China on my mind


Installation view of ENCOUNTERS, 2008. Courtesy of Pace Beijing

Contemporary Chinese artists track the growing contradictions and conflicts between old and new China, testing the perimeters between traditional and contemporary art, whilst all the time exploring notions of identity and the individual.

Pace Beijing
Beijing. In conversation with Feng Huanian, Director

What is the mission statement of Pace Beijing and to what extent does the gallery converse with Pace Wildenstein in New York?
Pace Beijing is dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art in Asia. We work in collaboration with Pace Wildenstein in New York but our galleries have independent programs. Some of our artists, such as Zhang Xiaogang, have exhibited in both. Similarly, Zhang Huan, who has exhibited with Pace in New York, is having an exhibition at the gallery in Beijing this year.

Have you noticed any change in the art scene in China in the last few years?
During the past two years there has been a transition in the art scene in China with a shying away from the commercial market and a return to focusing on art. While there was a lot of attention paid to large performance events in previous years, there has been a noticeable return to painting as artists have again become more concerned

Long March Space
Beijing. In conversation with David Tung, Director

How did Long March Space begin?
The gallery started as – and is still – a part of the curatorial project, The Long March Project. Initiated by director Lu Jie in 1999 and carried out in collaboration with co-curator and artist Qiu Zhijie in 2002, the duo set out with 250 international and Chinese artists to retrace the historical Long March route, taking this journey and process as a metaphor, re-writing and re-routing the contemporary narrative of China.

What is the mission statement of the gallery?
The gallery draws from the experience of journey and travel, the investigation of the relationship between art and society. We believe that space has memory: a strong sense of history that responds to the conditions both locally in China and internationally permeates our programs.

Have you noticed any change in the contemporary art scene in China over the years?
In contemporary China there is now an overall suspicion of excess – the scale and spectacle of the past two years is less prevalent. This is the result not only of a general downturn in the art market, but it is also a response by artists towards an art system that had previously rewarded conceptual posturing. I have noticed there is far greater demand for choice in China in comparison to previous years, with the varying tastes of collectors encouraging different art practices and the formation of a myriad of art organisations. Hopefully these will combine to challenge a monolithic view of contemporary Chinese art.

Xin Dong Cheng Gallery
Beijing. In conversation with Alban Raysse, Gallery representative

How did XDC begin?
Arriving in France in the early ’90s with a degree in Art History from the Sorbonne, Xin Dong Cheng was one of the first gallerists to promote avant-garde Chinese art in Europe. Following  exhibitions of Chinese art in French national museums, Xin Dong Chen opened his gallery in 2000 with the objective of allowing the Chinese public, who had been cut off from the world for over half a century (and consequently cut from the history of international art), to rewrite their art history. Since then Xin Dong Cheng has exhibited Chinese artists throughout the world.

What state do you think the contemporary art market in China is in at the moment?
Since the Cultural Revolution, the contemporary art market in China has benefitted through the liberalisation of fine art. Whilst the contemporary art market in China is relatively new (some 30 years old), it has attracted attention and interest through exhibitions in public spaces, private galleries and museums. The development of the art market in China over the years is indicated by the exceptional prices that some Chinese works have recently obtained in auction.

Who are the exciting Chinese artists to look out for?
Zhang Xiaogang, Yue Minjun, Fang Lijun, Li Luming, Luo Brothers, Guo wei, Feng Zhengjie, Li Ji, Qi Zhilong, Shi Jianmin, Lu Hao, Wang Guangyi, Gao Yu and Chen Ke.

Para/Site Art Space
Hong Kong. In conversation with Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Executive Director and Curator

How did Para/Site come about? What is its mission statement?
Para/Site was founded in 1996 by a group of artists based in Hong Kong. It acts as a production and exhibition venue, providing visibility for the international development of Hong Kong-based artists. We exhibit leading and midcareer international artists, facilitating the process of cultural dissemination and critique using the logic of collaboration with other similarly minded art spaces in the region.

Which contemporary artists in HK should we keep an eye out for?
Hong Kong has a large and active artist community. We are currently developing projects with seven artists for exhibitions in London, Sydney and Seoul: Leung Chi Wo, Lam Tung-pang, Cedric Maridet, Lee Kit, Morgan Wong Wing-fat, Chilai Howard Cheng and Luke Ching. Our most recent solo show with a Hong Kong based artist was with Tsang Kin-wah. We also manage a venue inside Hanart TZ devoted to a younger generation of artists, where Dominique Chiu has curated Lam Hoi Sin and Esther Yip recently. And they are all great.

Shanghai. In conversation with Helen Zhu, Gallery representative

How did ShanghART begin?
ShanghART gallery was established in Shanghai in 1996. Today, 15 years after its establishment, the gallery has international recognition and was the first gallery from China to participate in acclaimed art fairs like ART Basel/Miami Beach and FIAC, Paris.

What is the focus of the gallery?
ShanghART was established in order to provide a platform for emerging artists to present their work. The gallery encourages the production of innovative work and initiates high-quality productions.

Have you noticed any change in the contemporary art scene in China over the years?
The Chinese contemporary art market is changing fast, with more and more people in the world choosing to focus on Chinese contemporary art. More Chinese art is shown at different art fairs, biennales and exhibitions. People are also keen to know more; for example, we originally had very few visitors coming to our gallery in Moganshan Road each day, but now we have nearly 100 visitors daily.

Schoeni Art Gallery
Hong Kong. In conversation with Nicole Schoeni, Director

What are the origins of the gallery?
The gallery was founded in 1991 when Manfred Schoeni visited an art fair in Shanghai and was struck by the lack of consistency and style in the presentation of its artwork. Excited by the idea of founding his own contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong, Schoeni scoured art academies and artists throughout China, short-listing ten artists who he wanted to work with and represent. The roster of gallery artists remains unchanged almost two decades on.

You have two branches of Schoeni in HK. How do the sites differ physically and creatively?
Our main gallery, located on Old Bailey Street in Soho, is a spacious site where headline exhibitions take place. Here there is a cosy library where visitors can read our publications alongside other books and journals. The gallery on Hollywood Road is more compact in size and tends to display a more eclectic mix of art by Southeast Asian, European, American and Russian artists.

As art consultant to the China Club in Berlin, did you feel a responsibility to represent contemporary Chinese artists to an international audience? Which artists’ works did you suggest and why?
We related to the physical space of the club which was filled with antique Chinese furniture. We were very conscious of our responsibility in assisting the club to build a strong collection of Chinese contemporary art which at that time had not yet reached international recognition, so we selected works that we believed were by artists that would one day be icons of their generation, such as Liu Ye, Tang Zhigang and Qi Zhilong.

Who are the exciting Chinese artists to look out for?
We will be showing Yang Fudong and Liu Weijian’s works at ART HK this year. Yang Fudong is an excellent new media artist and his works have been shown at various biennales, such as the Sydney Biennale. Liu Weijian uses painting to explore environment, memory and mood. There is something unsettling and uncanny in his painted works which is very distinctive to him.

by Rowena Chiu

From the Glass Archive Issue two Rapture