CHINESE ART AT THE VENICE BIENNALE
This post gives an overview Chinese art on exhibit at the 53rd Venice Biennale until November 2009 with a blogs-eye round-up of images and reviews. We also take a look at how Chinese art has grown in prominence over the years and how proposals for the future, by the Chairman of the Biennale, promise further validation.
Chinese exhibiting artists
The seven contemporary Chinese artists on display in the Chinese Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale are:
- He Jianwei
- Liu Ding (read about his artwork at the Biennale Liu Ding’s Store)
- He Sen
- Fang Lijun
- Zeng Fhanzi
- Qiu Zhijie
- Zeng Hao
This year, along with the seven artists who are participating at the Chinese pavilion, Chen Zhen, Chu Yun, Huang Yong Ping, Tian Tian Wang (interview with Tian Tian Wang) and Xu Tan are showing their works in the main exhibition ‘Making Words’.
According to AccessibleArtNY, at first glance the images in He Sen’s The World of Taiji appear to be simple with no perceivable details, but upon closer inspection, the brushstrokes are visible and Chinese characters are decipherable. The concept was to juxtapose what Sen considered a “weak” culture (China) with the strong Western cultural frames. He hoped that the viewer would take the time to look closely at the work.
Images of Chinese art at 53rd Venice Biennale
Review of the Chinese Pavilion
It has been ten years since the late Harald Szeemann’s 1999 Venice exhibition ‘APERTO Over All’ paved the way for the West’s understanding of contemporary art, aptly nicknamed the “China Biennale” due to its inclusion of nearly twenty Chinese artists, says Redbox Review
Yet the curatorial strategy behind this year’s Chinese Pavilion titled ‘What is to Come’, conceived by artist Lu Hao and curator Zhao Li, was unable to generate much buzz for China during the festival’s opening days.
The Chinese artists provided highly individualized works. …And although each work may be considered a strong example of each artist’s conceptual prowess, the lack of immediate cohesion disengages a viewing audience that transcends the display’s symbolic ambitions. Note 1
History of Chinese art at the Venice Biennale
If this year is less successful than the past, who and what was on display in previous years? The Korean magazine Art in Asia has published a useful overview of the history of Japanese, Korean and Chinese art at the Venice Biennale. Below is an excerpt (including typos) covering Chinese art:
Harold Szeemann’s 1999 48th Venice Biennale exhibition, “dAPERTutto Over All,” included Chinese artists such as Ai Weiwei, Zhou Tiehai, Zhuang Hui, Wang Xingwei, Yang Shaobin, Fang Lijun, Qiu Shihua, Xie Nanxing, Zhang Peili, Yue Minjun, Zhao Bandi, Wang Jin, Zhang Huan, Liang Shaoji, Ma Liuming, Lu Hao, Chen Zhen, Cai Guoqiang and Wang Du.
Since the national Chinese pavilion was not yet built at the time, works by these nineteen Chinese artists chosen for the “d APERTutto” section were displayed both in the Giardini, specifically in the Italian pavilion, and in the Arsenale.
The Italian pavilion hosted no less than ten Chinese artists, and in the newly restored spaces of the Arsenale, dazzling installations by Cai Guo-Qiang were housed and shown. Szeemann, whose inclusion of Chinese artists at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and 2001, made a major contribution towards popularizing the Chinese avant-garde in the West.
In 2005, for the 51th Biennale, the first official Chinese pavilion was built by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, but it was temporary. Commissioners for the 2005 Chinese pavilion included Xu Jiang, the President of the China Academy of Art, Fan Di’an, the Vice President of the Central Academy of Art, Artist Cai Guo-Qiang, Wang Mingxian, the Vice Director of the Architecture Institute of China, and Pi Li, who was from the Central Academy of Art. Artists Yung Ho Chang, Liu Wei, Peng Yu & Sun Yuan, Wang Qiheng and Xu Zhen participated under the theme “Virgin Garden: Emersion.” This premier national pavilion of China marked a turning point in the cultural growth within Chinese contemporary art.
In 2007, having already curated the 2003 exhibition “Z.U.O.” in the context of the 50th Venice Biennale headed by Francesco Bonami, internationally renowned curator Hou Hanru highlighted the contributions of four women artists to Chinese contemporary art at the pavilion. These four female artists, Cao Fei, Kan Xuan, Shen Yuan and Yin Xiuzhen, created site-specific works in the building and at the Vergini Gardens, under the theme “Everyday Miracles.” Note 2
And the future for Chinese art?
According to a report in the Independent “at least one change to tradition has been signalled. The chairman of the Biennale is proposing that in future years the Chinese Pavilion moves in among the “conventional venues”. Recognition at last that the world order, even the cultural world order, has changed since 1895.” Note 3
About the Venice Biennale
The Venice Biennale – the world’s oldest and most high-profile contemporary art exhibition – opens its doors to the public from 6th June to 22nd November 2009.
It was founded in 1895 to celebrate new developments in international art.
National pavilions were built in the Giardini – or public gardens – to house exhibitions from each participating country’s chosen artists. But as more and more countries wish to take part, the Biennale has spread across the Italian city.
It has been described as the Olympic games of the art world – 77 countries from Armenia to Venezuela are showcasing the work of their leading artists. All are hoping to win the top prize – the Golden Lion. Note 4
- Note 1 Redbox Review http://review.redboxstudio.cn/2009/06/china-pavilion-at-the-53rd-venice-biennale/
- Note 2 Art in Asia http://www.artinasia.kr/content/view/73/31/
- Note 3 The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/art-attack-inside-the-weird-and-wonderful-world-of-the-venice-biennale-1696893.html
- Note 4 BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/8087551.stm
- Young Chinese Artists: The Next Generation – book review – Jun 09
- Taiwanese photographers, video artists and an architect at 53rd Venice Biennale – May 09
- Fourteen China rim artists show landscapes at 0pinion-leading Hong Kong gallery Hanart – Feb 09
- UAE is first Arab Gulf Country to have pavilion at Venice Biennale 2009 – Dec 08
- Third Guangzhou Triennial reviews and highlights – Sep 08