area to notice a metal sculpture of a dumpster about twice the size of the ones outside my apartment complex this past school year sitting in the middle of the gallery. The dumpster wheeled about 20 feet to crash into the damaged corner then returned to approximately its original position. I then noticed the light track marks on the floor from the dumpster’s many trips, and noticed that the wall had been painted several layers of different colors of paint to systematically show the wear. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu created this installation called “Barbarossa.”
The walls were part of a box that had been built specifically for this exhibition. I waited in a long line to see what was inside the box, ten to fifteen hyper-realistic sculptures of elderly men in automatically moving wheelchairs. Tourists took pictures with the sculptures. I examined each one carefully. I could see why the line was so long; this installation was nothing short of brilliant. I checked the catalogue to discover that it was “Retirement home” by the same artists as “Barbarossa.”
The gallery’s architecture was fabulous; most of it was a three-story, one floor room, but one side contained a three-floor section of the same height. I ventured up the stairs to discover some art that was still great, including a video that made me dizzy due to its rapid movement, but nowhere near as breathtaking as “Retirement home” or “Barbossa.” The third floor revealed a new perspective on the two works, the top angle. I could look down into “Retirement home,” which made it seem much more like a performance piece with the visitors inside as integral elements.
This exhibition proves Galleria Continua’s understanding of sculpture as a three-dimensional form; I’ve visited too many galleries with sculptures in corners. “Retirement home” and “Barbossa” also blur the line between sculpture and performance art, which fascinates me.
So why all this moving art in an exhibition titled “Unmoved”? An excerpt from the exhibition description answers my question:
“Nowadays, it rarely occurs to us to slow down, to stop to extrapolate ourselves from our frenetic lives and observe the world from the privileged position of tranquility and immobility. 21st century humanity is characterised by a deceptive immobility, a stasis hiding behind a veneer of indifference and carelessness.
In the current exhibition, the selected artworks generate an almost uncomfortable situation where time has atypically slowed its rhythm, to the point of almost standing still. All the artworks are either in semi-statis, in some cases quite still, and in others in constant slow movement, inviting the viewer to stop longer in their contemplation, both on a rational and emotional level. In a way, the viewer is unconsciously waiting for something to happen or to be revealed.”
Most of what I’ve been doing since I started my job in 798 a little over a week ago is making my way through a 12-page, single-spaced list of Web sites related to Chinese contemporary art that my boss provided me with. I’d like to share some of my favorite artists and art organizations. This likely will become a regular post topic, and maybe I’ll come up with themes, such as favorite photography. Contemporary art mavens likely are already familiar with these links.
Cao Fei 曹斐 specializes in new media, and works in a variety of visual art genres. A lot of her work is colorful and reminds me of high-fashion advertisements.
Zhang Huan 張洹 is an accomplished artist born in Beijing who lives in New York. He works in variety of media but I’m pretty sure he’s most famous for his nude performance art made during the 1990s. I saw a photograph of his performance To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain at the Seattle Art Museum last summer. His work is depressing but ingenious.
Hong Hao 洪浩 created several installations with “my things” in their titles. The image above, “My Things About Circle No. 2,” is currently my computer’s wallpaper.
Feng Jincao created a series of paintings titled “Scenery in a Chinese Dress.” I really like these, as all of them are purposefully not-quite-mirror images. Many of them look like modified Rorschach test cards.
Among other works, Qian Gang creates two-tone black-and-white silkscreens that contain cartoon-like illustration.
1918 ArtSpace in Shanghai has a great Web site; you can spend hours looking at the art on there. The gallery mostly exhibits Chinese artists with a few exceptions.
China Creative Connections in Beijing, founded by an advertising executive, is a consulting firm to connect art and business through opportunities such as exhibit sponsorship and visual art buying for offices.
What are your favorite Chinese contemporary art links? Which is your favorite out of the ones in this post? Feel free to comment.
Welcome to my new blog, Beijing Duck. Most of you either recognize what a terrible pun this name is or are totally clueless as to my logic. All universities in the United States have mascots, and mine is the University of Oregon Ducks. All University of Oregon students and graduates are Ducks, including me.
This blog will likely be more personal than the blog I kept in college, PR Ninja. The reason for this is not because I’m extremely self-centered but because I know:
1. Some people will like reading about my experiences.
2. You can’t read my perspectives on living and working in the Chinese contemporary art world anywhere else, and uniqueness is my number one news value in deciding what to blog about.
If you want a little more information on where I work, check out 798 Art, the district in which I work’s official Web site.