Focus: East Asia – China (Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou) [Updated!]

Shao Yinong and Mu Chen “Spring and Autumn – 1990 100 Chinese Note (Four leaders)” (2004-2010) Silk, silk thread. Courtesy of the artists and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong. Photo: Singapore Art Museum

Chinese contemporary art is rising in quality and quantity, becoming a protagonist on the international artistic stage, according to Italian art critic Achille Bonito Oliva. China made a remarkable transformation during the past three decades, with changes expressed most strongly and dramatically in visual arts.

Zhang Huang “Hero No.1” (2009) cowskin, steel, wool and polystyrene foam. Courtesy of the artist an d Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

Once the 1978 Constitution was promulgated under the Deng Xiaoping era, The People’s Republic of China opened its doors to the world and chinese artists eagerly followed Western styles and techniques which led to avant-garde movements harnessing social and political reform. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre however, this trend has mollified not only because of the government’s restrictions on cultural change, but also, according to some critics, because artistic affairs were shifting from public interests to money driven ideologies.

Yu Youhan “Untitled (Mao/Marilyn)” (2005); oil on canvas, Sigg Collection; Zhang Xiaogang, “Bloodline: Big Family No.3” (1995) oil on canvas

Rapid economic growth in the 90s motivated many artists to work on subject matters such as the temptations of a rich and famous lifestyle, consumerism, leisure industries and gaps in the social classes. This produced such styles as Political Pop and Cynical Realism, in the wake of a crisis in both communist and capitalist ideologies. Phenomenal leaps in online and mobile technology participated in making the art world in the noughties a truly global market, and China’s booming market has especially changed the art world landscape. Many artists in China question nonetheless the new craze and its values tied within this socio-economical shift. Although strong censorship pervades in the country’s governmental policy, many art professionals continue to reexamine and revaluate essential life principles that go beyond those of the Chinese establishment.

Yan Fudong “Fifth Night” (2010) seven channel HD video projection. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.

As a taster of China’s rich production in visual arts, M-KOS listed below a selection of museums, galleries and alternative spaces operating in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Duan Jianyu “The Mountains and Waters Always Echo Our Love” (2010) oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Beijing.


Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing
Today Art Museum

798 Art District (aka Dashanzi Art District)

798 is a thriving artistic community built in a old decomissioned military factory located on the outskirts of Beijing. According to the Beijing Administrative Committee of 798, at the end of 2010, there were 445 organisations and institutions in the district. These included 50 galleries with foreign investment, 140 domestic galleries, 170 non-profit organisations and workshops, and 85 cafes, bars and restaurants. Galleries include:
Beijing Commune
Boers-Li Gallery
Long March Space
Space Station
Iberia Center for Contemporary Art
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art
Beijing Tokyo Art Projects
Tang Contemporary Art
Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art
Thread Gallery
Pace Beijing
Galleria Continua
Faurschou Beijing
Hadrien De Montferrand Gallery
Pyo Gallery
Esse Space
Magician Space
and many more.

Caochangdi Art District

Photo by Miranda Mimi Kuo. Courtesy The New York Times

The Caochangdi art district is regarded as “the spiritual promised land for Chinese contemporary art” by a majority of Chinese people. In 2000, Ai Weiwei moved his studio to the Caochangdi village and its art community flourished eversince. Now about 20 galleries are based here including:
Alexander Ochs Gallery
Art Channel
Caochangdi Workstation
White Space Gallery
Beijing Art Now Gallery
Chambers Fine Art
Galerie Urs Meile
PKM Gallery
Pékin Fine Arts
ShanghART Beijing
F2 Gallery
China Art Archives & Warehouse
Mizuma & One Gallery
Pan&Wei Gallery
and more.

In other district:
Arario Beijing
Artside Beijing
C5 Art
Dialogue Space
Hanmo Art Gallery

Exhibition view “Arrow Factory: Collection Highlights” (12.2010-01.2011) Courtesy of Arrow Factory

Arrow Factory
The Pavilion (Vitamin Creative Space)
Donkey Institute of Contemporary Art

Exhibition view at The Pavilion, Feb.2011 Courtesy of Vitamin Creative Space


Exhibition view “the hell. the heaven. on the way. in between.”(2011) at ifa gallery. Courtesy of ifa gallery

Minsheng Art Museum
Shanghai Duolun Museum of Fine Art
Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai
Ke Center for the Contemporary Art
Island6 Arts Center
River South Art Centre
AroundSpace Gallery
Gallery 55
IFA Gallery
Pantocrator gallery Shanghai
M Art Center
M97 Gallery
Ofoto gallery
Oriental Vista Gallery
Other Gallery
ShangART gallery
Stageback Gallery
Stir Art Gallery
Shine Art Space
Aike-Dell’Arco Gallery
James Cohan Gallery Shanghai
JGM Galerie
Arthub Asia
Leo Xu Projects
Art Labor Gallery


Ming Wong “CYCLORAMA”(2011). Exhibition view at Vitamin Creative Space. Courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

Times Museum
Vitamin Creative Space
Observation Society

Contemporary art magazine (online & print) and database

Art Asia Pacific
Art Zine China
Art Rader Asia
art in asia

by Miwa Kojima

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