Showcasing works donated by Chinese collector Guan Yi, the exhibition restages “Zone of Urgency” curated by Hou Hanru in 2003 at the 50th Venice Biennale.
The show explores everyday life in relation to the rapid urbanisation in the region since the 1990s.
“Canton Express” is held at the M+ Pavilion, located at the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong, which showcases the collection donated by Chinese collector Guan Yi to M+ in 2013. The show is on view from 23 June to 10 September 2017. In addition to the exhibition, M+ also organised a weekend-long film and video screening, “City Limits”, held from 4 to 6 August 2017 at the Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong.
The collection featured in the current exhibition consists of works that were originally presented in “Zone of Urgency”, a show curated by Hou Hanru at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. The exhibition at M+ highlights the contemporary art practices influenced by the rapid urbanisation in the Pearl River Delta region in China since the 1990s, and is the fourth exhibition held at the M+ Pavilion in Hong Kong before the museum opens in 2019.
Commenting on the exhibition at M+, collector Guan Yi says:
I am delighted to see M+ restage the Canton Express exhibition from 2003 and make works from my former collection accessible to a wider audience. I hope that the works will help create a better understanding of the wide range of contemporary art produced in the Pearl River Delta region among local and international audiences who visit the M+.
Artists featured in the 2017 edition of the exhibition include Chen Shaoxiong, Duan Jianyu, Feng Qianyu, Jiang Zhi, Jin Jiangbo, Liang Juhui, Libreria Borges Bookshop (Chen Tong and Lu Yi), Lin Yilin, Liu Heng, U-theque Organisation (Ou Ning and Cao Fei), Vitamin Creative Space, Xu Tan, Yang Yong and Zheng Guogu.
On behalf of the curatorial team, Dr Pi Li, Sigg Senior Curator, Visual Art of M+ remarks:
Visitors to Canton Express will get a broad perspective on contemporary art produced at the end of the 20th century within the Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong. With this exhibition, we are proud to offer an unprecedented glimpse into the museum’s philosophy and on-going efforts on collection conservation. The exhibition also provides interesting insights into a time when the art community in the region worked together to realise a historical exhibition under very challenging circumstances.
Art Radar highlights four artists and their works in the exhibition.
1. Artistic Chicken — Duan Jianyu
Guangzhou-based Chinese artist Duan Jianyu, born in 1957, graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1995. Trained in oil painting, she received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award for Best Artist in 2010. Currently, Duan teaches at the South China Normal University.
The artist is known for highlighting the urban-rural disparity in China, as well as creating irony in her work that questions the authority of high art. Her work has been exhibited locally and internationally at the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai; Minsheng Art Museum Shanghai; Vitamin Creative Space, Beijing; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; OCAT Xi’an, China; Para Site, Hong Kong; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, New York; 50th Venice Biennale and 4th Gwangju Biennale.
In her work entitled Artistic Chicken (2003), Duan originally presented 100 hand-painted fibreglass chickens at the Venice Biennale. However, due to storage constraints, only 40 pieces are kept and shown this time in “Canton Express”. In an interview with M+, the artist speaks about her work and mentions that she would like to express the self-mockery and irony in relation to the art world:
It’s ironic but also a little self-deprecating. […] But what I’m conveying with Artistic Chicken is something more ambiguous. It could be a metaphor for our busy daily lives – a particularly simple and mundane life. It could also be a metaphor for the pretentiousness of the art world because chickens run around and defecate everywhere. They’re not especially classy. That’s why I am particularly fond of putting them in my paintings and in elegant settings. Maybe it’s also a kind of joke or a comical image.
2. Hotbed — Lin Yilin
New York-based, Guangzhou-born artist Lin Yilin (b.1964) is one of the founders of the Big Tail Elephant Group in the 1990s, which also consists of artists Xu Tan, Liang Juhui and Chen Shaoxiong. Lin studied at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in the 1980s. Trained in sculpture, he is known for his performance and installation works.
