» Archive for 19 September 2009
On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic, things are beginning to look red here in Beijing, deep red, like a profuse wound. On the Beijing streets, some of the visual celebratory feast residents drank in last year during the Olympics is being recreated in billboards, television galas, parades, mass performances and wide-ranging worship for spectacle, but the festivities this year are tinted with more eulogizing, more solemnity, more red. In a commemorative fine art exhibition at the National Art Museum of China (closed on Sept 14) red not only prevailed in the literal sense, its ideological presence was overpowering. In this exhibition that sprawled out over the entirety of the NAMOC’s exhibition halls, co-sponsors Cultural Ministry of China and NAMOC pulled sixty years of revolutionary masterpieces out of storage from all of Beijing’s major collections, including the Military Museum and the former Revolutionary Museum (soon to reopen as the Museum of Chinese History). It was a mind-blowing show, by scale and quality alone. Also, by their omissions, curators highlighted what isn’t included in the sanctioned visual lexicon that is “fine art” in China today. This became especially apparent when viewers started to wonder on what floor the “contemporary” were being hidden.
Divided into three main sections, oil painting, traditional painting, and propaganda posters with comics and animation, “masterpieces” of recent art history, were in every room.
Heading directly to oil paintings, I was intercepted by the captivating magnificence of Chen Yifei’s Seizing the Presidential Palace, (1977), a work that could inspire anyone to make revolution. More familiar as Chen’s work was his Looking at History From My Space (1979), also by Chen Yifei. Perhaps the most iconic painting in contemporary art history was Father (1981) by Luo Zhongli, displayed adjacent to My Space. This work was much more three-dimensional than ever imagined, through a painting technique the “dirt” on the ‘father’s’ eyebrows and on his turban look as if they might literally crumble off the canvas onto the floor.
Next door, two of Chen Danqing’s Tibetan Series paintings dating to 1982 were exhibited, which seemed to fit into a long and ongoing tradition of representing minorities as dark-skinned and almost monstrous. Another work brought out from the coffers and representing the ’85 New Wave was Meng Luding and Zhang Qun’s New Era––The Enlightenment of Adam and Eve. Painted in a surrealist style, this work is often interpreted as a metaphor for the “enlightenment” of their generation in the 80s. (more…)
While we’ll never keep up with AWW’s news appearances, here’s a few recent articles on his activities, his activism, and an interview with ARTiT from Japan following his first major museum show at the Mori Museum in Tokyo. The photo is him photographing in an elevator from a cell phone while detained by the police, the blog it was found on titled this image “Ai the God” or 《艾神》.
From ArtAsiaPacific, a magazine on “Contemporary Visual Culture” from Asia:
Ai Weiwei Continues Activism Against China; Government Responds
By Katherine Grube
On New Year’s Eve 2008, during a conversation with curator Hans Ulrich-Obrist at Vitamin Creative Space’s Beijing branch, artist-provocateur Ai Weiwei predicted: “2008 was the first year that China safeguarded legal rights; it’s when people started to wake up. But in 2009, I think China will confront greater problems.”
These words now seem unnervingly prescient, given that the first six months of 2009 in China were marked by politically sensitive anniversaries and often-violent protests including riots by members of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province. From his Beijing studio, Ai continued his calls for a more responsible government even as China stepped up its response to the artist’s efforts. [read the rest of this article on the AAP site]
From ARTiT, the Japanese webjournal on contemporary art:
Ai Weiwei Interview: “I’m fighting for freedom of speech. I never settle for less. I don’t engage in negotiation.”
Read the interview in English here, on the ARTiT site