A new exhibition examining the issue of creativity—a topic rarely touched upon in the multitude of exhibitions on Chinese contemporary art is to open at the Qatar Museums in March. The exhibition aims to illuminate a set of current practices by Chinese artists that attempt to challenge the Chinese traditional aesthetics and the Western art historical canon. By presenting each artist’s works in an independent gallery space, the exhibition highlights their individual pursuit of artistic expressions, concepts, methodologies and attitudes. Their diverse bodies of work cross the media of painting, sculpture, installation, video, performance and interactive video game design. This exhibition offers a unique perspective to the contemporary art world, shifting an emphasis from its idiomatic language of criticism, biography and context, to a focus on the artworks themselves. Recent critical reception of contemporary Chinese art has focused largely on sociopolitical issues and record market prices. In response to the lack of detailed consideration given to contemporary Chinese artists’ artistic value and originality, the exhibition confronts the contemporary art world with the questions: What about the art itself? How do these Chinese artists contribute to the creativity of contemporary art?
What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China was conceived and curated by CAI Guo-Qiang. It crystalises the three years of field research, over the course of which 250 pivotal exhibitions on Chinese Art were surveyed and over 20 art historians, critics, and curators were interviewed. The catalogue includes essays by internationally renowned scholars Terry Smith, Jerome Silbergeld and WANG Hui in addition to contributions by featured artists, along with a timeline reviewing major events in the history of contemporary Chinese art.
What About the Art? will feature a 60-minute documentary film under the same title, directed by Shanshan Xia and produced by 33 Studio NY. The documentary examines the pursuit of creativity in our contemporary society – both in and outside of China. By recording the curator’s dialogues with artists, critics, and scholars, the film reveals the exhibition’s curatorial concept. By combining the artwork and exhibition production process with China’s encompassing cityscapes the film offers a window into contemporary Chinese culture and society.
As a key programme in the 2016 Qatar-China Year of Culture, the exhibition has received generous support from China National Arts Fund, Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Shanghai International Culture Association. His work crosses multiple mediums within art, including drawing, installation, video, performance, and exhibition curating. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and to the development of his signature explosion events. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, these projects and events aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them, utilising a site-specific approach to culture and history.
Over the past thirty years, Cai Guo-Qiang has realised large-scale exhibitions and projects across different geographic locations and cultures, including solo exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang:Saraab at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar (2011), Cai Guo-Qiang; 1040m Underground in Donetsk, Ukraine (2011), One Night Stand (Aventure d’un Soir), explosion event for Nuit Blanche (2013), a citywide art and culture festival organised by the city of Paris. His 2008 retrospective exhibition I Want to Believe broke attendance records at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In the same year, he served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Beijing. In 2013, his solo exhibitionDa Vincis do Povo in Brazil went on a three-city tour around the country and was the most visited exhibition by a living artist worldwide that year with over one million visitors.
As part of his artistic endeavour, Cai developed a series of projects in which he served as a museum director and an exhibition curator to present the work by other artists and non-artists. These projects include the Everything is Museum series (since 2000), in which he converted unexpected spaces in Italy, Japan, Taiwan, and Cuba into small-scale exhibition venues for rural communities and small towns. Cai was also the curator of the first China Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. Cai Guo-Qiang was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, and the Praemium Imperiale in 2012. He was among the five artists honoured with the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts award in 2012.
Jenova CHEN was born in Shanghai, China in 1981. After earning a BS in computer science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, he moved in 2003 to Los Angeles, where he obtained an MFA in interactive media at the University of Southern California. As the co-founder, president, and creative director of thatgamecompany (est. 2006), he designs and conceives interactive entertainment. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. A brilliant emerging video game designer, Jenova CHEN has received many international awards in recognition of his work. The soundtrack for his video game Journey was nominated for a Grammy Award; the first video game soundtrack nominated in the award’s history. In 2013,Journey received six (out of fourteen) awards at the 13th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, and five awards at the 66th British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
HU Xiangqian as born in Leizhou, Guangdong, China in 1983. He was finalist of the Hugo Boss Asia Art Awards and recipient of the Asian Cultural Council Fellowship Program (2013). He presently lives and works in Beijing. As an emerging performance artist, HU Xiangqian has presented his work at Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai (2011), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijng (2012), the 10th Gwangju Biennale (2014), and Long Museum in Shanghai (2015).
HU Zhijun was born in Hunan, China in 1952. After working as a peasant for most of his life, HU Zhijun discovered his interest in sculpture in 2013. What About the Art? is his debut as an artist. He was commissioned by Cai Guo-Qiang to make 500 clay sculptures that represent major contemporary Chinese artworks. He currently lives and works in Beijing.
