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2012 in Review: Art in China in the Year of the Dragon
by ArtSlant Team

Perusing the last year’s contributions to ArtSlant China some clear themes come across, and provide us with a snapshot of the art scenes in Beijing, Hong Kong, and elsewhere in China. We see the prevalence of artist communities, collectives and relational art; the rise of performance work; blockbuster sculpture and installation exhibitions; and changing patterns in curatorial strategies. Here’s a look back at some of the most thought-provoking reviews from ArtSlant writers Edward Sanderson and Robin Peckham from 2012, year of the Dragon, as we look forward to the new year of the Snake in 2013. Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Wang Qingsong, HappyNewYear, at Tang Contemporary Art Beijing

I find this tendency to heavy-handed symbolism a problem with Wang’s work… this image may inadvertently suggest that China’s recent art history has in itself become a set of clichés ripe to be picked over. (Edward Sanderson)

The Power of Doubt, curated by Hou Hanru, at Times Museum, Guangzhou

Leaving things in doubt surely produces some of the most interesting artistic activity, but this show adopts a somewhat controlled approach to the subject. Despite a good selection of artists and works and some interesting installations, the curatorial premise seems misplaced, in the process reducing the power of the art… (Edward Sanderson)

Something Will Inevitably Happen, at K11 Art Village, Wuhan

…this approach to performance-without-a-plan can be a welcome alternative to the more straightforward politics of social intervention that seems to have infiltrated the mainstream of institutional curatorial work in much of the Chinese art world: any plan with a foreseeable result is bound to fail, because even its best outcomes are already accounted for. (Robin Peckham)

Will Kwan, ASSOCIATED, at 2P Contemporary Art Gallery, Hong Kong

Left with an uncanny sense of being watched--and, more damningly, of being left out of something important--the exhibition imparts a lingering sense of paranoia. Well over a month later, I still cannot be certain of what is happening. (Robin Peckham)

(Lee Kit, Johnny's Bathroom (Details), 2011, Plywood, fabric, vinyl and mixed media, Dimensions Variable; Courtesy of the artist and Osage Gallery.)


Lee Kit, How to set up an apartment for Johnny, Osage Kwun Tong, Hong Kong

Lee Kit’s How to set up a room for Johnny is staggeringly beautiful… Lee Kit lives within that tension between an image presented for admiration and an environment intended to be entered. (Robin Peckham)

Li Ran, Mont Sainte-Victoire, Magician Space, Beijing

…I’m very happy when a show comes along which, while flirting with obscurity and confusion, manages to hold my attention with the possibilities for meaning that it urges the viewer to explore, and productively uses a certain level of obscurity to sustain the interest in delving further into the works. (Edward Sanderson)

Wang Du, Musée d’Art Contemporain de la Chine, at Tang Contemporary Art Beijing

If I were to go with my gut feelings about Wang Du’s work, then I would be missing (some of) the point. It would be too easy to dismiss Wang Du’s work as overblown, ego-driven, dumb objects, but looking beyond the surface of bluster, Wang’s work plays with relevant issues of how we see and understand these objects as both subtle and overt political tools. (Edward Sanderson)

Accidental Message: Art is Not a System, Not a World, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen

The question remains though: if “Art is Not a System, Not a World,” what does that leave us with? In the past, if art in general, or certain artworks, have been justified by the fact they form, or are presented as part of, a “system” or a “world,” then will these particular works be seen as lacking under this new perspective and disappear from the canon? (Edward Sanderson)

guest, Good Luck, Hemuse Gallery, Beijing

The presentation at Hemuse is not spectacular, nor didactic nor opinionated, so I believe Guest’s intentions with Good Luck are to be sensitive and respectful, within the parameters of their own art practice. But nevertheless the obvious question is: is this exploitation? (Edward Sanderson)

(Image on top: Tsang Kin-Wah, Ecce Homo Trilogy, Installation view; Photo courtesy of the artist.)


Tsang Kin-Wah, Ecce Homo Trilogy I, Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong

The formal power of this entire arrangement is thrilling, apparently resolved in a way that has been lacking from more fragmentary output from the artist. Of course, the true triumph here is that Tsang Kin-Wah has emerged not only as a leading Hong Kong artist on the international stage, but also as a leading figure in the Hong Kong art scene. (Robin Peckham)

Wang Wei, A Wall on the Wall, A Floor on the Floor, Magician Space, Beijing

The institutional references in Wang Wei’s work are significant as demonstrations of the effects of displacement of one institution into another by the appearance of these tiles within the gallery space. What this amounts to, though, is uncertain. (Edward Sanderson)

Elaine W. Ho, Rania Ho, The Meeting Room, Arrow Factory, Beijing

…one might say The Meeting Room is a meeting of meetings… To my mind, The Meeting Room project cleverly keys directly into the personal interests of people – these meetings would not happen if no one had an interest. The fact that the schedule has been filled out by such a broad range of interest-groups, shows that this service is something people really do want or need. (Edward Sanderson)

SEE/SAW: Collective Practice in China Now, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing

While groupings of artists have always existed, not least in China, this way of working has become a very visible feature of artists’ practice here over the past few years, seeming to gain ground in terms of their sheer number, as well as their increasing appearance in galleries. While some of the groupings might be problematic in terms of their reasons for existing, this has become a valuable and powerful method by which artists assert their solidarity and power within the art world here. (Edward Sanderson)


(Image at top: Wang Qingsong, Installation View, Courtesy of Tang Contemporary and the artist.)

Posted by ArtSlant Team on 1/7/13

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