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 Gu Dexin, UCCA, China, dissident, The Important Thing is Not the Meat, Ullens Center
Dissident Chinese Artist Gu Dexin Gets Major Retrospective - ArtLyst Article image

Dissident Chinese Artist Gu Dexin Gets Major Retrospective

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Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art presents major retrospective of key contemporary Chinese artist

A major retrospective for one of China’s most original artistic voices Gu Dexin – featuring more than 150 artworks and spanning three decades of the artist’s vast output – is set to open at Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (March 25 – May 27 2012).

Gu Dexin was one of the pioneering presences of the generation that began making contemporary art during the 1980s. In 1989, he was one of the three Chinese artists to show in ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ at the Pompidou, the first time art from contemporary China had been exhibited in a global context. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s he continued to be a prominent participant in the wave of ‘China shows’ that first brought contemporary Chinese art to an international public. 

Tracing the span of the artist’s career, from his amateur paintings in the late 1970s through to his climactic final textual installation piece of 2009, the exhibition presents Gu Dexin’s work as an alternative history of the development of contemporary art in China. His early paintings, watercolors, and embroideries open up a fantastic yet dystopian worlds of creatures, while the later visceral and performative installations of fruit, meat, and plastic, foreshadow wider debates over acceptable forms and materials within the Chinese art world and the emerging international community around it.  

Gu Dexin refused to work with the explicitly Chinese symbols and elements favoured by his contemporaries. In fact, he disliked the idea of imposing a reading on his viewers so much that he titled his works first with serial numbers, and later simply with the date on which they were completed. His ultimate decision to end his career and return to ‘normal’ life in the Beijing residential compound where he grew up has led to his practice being read by many commentators as more of a protest to society than a rejection of art.

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art is a not-for-profit art centre in Beijing, located at the heart of the 798 Art District. As a platform for contemporary art linking China and the world, UCCA offers around 15 exhibitions a year and over 500 public programmes including art talks, film screenings, performances, workshops and public festivals. The international centre maintains a special focus on recent developments and historical movements in Chinese contemporary culture, showcasing the latest in art and design and fostering international exchange.

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