Chinese Conceptual Artists, Designers Reach New Audience In Cologne
Chinese contemporary art and design recently took the stage in Germany with a special exhibition of two Beijing-based artists at the Design Lounge of the renowned Cologne Fine Art and Antiques Fair (COFAA), one of the largest European trade fairs for classical and modern art, which ran from November 21-25. A recent addition to the long-running fair, this year’s Design Lounge walked the line between contemporary art and conceptual design, with works from Satyendra Pakhalé (2009), Florian Borkenhagen (2010) and Ron Arad (2011) proving popular with the local audience.
In line with the COFAA’s slogan, “Excellent Beyond Time, Beautiful Beyond Borders,” and coinciding with the ongoing “China Year” — celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and China and 25 years of partnership between Cologne and Beijing — a key attraction at this year’s Design Lounge was a showcase of selected works by Beijing-based artists Shi Jianmin (師建民) and Wang Jin (王晋).
Most well-known in Europe and North America for his China Chair Project, conceptual designer Shi Jianmin creates futuristic pieces that merge functional design and contemporary sculpture. Shi’s work brings to the fore strong references to the formalistic language of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, combined with contemporary high-tech materials, bringing together the opposing forces of old and new. On loan from the Gabrielle Ammann gallery, artwork by Shi shown this past week included “Stool/Coffeetable” (2005), “Love Me Do” (2005), and “The Son of the Dragon” (2008).
Giving Cologne audiences a chance to feast their eyes on the work of one of China’s leading experimental artists, Wang Jin contributed a piece from his ongoing series “Dream of China,” which reinterprets traditional Beijing opera costumes in PVC, as well as photographs of the artist wearing his creations. Using translucent plastic to replicate traditional patterns, Wang drains away the warmth and heritage of colorful, embroidered silk Chinese gowns and, in the process, symbolizes the sterility of post-industrial society. Inspired by the daily clash of ancient and modern, traditional values and contemporary society seen in Wang’s hometown, “Dream of China” depicts a society in constant flux, struggling to hang on to its past amid furious modernization.
Chinese art lovers in Cologne who missed out on Wang and Shi’s work at the recent Design Lounge need not despair, however, as the Gabrielle Ammann gallery hosts the exhibition “View to China” through February 28, 2013. The wide-ranging exhibition includes sculptures by Shi Jianmin, lithographs by Lin Tianmiao, porcelain figurines by Danful Yang, and conceptual works by the Beijing-based design collective Wolfs+Jung.
Gabrielle Ammann Gallery
Teutoburger Str. 27, d-50678 Köln