Moving Horizons: The UBS Art Collection 1960s to the present day, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, 29 September – 4 November 2008
The UBS Art Collection embodies four decades of collecting, from the 1970s to the present day. Most of the works from the 1960s-1980s were assembled for an American investment company, PaineWebber, which was acquired by UBS in 2000. These works joined the artworks that UBS had been collecting for its sites across Europe to form what is today The UBS Art Collection.
Change in collecting pattern: local to global
The Collection reflects the change in collecting from local to global, from a world in which most artists lived in the country where they were born and the art market was led by New York City, to a world in which artists migrate or divide their time between continents, and the art market has multiple centres across the globe. The Collection also reflects the change in visual arts practice from one that was prescribed by movements to one that is diverse and fluid.
1960s: pop art
This exhibition of approximately 150 works demonstrates these changes. Beginning with a large group of Pop Art prints and drawings by artists including Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Edward Ruscha, the exhibition then presents a group of prints and drawings by Minimalist artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella.
1970s: conceptual art
The 1970s ushered in a quieter conceptual aesthetic, represented in the exhibition by Vija Celmins and, although very different, Alighiero e Boetti. Here too is Chuck Close, who used a structure of grids and symbols in his multiple series of portraits.
1980s: explosion of figurate painting
Then came the explosion of highly expressive figurate painting in the 1980s. Reacting against the performance-based and ephemeral conceptual practice of the 70s, these paintings and drawings often contained personal metaphors to reflect the lives of their makers. In Italy Sandra Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and Mimmo Paladino were grouped under the banner of Transavantguardia. In Germany Neo-Expressionists such as Georg Baselitz had an influence on the younger sculptor Stephan Balkenhol, included here, and painters such as Eric Fischl, Susan Rothenberg, David Salle and Julian Schnabel received wide acclaim in the United States. The British artist Lucian Freud had consistently focused on figurative painting since the 1940s, but didn’t receive international attention until the 1980s, the decade marked by this “return to painting’. He is represented in the exhibition by both paintings and prints.
1990s: photography and YBAs
In the 1990s photography was a critical medium, used to record the physical world with apparent objectivity by artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Candida Höfer and Beat Streuli. The ’90s was also the decade of the much fêted ‘YBAs’, the group of young and savvy British artists represented here by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Gary Hume and one of their mentors, Michael Craig-Martin.
2000 on: global diversity, migration and video
By 2000 thriving markets were by now established across the globe – from Mexico City to Mumbai, from Berlin to Shanghai. Biennials and triennials in Brisbane, Yokohama, Istanbul, Sarjah, São Paulo and Singapore, to name a few, had shifted and expanded loci of interest, and The UBS Art Collection now hopes to mirror this diversity and expand the possibilities for displaying art in its corporate environment with the acquisition of video in particular.
The final part of the exhibition includes large-scale photo-based installations by American artist Susan Hiller and Chinese artist Xu Zhen as well as videos by Chinese artists Qiu Anxiong and Cao Fei, as well as Chen Chieh-jen from Taipeii, Navin Rawanchaikul from Thailand, Adrian Paci from Albania and Oscar Muñoz from Colombia. Their work addresses political concerns pertinent to their own experiences, but relevant across the world, issues of rapid industrialization, migration, memories of painful pasts and hopes for brighter futures.
Joanne Bernstein, Curator, The UBS Art Collection, May 2008
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