» Archive for 27 February 2009
This NYT article briefly touching on the fate of the Nicolae Ceausescu collection of propaganda paintings was an inspiration. Part of this collection of oils, dating from the 1970s onward, are on display at the Romanian National Museum of Contemporary Art, where the curator hung these propaganda works upside-down and crooked to clearly note that this was not an homage to the personality cult of the Romanian dictator and his wife Elena. They were Communist Romania’s quintessential propaganda duo, and faced a dramatic ending in 1989, when the two were executed by firing squad after the Romanian revolution.
Not to draw conclusions about the similarities of the regimes (similarities notwithstanding) but I really liked the exhibition method of these crooked paintings. Nearly twenty years after the revolution, the decision to display these works is one step in coming to terms with a past, healing wounds and moving on––something that would obviously benefit China and the fragmented trajectory of contemporary Chinese art history. While this chapter in history is not completely suppressed, it still emerges as an underbelly of coded references in contemporary art, or as campy, consumer culture. The official art channels of “modern China” still turn a blind eye to the historical value of such works. Similar treatment of China’s propaganda art would be a step forward.
Artist Lu Hao and curator Zhao Li were announced earlier this month as the curator of the China Pavillion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. The 40 yr old artist has participated before in the Venezia Biennale as artist, as well as the San Paolo and Busan Biennale. Lu Hao told reporters in while in France that he wanted to confront Italians with more challenging problems, and discussed mirroring the walls and projecting images from various corners of the pavilion, to create a “gaudy and grotesque site”. (more…)
The filming of a new “trendy television drama” PANDAMEN was announced in Beijing yesterday, as was the design for the new superhero’s costume. Jay Chou, who directed and starred in his first feature film “Secret” (2006), will challenge himself with this first attempt at a television drama.
Trendy things, television dramas, and Jay Chou are all staples of China’s pop culture landscape－－even Pandas are tolerated on a good day. But in the shadow of “Kung Fu Panda” and the diplomatic insanity of “Tuantuan & Yuanyuan”, is this a lack of creativity on Chou’s part, or a pandering to the low-brow tastes of the general audiences?
Will “Pandamen” bring a new home-bred cultural hero to this nation? Who knows. I think many Chinese believe the idea of panda as the only “native” symbol to be exploited is insulting, the panda itself is a lazy, docile animal. But its amazing how leather pants transform anyone, even though that scarf is too trendy a fashion accessory for a futuristic superhero. Perhaps Pandaman’s over the shoulder bookbag, or pea coat will be announced in later episodes.
Still, with no small amount of hope, the entire production will far exceed previous hero-creating attempts (anyone who’s seen 2008’s tv hit the Bruce Lee story will agree).
In honor of new discussions between Taiwan’s National Palace Museum and Beijing’s Palace Museum that might result in a loan of Qing dynasty historical objects to that “renegade” museum across the straight (read NYT article here), check out the cultural resources readily available in Beijing on Sinopop’s new museum guide: Museums in Beijing.
Listed are some of the largest, funniest, overall the most worthy day trips for museum-going fans and families. The old, the new, the kitsch and breathtaking. Beijing’s bars are overrated––check out some of these gems, especially now, when most of these museums are free!
Two nights ago was the end of the Spring festival in China, at the celebration called the “Lantern Festival” where people let off their final blammo of fireworks, Beijing’s new pride and joy — the new symbolic CCTV tower by Rem Koolhaas/OMA — was engulfed in flames! It was an incredible fire, in a few hours it made a shell of the production studios, the Mandarin Oriental hotel, that was in the adjunct building next to the more symbolic “Mobius strip”. With an estimated 5 billion in losses–so much for this vanity project of the government propaganda machine!
What is the estimated cause? (Aside from these battling felines of good and evil?): “CCTV hired staff from a fireworks company to ignite several hundred large festive firecrackers in an open space outside the nearly-completed Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is part of the iconic CCTV tower complex, said Luo Yuan, spokesman and deputy chief of Beijing Fire Control Bureau.”
“… these fireworks were much more powerful and explosive than what was available at roadside stalls during the Spring Festival and therefore needed approval from the municipal government before being allowed in the downtown areas.”
“Owners of the property ignored police warnings that such fireworks were not allowed.” from the China Daily: CCTV Hotel Fire Caused By Fireworks
This year marked only the fourth year that they were allowed after a more than 10 year prohibition. See more doctored images at Mop.com
“Fucking Beautiful #3″, Liang Shuo’s recent work displayed at the Arario Gallery’s “The Game Is Not Over - Young Chinese Artist Group Exhibition” (游戏没有结束) was a beautiful elegy on all things kitsch and native to China. Its Chinese name, “臭美” translates roughly to something like “self-admiration”, “indulging in vanity”–– the work is a culmination of the artist’s exploration into the world surrounding him, and perhaps a more objective interpretation of “aesthetics” than what we usually see.
Last year, graduates from CAFA’s sculpture department held a rogue exhibition (titled “掉队”) in the art studios by Crab Island (蟹岛). Among the works there, Liang Shuo’s “Shopping at the Temple Fair” (描绘购物) left me giddy, it has proven to be a work in which he honed this vocabulary of bright, flashy and gaudy that appears in “Fucking Beautiful #3″.
Although then still a work in process, “Temple Fair” was clearly a work with roots in rural and folk traditions, as well as an almost encyclopedic examination of the uniqueness of the “made FOR China” market–not only were these objects inexpensive, they were reflective of the dreams, preferences and practicalities of living in rural places. Like the “migrant labor” figurative sculptures that he became well known for from 2000-2004, “Temple Fair” also reflected a consciousness or state of living unique to China. (more…)
The Heilbrunn Timeline is a joint project between the Heilbrunn Foundation and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is an art history database, timeline and academic resource illustrated by the Met’s collection. The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art is possibly the most comprehensive online Art History resource––and it includes great articles on all aspects of traditional Chinese art, from the Neolithic to the modern era. Hundreds of scholar-authored, yet highly readable articles await!
Link to the Heilbrunn Timeline here.
Also, check out the new Sinopop page “Museum Collections” for links to the best museum collections of Chinese art around the world (but outside of China).
[This project grew out of a paper prepared for Prof. Murck’s Fall 2008 class at CAFA 美国博物馆所藏中国书画 “Chinese Painting and Calligraphy in American Collections” －－thanks to Prof. Murck for the inspiration. Hopefully it proves a useful resource to readers!]