Beijing first to host Arles program outside France

PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL BEIJING EXHIBITIONS

In the first part of Art Radar Asia’s coverage of Beijing’s Caochangdi PhotoSpring (17 April-30 June, 2010) we presented the winners and semi-finalists of three photography awards. This article aims to explore some of the 27 photography exhibitions, several of which are from the long-established Les Rencontres d’Arles, with which Caochangdi PhotoSpring has partnered for the next three years. These Arles exhibitions are, for the very first time, being showcased outside of France.

Some of the Arles exhibitions seen in Beijing

Rimaldas ViksraitisGrimaces of the Weary Village won him the 2009 Recontres d’Arles Discovery Award. This Lithuanian born photographer has chosen to document the lives of his country’s village dwellers who, in order to face the difficult economic situation they are in, have turned to excessive drinking. Many of his subjects are intoxicated and the photographer’s portrayal of their nudity and often degrading behavior lends an air of the surreal to his images. This show, curated by Anya Stonelake and Martin Parr, was exhibited at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Rimaldas Viksraitis, Grimaces of the Weary Village, 1998, image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Rimaldas Viksraitis, Grimaces of the Weary Village, 1998. Image courtesy of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

A number of ’70s vintage prints by renowned Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama were also on display in a solo exhibition entitled Tono Monogatari – The Tales of Tono, presented with the cooperation of Taka Ishii Gallery (Tokyo) and Zen Foto Gallery (Tokyo). Moriyama was the winner of the No Limits Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles 2004 and his images of densely populated Tokyo districts are “characterized by blur, high contrast and rough printing.” His celebrated image of a stray dog, Misawa (1971), has come to describe both the dog and his style of photography: “ragged, savage and disoriented”. More recently his work has also been labeled “random, irrational and zero technique.” A Moriyama retrospective will be held 2011 at the National Museum of Art in Osaka.

Daido Moriyama, Misawa, 1971, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery & Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Daido Moriyama, Misawa, 1971, gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery and Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

ArtMia Foundation showed the work of renowned photographer Lucien Clergue (b. 1934) who was one of the co-founders of Les Recontres d’Arles in 1969. This Arles native was a long-time family friend of Pablo Picasso and the exhibition, entitled Picasso Close Up, documents this friendship as well as other intimate views into the daily life of the painter. We get glimpses of Picasso as a father, husband and friend. We see him in a kimono, on an outing with his family, playing drums with musician friends, casually conversing with a cab driver or warmly engaging with Clergue’s daughter, who was Picasso’s god-child. This exhibition also featured eight original lithographs by Picasso.

Lucien Clergue, Picasso and Olivia C., Mougins 1967

Lucien Clergue, Picasso and Olivia C., Mougins, 1967

Another of the Arles exhibitions, Under the Skin, was held at the Galerie Urs Meile Beijing-Lucerne in collaboration with Juana de Aizpuru Gallery (Madrid) and featured the haunting portraits of Pierre Gonnord. These portraits are in a style reminiscent of the great Spanish masters and have come from two series. The first series, Utopians, portrays the underprivileged dwellers of Madrid. The second series, Gypsies, attempts to record the lives of inhabitants of an isolated part of Seville.

Pierre Gonnord, MARIA 2006, image courtesy Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Pierre Gonnord, MARIA, 2006. Image courtesy of Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

Mo Yi presented black and white photographs, video and an installation in his My Illusory City – 1987-1998-2008. The Tibetan-born artist has for most of the past thirty years chosen the city as his subject. He states, “the city has already become my long-term subject, and photography has become the most convenient language with which to transform this subject.”

Mo Yi, My Illusory City No. 5, silver gelatin print, image courtesy Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Mo Yi, My Illusory City No. 5, silver gelatin print. Image courtesy of Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

At Taikang Space a solo exhibition of two series by photographer and filmmaker Wu Yinxian (吴印咸), entitled Beijing Hotel-1975 and The Great Hall of the People, was on display. The former was completed toward the end of the Cultural Revolution and the latter in the early Eighties. These photographs were taken in an attempt to record the power and grandeur of the government at the time. His images are those of a bygone era, both in terms of changes in the political climate of China as well as the outdated furniture and faded patina.

Wu Yinxian, Meeting Room, 1975, image courtesy Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Wu Yinxian, Meeting Room, 1975. Image courtesy of Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

Future of Caochangdi PhotoSpring in limbo

We spoke briefly with RongRong, one of the directors of Caochangdi PhotoSpring, about the significance of this photography festival both for Beijing and China. “The Caochangdi PhotoSpring is the first major international photography festival in Beijing. It is an important event for photographers from all over China. Beijing is a global city that is convenient for a global gathering.”

However, the whole Caochangdi art district including the hub of the festival, the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, and numerous other independent and commercial galleries, have recently been slated for demolition and eviction notices given to all village inhabitants. The art district is being cleared to make way for a “culture zone.”

Read part one here: 3 young Chinese artists awarded prizes at inaugural Caochangdi PhotoSpring

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Related Topics: photography, art prizes, venues – Beijing

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