So on our weekly Sunday outing we went to the brand new, sparklin' Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. The center was founded by the fabulously wealthy Ullens art collectin' couple powerhouse and was actually built by selling a number of Turner watercolors. The Ullens are now focusing on contemporary Chinese art exclusively, which is well timed considering rising prices on 20th century Chinese painting. However, saying that Chinese painting is now "it" is a few years off, since this has been an ongoing phenomenon. The only thing that is surprising about this center is that someone hadn't thought of a permanent, actual space for major contemporary Chinese art in China before the Ullens. (That is to say, I'm not counting places such as 中国美术馆, or the China National Gallery, because the quality of the new work is commie, crappy and of questionable value and taste.)

The show on display, "'84 新湖" or the "'84 New Wave," is an ambitious effort to categorize some of the more "new concept" artists that were working with this contemporary model while still remaining in China. It's a given that it would be hard to put this all together given the scale and scope of work produced during this period. The '84 wave, which "marked the end of a monolithic artistic model," according to Fei Dawei at UCCA, is perhaps the most sought after by art historians and collectors. Naturally there is a lot of painting on display, but also some sculpture and less transient, more physical (thereby collectible) performance pieces.

People in the west like to collect Chinese contemporary art because it shows a worldly understanding of China's past in relation to China's future and current (since they're now sort of lending the US a lot of money) leadership roles. This is because we in the West seek this self-gratifying, free spirited, democratic, anti-communist, digestible, consumer critique out of Chinese artists. This has, in turn, created a slew of new artists dealing with these subject in earnest, but also as a way to dip deep into the 老外 (foreigner's) pocketbook. The refreshing thing about the Ullen's Center show was the lack of a lot of this "easy art," what I've dubbed "Mickey Mouse Mao," and an abundance of subtler work. There were quite a lot of cultural references, language, etc. that was lost on me. Sometimes a few white people in New York and Paris are NOT the intended audience for a work of art. (Or at least I'd like to hope so!) Good show and I'll be returning for the next opening.

Ariel in the 798 cafe. This is attached to the fairly famous, but usually empty, 798 gallery (housed in an abandoned 1950s munitions or steel factory complete with slogans still painted on the walls.)

Silvy and I in the cafe.

One of the pieces in the show. The red paper cut figures are typical from 贵州 (Guizhou) province and absolutely litter the room, which is a recreation of the artist's apartment. The piece itself is mystical and particularly Chinese, being that paper cutting is a long standing art form here. The display is highly "contemporary art-ized." There were two other recreated living spaces on display that I think worked extremely well.

1 comment:

loveyerma said...

You all look like beat poet era artists, very contemplative and smug with the crazy red glow lighting.
...Just imagine a trio of almost famous American expatriate artists waiting to be discovered....and that's you!!!!!! smug is okay, but I prefer pretty smiles!!!
hey maybe China is the new Paris!!!!!