There are many logical traps which catch out the observers of the Chinese reform process. There is especially a lack of understanding of what are the cultural and artistic processes that have fed the rapid and ongoing changes in the cultural field.
The media has played, and continues to play, an important role in modern and contemporary Chinese art. So one of the basic premises of the exhibition Stolen treasures from modern China, to be held at Shanghart Huaihai Road 796 starting September 8, is to show how media played an important role in the early careers of many artists in China, and also how some artists reacted to the role of the media. The media has documented as well as explained to local and international audiences the various Chinese artists and movements over the years.
The nature of intransigent cultural theft is a complex issue, as physical cultural objects created post 1949 are considered free from governmental control. But, as yet, it has not yet been really addressed what is the value of artworks created in the early 90s within the context of international dialogue alongside the Chinese phenomenon of reform and progressive change?
A unique set of circumstances in China in the early 1990s, a period when the country was still in the initial stages of its opening and reform process, led to a select group of artists becoming well known figures, and others less so.
For the starting point of this exhibition we have chosen 1993, when a series of visits introducing artists Joerg Immendorf (Hamburg), Guenther Uecker (Duesseldorf), art critics Andrew Solomon (New York Times), Thomas Fuesser (Stern, Germany), and others to the art scenes of Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou was arranged. This historical arrangement, a list of artist names constructed under the guidance of Hans van Dijk, proved instrumental for many artists’ careers. Later Hans founded China Art Archives and Warehouse, with Ai Weiwei.
So this exhibition provides the first opportunity to see the photos taken by Fuesser, which remained as negatives in a box in Hamburg. Also, this visit inspired Zhou Tiehai’s seminal works, such as his video and fake magazine covers.
Gill and Hall, though long term residents in China were never on the list. They weren’t particularly bothered about not being on the list. Their work presents a historical flux- a counterpoint to the work of Zhou and Fuesser, talking about the changes that have taken place over the period 1993 until now, the process of historical flux- not only in the art world, but in attitudes and behaviour in society at large- including foreign views of China as well as China’s self image.
The many circles of historical development that have taken place are represented in this exhibition in a simple edited format- a reflection of how history edits down the process’ of development.
The key elements of foreign and local involvement in Chinese art will also be explored by the exhibition.
As Gao Shiming, curator of the Guangzhou Triennial, told Gill: “There have been three generations of foreigners involved in Chinese art, the first generation made a hole in the wall, the second generation built a bridge, and the third generation built a beautiful pagoda.”
A limited edition book containing important documents and a wider selection of works will also be available.