HUANG Yong Ping was born in Xiamen, China in 1954. He studied at Fine Arts Academy of Zhejiang, China between 1982 and 1989. He has been based in Paris since 1989. HUANG Yong Ping’s work was presented in solo exhibitions at Walker Center, Minneapolis (2005), Mass MoCA (2006), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing (2008), Musée Océanographique de Monaco (2010), and MAXXI in Rome (2014), among other institutions. His work was shown in Les Magiciens de la Terre curated by Jean Hubert Martin at the Centre Georges Pompidou (1989). He also participated in group exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (1998), the Louvre (2005), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2013). In 1999, he represented France at the 48th Venice Biennale.
LI Liao was born in Hubei, China in 1982. He received a BA from Fine Arts Department of Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 2005. He currently lives and works in Shenzhen, China. A young conceptual artist, LI Liao was one of the finalists of the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award (2013). His solo exhibitions include Scorpio, Park in Yangtze River Space, Wuhan, China (2012) and Art is Vacuum at Whitespace, Beijing, China (2013). He has participated in various notable exhibitions including at Para/Site, Hong Kong (2012), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013), and the New Museum Triennial in New York (2015).
LIANG Shaoji was born in Shanghai, China in 1945. From 1986 to 1989, he studied at Maryn Varbanov Tapestry Research Institute in Zhejiang, China. In 2009, he received the Prince Claus Award. The artist currently lives and works near Tiantai Mountain in Zhejiang Province, China. Liang has shown his works in China and in such international forums as the Venice Biennale (1999). His solo exhibitions were held at the Zendai Museum of Modern art in Shanghai (2009) and the Prince Claus Fund in Amsterdam (2009). His work was included in group exhibitions at the Today Art Museum in Beijing (2003), the Modern Art Museum in Chengdu (2000), and the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver (1998).
LIU Wei was born in Beijing, China in 1972. He received a BFA from National Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, China in 1996. He was the winner of the Best Artist Award at the Contemporary Chinese Art Awards (2008). LIU currently lives and works in Beijing, China. He had solo exhibitions at Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai (2011), Boijmans Van Bueningen, Rotterdam (2014), and Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2015), His work was included in group exhibitions at Centre Georges Pompidou (2010), National Art Museum of China (2010), Rubell Foundation and the Farschou Foundation (2013), and Whitechapel Gallery (2015), among others. His work was studied in two monographs, Liu Wei: Trilogy(2011) and Body Language: Contemporary Chinese Photography (2007).
LIU Xiaodong was born in Liaoning Province, China in 1963. He obtained a BFA and an MFA at the Central Academy of Art in Beijing (1988, 1995). He is a painting professor at CAFA. His awards include the “Golden Horse Award” for the best Documentary Film at the 68th Taiwan Film Festival (2011). His solo exhibitions were held at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (2007), Today Art Museum (2012), Seattle Museum of Art (2013), and Minsheng Art Museum (2014). He has exhibited internationally at such major venues as Centre Georges Pompidou (2003), the Venice Biennale (2007) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2010), among others. His work was featured in Jia Zhangke’s Still Life, which was awarded the Golden Lion Award for Best Film at the 63rd Venice Film Festival (2006).
Jennifer Wen MA was born in Beijing, China in 1973. She received her MFA from the Pratt Institute, New York in 1999. In 2008, Ma was one of the seven members on the core creative team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, and the chief designer for visual and special effects. She currently lives and works in New York and Beijing. A mid-career artist whose work has been exhibited internationally, Jennifer Wen MA directed the installation opera Paradise Interrupted, which was partially shown at the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2015) and will premiere at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2016. Her works have been exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2008) and the Vancouver Art Gallery (2014); and she had a solo exhibition was also held at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing (2012).
SUN Yuan was born in Beijing, China in 1972, and PENG Yu (彭禹) was born in Heilongjiang, China in 1974. Both artists graduated from the Oil Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Since 2000, the two has been cooperating as “SUN Yuan & PENG Yu.” SUN and PENG won the Best Young Artist of the Contemporary Chinese Art Award (CCAA) in 2001. They currently live and work in Beijing, China. Together they have exhibited extensively in major art institutions including MuHKA: Museum of Contemporary Art (2004), the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (2006), the National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan (2008), Taipei Contemporary Art Center (2012), the National Museum of China (2012), and the National Portrait Gallery, Australia (2012). They participated in the 51st Venice Biennale, in the exhibition presented at the China Pavilion curated by Cai Guo-Qiang (2005).