In this exhibition, his work Hotbed (2013) is an installation which comprises video documentations of his previous performances. They include Safely Maneuvering across Lin He Road (1995), in which he transported a brick wall from one place to another amidst the hustle and bustle of the city of Guangzhou. He did so by dismantling the wall brick by brick outdoors in public. His conceptual approach deals with the everyday in contemporary China. His installation Hotbed also showcases another performance named 100 Pieces and 1000 Pieces in which grey bricks are the recurring motif.
In his interview with M+, Lin speaks about his videos that were done in Guangzhou:
Back then, Guangzhou was not as strictly policed and communication technology was not very convenient in the 1990s. That’s why we could, on some occasions, do things that went beyond certain boundaries to create our own performance art pieces.
3. Sample Room — Zheng Guogu
Zheng Guogu, born in Yangjiang in China’s Guangdong province in 1970, graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1992. His work has been exhibited widely, including at Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou; Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; and San Diego Museum of Art, USA, among others.
During the original exhibition in 2003 at the Venice Biennale, his work was situated underneath a staircase. Sample Room (2013) comments on the trade and the manufacturing industry of China, particularly that of the Pearl River Delta. In his interview with M+ he remarks:
I saw how some people from Yangjiang traded goods through Hong Kong, such as handling knives and kitchen utensils. All they had was a little sample room, but even with just one person, it seemed like they could do big international business. A sample, a label, and a message would be sent to Hong Kong. International orders were received through Hong Kong. I thought, ‘This is real globalisation!’ So I presented this Yangjiang style of trading. […] The work is actually a visualisation of the concept of ‘Made in China’.
4. Sucker — Jiang Zhi
Jiang Zhi was born in Huanjiang in Hunan province in China in 1971. He graduated from the China Academy of Art in 1995 and subsequently joined a Shenzhen-based magazine company as a journalist. He moved to Shenzhen from Beijing at the end of 1998. His multidisciplinary art practice includes installation, photography, video, painting and text, exploring the notion of ‘reality’ as a contruct.
Jiang’s work has been exhibited widely including at Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; CAFA Art Museum, Beijing; MOCA Taipei, Taiwan; Serpentine Galleries, London.
Sucker (1997) (of which the Chinese translation means ‘person with a tube’) is a series of early works by the artist inspired by his time with the magazine company. In his interview with M+, the artist reveals his concept behind the work:
I thought, what if I made a mock, fabricated interview – create a fake report. […] I said that I’d found a kingdom of ‘suckers’ somewhere, where they all used tubes to suck everything in – food, messages, resources, everything sucked in through tubes.
To complete the work, Jiang imagines a kingdom for these fictional characters. Situated at a staircase at the original show at the Venice Biennale, the artwork incorporates the ‘utopic’ ambiance resembling Guangdong-style hair salons in Shenzhen with narrow store front and pink interior lighting.
- The Bro Generation: Chinese art collective Double Fly Art Center at de Sarthe Gallery, Beijing – August 2017 – 9 artists explore globalisation and migration through performance art, prints and sculptural works
- Preview: M+ Screenings: City Limits at Broadway Cinematheque, Hong Kong – August 2017 – the 3-day programme responds to the continent’s rapid transformations in city life over the past two decades
- “Civilization Iteration”: exploring the commercialisation of art with Xu Zhen – artist profile – July 2017 – Art Radar takes a look at the artist’s practice and the exhibition
- “The Picture Will Still Exist”: Vietnam’s Post Vidai Collection Director and Curator Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran on art, photography and collecting – in conversation – July 2017 – Art Radar speaks to the director and curator of Post Vidai collection of Vietnamese art
- M+ of West Kowloon Cultural District receives donation of artworks from Hong Kong collector Hallam Chow – October 2016 – Hong Kong collector Hallam Chow donates five artworks to M+ Museum of the West Kowloon Cultural District
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