There are few hot topics in the art world like China, which along with its growing economic might is starting to flex its cultural soft power and demonstrate that it is central to any global dialogue. So it should be no surprise that this year’s Armory Art Fair has devoted its curated section to China. What is surprising, and welcome, is that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill exploration of the contemporary world of the Middle Kingdom, since in the able hands of Philip Tinari, director of Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art and the founding editor of Leap magazine, this small cluster of China-based galleries and nonprofits might shatter some perceptions of Chinese contemporary art.
Don’t expect images of Mao, Ronald McDonald in communist gear, or political art on the verge of being censored — Tinari’s mission, he told Hyperallergic, was to normalize our stereotypes of a Chinese art world dominated by commercialism, record auction prices, and Ai Weiwei.
This is not to say that the spectre of corporate branding doesn’t creep into many of the objects at display, like Wang Luyan’s obnoxiously loud Global Watch series, or Liang Shuo’s ceramic mashups, but they are integrated in the same way we see in a lot of contemporary art, particularly at art fairs.
There are many surprises, like Huang Rui’s austere abstract paintings from late last century, and the exuberance of Double Fly Art Center’s packaged objects (you can try to win a prize for $50, I paid, played, and walked away with nothing … CAPITALISM!).
Tinari successfully makes the case that Chinese contemporary art is just like any other corner of the art world, with its abstract painters, performance artists, installation fiends, bad boy (they tend to be male) artists, and clever conceptualists.
The biggest find for me was a painting by Xu Zhen, “Light Source” (nd) at Tianrenheyi Art Center, which plays a trick with your eyes by injecting a glare into a famous painting of François Boucher’s, “Blond Odalisque” (1752), such that it appears surrounded by light. Walking through the venerable museums of Europe, which are filled with massive Old Master oils, the effect should be familiar. There have been many instances where I was never able to take in a large canvas in person the way I’ve been able to see the same images clearly, with some color correction, in a catalogue or book. Xi’s work seems to encapsulate the point of this “Focus,” namely that first-hand experience is vastly different from what we learn from others. Sometimes what you see with your own eyes shatters your perceptions of what you thought you’d see.
Pier 94 – FOCUS: China continues at the 2014 Armory Art Fair (Twelfth Avenue at 55th Street, Westside, Manhattan) until Sunday, March 9, 12pm–7pm.
The close, careful, and subtle observation I found this year is representative of precisely why I continue to gravitate to this fair.
How do we counter stereotypes about Black mothers, while stressing the importance of memory, determination, love, and corporeality?
An expansive exhibition on Adeliza McHugh’s influential Candy Store Gallery celebrates the whimsical, irreverent aesthetic that put California’s Sacramento Valley on the art-historical map.
With two stellar retrospectives, one time-based installation, and several commissions by local artists, the Phillips Collection has dedicated its galleries to highlighting abstract work by Black artists.
As we begin a new year, a small moment on Queer Eye makes me think about the profound effect our stories can have on each other.
Each fellow in this 10-month intensive in New Haven, Connecticut, will receive studio or office space, subsidized housing, and a generous stipend.
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A group called the Boriken Libertarian Forces toppled the monument hours before King Felipe VI of Spain’s visit.
Graduate students in the University of Denver’s Emergent Digital Practices program work on research with faculty who are engaged directly with their communities, both online and off.
Still resonating with relevance, William Gropper’s incisive cartoons in defense of the WPA go on auction at New York’s Swann Galleries together with other works by celebrated WPA artists.
Archeologists excavating in Nijmegen, the Netherland’s oldest city, found the bowl in pristine condition.
A pioneer of street photography, Levitt worked in the most crowded and poorest neighborhoods of New York searching for the theater of everyday life.