WANG Jianwei was born in Sichuan Province, China in 1958. He obtained an MFA at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in 1987. In 2008, he was awarded the Foundation of Contemporary Art Grants to Artists and in 2014, he was the first artist to be commissioned as part of the The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative (2014). He presently lives and works in Beijing. Wang Jianwei has had solo exhibitions at the Walker Art Center (2002) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2014). His works have been exhibited at such prominent venues as the Venice Biennale (2003), the Centre Georges Pompidou (2003), and the Museum of Modern Art (2005). He was the first Chinese artist to participate in dOCUMENTA (1997).
XU Bing was born in Chongqing, China in 1955. He gained an MFA from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing in 1998. In 1999, he received a MacArthur Fellowship. From 2008 to 2014, he was Vice President of CAFA, where he remains as Professor advising Ph.D. students. In 2015, he was awarded the 2014 the United States Department of State Medal of Arts for his efforts to promote cultural understanding through his artworks. He currently lives and works in Beijing and New York. His solo exhibitions have been held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1999), Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution (2001, 2013), the British Museum (2011), and the Victoria and Albert Museum (2013), among other institutions. Monographic studies of his work have been published by Princeton University Press (2006), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2011), Albion Editions (2011), New York University Press (2012), and Beijing Culture and Arts Press (2012).
XU Zhenwas born in Shanghai, China in 1977. He graduated in 2000 from the Shanghai Arts & Crafts Institute. XU Zhen was the youngest Chinese artist to participate in the Venice Biennale (2001, 2005), the winner of the Best Artist Award by the Contemporary Chinese Art Awards (2004). He lives and works in Shanghai. He has exhibited in major international museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004), and he was the commissioned artist for the 2014 edition of the Armory Show, New York. His solo exhibitions were held at S.M.A.K in Gent, Belgium (2009), Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (2011), Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai (2011), OCT Art Terminal, Shanghai (2013), and Yuz Museum in Shanghai (2015). From 2001 to 2010, XU worked as art director of BizArt Art Center in Shanghai.
YANG Fudong was born in Beijing, China in 1971. He graduated from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou in 1995. As one of the most internationally acclaimed video artists in China, Yang Fudong was a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize (2004). YANG currently lives and works in Shanghai. YANG’s work was included in dOCUMENTA (2002) and the Venice Biennale (2003, 2007), as well as group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004), the Centre Georges Pompidou (2004), the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution (2008), and MuHKA Media, Belgium (2009). He had solo exhibitions at Singapore Art Museum (2011), OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shanghai (2012), Kunsthalle Zurich (2013), and Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand (2015), among many other museums. His work was presented at the 40th International Film Festival Rotterdam (2011) and at the Toronto International Film Festival (2013).
ZHOU Chunya was born in Chongqing, China in 1955. He graduated from the Painting Department of Sichuan Academy of Fine Art, China in 1982. Between 1986 and 1988, he completed a Master’s degree at the Experiment Art Department of Kassel Academy of Fine Art in Germany. The artist was awarded Martell’s 2010 Artist of the Year. He currently lives and works in Chengdu and Shanghai, China. As one of the most famous oil painters in China, Zhou Chunya has exhibited extensively at major international art institutions, including and the Contemporary and Modern Art Museum of Trento (2002), the Centre Georges Pompidou (2003), Indonesia National Gallery (2008), the Venice Biennale (2009), and ARCO Madrid, Spain (2010).
Qatar Museums connects the museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites in Qatar and creates the conditions for them to thrive and flourish. It centralises resources and provides a comprehensive organisation for the development of museums and cultural projects, with a long term ambition of creating a strong and sustainable cultural infrastructure for Qatar. Under the patronage of His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and led by its Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, QM is consolidating Qatar’s efforts to become a vibrant centre for the arts, culture and education, in the Middle East and beyond.
QM is committed to instigating Qatar’s future generation of arts, heritage and museum professionals. At its core is a commitment to nurturing artistic talent, creating opportunities and developing the skills to service Qatar’s emerging art economy. By means of a multi-faceted program and public art initiatives, QM seeks to push the boundaries of the traditional museum model, and create cultural experiences that spill out onto the streets and seek to involve a wide audience. Through a strong emphasis on originating art and culture from within and fostering a spirit of national participation, QM is helping Qatar find its own distinctive voice in today’s global cultural debates.
What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China: 14 March – 16 July, 2016 Qatar Museums Gallery Al Riwaq, Doha, Qatar