Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibitions Increasing At Western Museums

Interest Among Domestic Chinese Collectors, Curators Driving Greater Visibility Abroad

 

Zhan Wang's Artificial Rock 43 is on show at the Milwaukee Art Museum (Image: PR)

Zhan Wang’s Artificial Rock 43 is on show at the Milwaukee Art Museum (Image: PR)

On the heels of a highly successful spring auction season in Hong Kong, this summer, blue-chip Chinese contemporary art is not only back in the news, it’s being exhibited at an ever-increasing number of Western museums — even at venues not traditionally known for visual arts. This month, Xu Bing will show a larger-scale installation of his 2001 work “The Living Word” at New York’s Morgan Library & Museum, which the Wall Street Journal notes “will consist of some 350 carved and painted Chinese characters for the word “bird” in various historical scripts—all hung from the ceiling of the Morgan’s soaring entry court in a cloudlike cluster that will rise dramatically from the floor to the top of a 50-foot glass wall.” Beginning on July 12, visitors can watch Xu and his team build the installation over a four-day span, with the piece staying on view through September 15.

While Xu Bing is no stranger to large-scale installations — his massive “Phoenix” project was shown last year in Beijing and Shanghai — what makes his upcoming Morgan show particularly interesting is the fact that the museum is better known for classic and literary exhibitions than Chinese contemporary art. However, this installation actually starts to make sense when looked at in the context of other recent shows seen throughout the United States. There, major museums are in the midst of a Chinese contemporary art scramble, which has been evident in several recent exhibitions:

“Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960″ at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Exhibition included works by three Chinese contemporary artists: Ai Weiwei, Rong Rong and Huang Yan.

“Wang Qingsong: When Worlds Collide” at New York’s International Center of Photography

Exhibition marked Beijing-based photographer’s first U.S. solo show. (See Jing Daily’s exclusive interview of Wang before the opening)

“Photography from the New China” at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

Included works by Hai Bo, Wang Qingsong, Rong Rong, Liu Zheng, Song Yongping and more.

“The Divine Comedy” at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Included installation by Ai Weiwei, alongside works by Iceland’s Olafur Eliasson and Italy’s Tomas Saraceno.

“The Emperor’s Private Paradise – Treasures from the Forbidden City” at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Along with dozens of artifacts from the late Qing Dynasty, show includes a contemporary sculpture by artist Zhan Wang — who also makes an appearance at the Louis Vuitton “Voyages” exhibition currently showing in Beijing.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Odyssey” Performance At Houston Museum Of Fine Arts

Cai created a 162-foot gunpowder “painting” on site for the MFAH’s new Arts of China Gallery, which opened last October.

With more home-grown Chinese museums putting on larger and more comprehensive contemporary art shows every year, and more private museums set to open in the next two years — most of which will likely try to make names for themselves via “blue-chip” exhibitions — expect to see major Western museums include more Chinese artists in shows and put on more Chinese artist solo exhibitions. If there’s one thing a world-class museum hates, it’s falling behind world trends.

Categories

Art & Auction, Culture