The Six Best Art Exhibitions in China This Summer
Source:ARTINFO Author:Madeleine O'Dea Date: 2011-08-10 Size:
While many commercial galleries are taking a break during the dog days of summer, China's public and private museums around the country have been picking up the slack, presenting a raft of shows well worth checking out for those who have chosen to sweat through the season in the PRC


Jia Aili's “We Are From the Century,” oil on canvas, 2008-2011

While many commercial galleries are taking a break during the dog days of summer, China's public and private museums around the country have been picking up the slack, presenting a raft of shows well worth checking out for those who have chosen to sweat through the season in the PRC — and offering a glimpse of the country's art scene for those abroad.


Qiu Xiaofei, “Shopping Mall,” oil on canvas, 2005

 "Fly Through the Troposphere – New Generation Painting" at Iberia Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing, through August 27

Curator and poet Zhu Zhu puts together a show of painting by the so-called "Drifting Generation," artists born at the end of the '70s just as China opened its doors to the West and overturned much of the ideology that had animated the country under Mao Zedong. There is work by some of the best emerging artists in China, from Jia Aili's post-industrial dystopia to Qiu Xiaofei's loving recreations of his family albums, complete with missing leaves. This is an exhibition that will renew your faith in the future of Chinese painting.


Tweet E-MAILSHARESHARE Qiu Anxiong, “The Doubter,” installation, 2011

 Qiu Anxiong's "Zoo" at OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT), Shenzhen, through August 23

In a mix of paintings and installations, Qiu Anxiong presents his nightmarish vision of decaying zoos and imprisoned animals, dwelling on the many forms of captivity society can impose. Some inmates — the rabbits dozing in front of the TV for example — seem unaware of the cage that holds them. Others know only too well, like the chimpanzee slumped dead (a suicide perhaps) on the toilet, copies of the bible and "The Origin of Species" at his feet.


A video still from Zhang Peili's “ Water: Standard Edition of Cihai,” 1991.

 Zhang Peili's "Certain Pleasures" at Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, through August 14

As one of the pioneers of video art, Zhang Peili has been a hugely influential figure in Chinese contemporary art, and this retrospective displaying 23 works from 1988 to the present day is well overdue. The early efforts include "Water: Standard Edition of Cihai" (1991), in which a famous news announcer reads the Chinese dictionary definition of water as if it was just another news item. In his 2008 work "Last Words," Zhang splices together the last words from the death scenes of countless Communist "martyrs" depicted in Cultural Revolution propaganda movies. With this show the privately funded Minsheng Art Museum — owned by China's Minsheng Banking Corporation — stakes a claim to national status. 


Lawrence Malstaf, “Nemo Observatorium,” PVC cylinder, styrofoam particles, fans, armchair, 2002.

"Translife – International Triennial of New Media Art" at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, through August 17

With a little help from their friends in cultural associations around the world, the National Art Museum — China's leading public art institution — is staging an international exhibition of new media. As is often the case with such shows, much of the work comes off looking like the science projects of a bunch of precocious kids with generous allowances. But there are moments when science meets art with poetic results. Notable is Terike Haapoje's "Anatomy of Landscape 1-11," which at a distance appears to be a beautiful landscape photograph but close up turns out to be a living garden of soil and plants kept, alive in a Perspex box with a raft of environmental controls. Wang Yuyang's "moon" made of energy-saving bulbs is another treat. This is actually a fun show — perfect for summer and certainly one for the kids.

"Images of Historical Existence – 15 Years of Taikang Life Insurance's Art Collection," also at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, August 20 through September 7

In their second major show of the season, the museum is unveiling the private collection of China's Taikang Life Insurance Company, built up under the direction of Chen Dongsheng, the reclusive owner of Taikang and the founder of Guardian Auctions, China's oldest auction company. Rumoured to be particularly strong in Chinese oil painting in the socialist realist tradition, the collection is an object of much curiosity, as Chen has been close to the best sources in the art market for almost 20 years. 

“Yu Youhan's Paintings" at ShanghART, Shanghai, through August 20

ShanghART is one of the few commercial galleries staging something new over the summer, bucking the trend with this intriguing exhibition of recent abstract works by Yu Youhan. Yu was a pioneer of "political pop" in Chinese contemporary art in the 1990s. His works from that period are keenly sought at auction, but some years ago he left behind the now-tired iconography that made his name and began a sustained exploration of abstract forms.

[Editor] Lola Xu

    Artintern