Art Labor and An Te Liu

an te liu poster bArt Labor is a self-funded contemporary art gallery located in the French Concession district. The gallery strives to show works by established and emerging artists from China and abroad. It was founded in 2005 by Canadian art dealer and curator Martin Kemble, and since then has established an international reputation for it’s “distinct focus on interesting and fresh programming.” This past weekend, I attended an opening vernissage of An Te Liu’s solo exhibit “The Knowing Nothing of the Thing” at Art Labor.

An Te Liu is an internationally recognized artist born in Taiwan, but lives and works in Toronto, Canada. Liu is one of Canada’s most popular contemporary artists, having shown works at The Venice Biennale and The Kunsthalle in Vienna, Austria, and San Francisco MOMA to name a few. He works with a variety of mediums to create installations and sculptures. His exhibition “The Knowing Nothing of the Thing” is also part of a larger arts festival, the 16th China, Shanghai International Arts Festival, for which he was chosen as the premier artist. IMG_5086

“The Knowing Nothing of the Thing” is an exhibit of sculptural works created using bronze, ceramics, hydro-stone and concrete. The result is 25 pieces that vary in size and color, yet all share a connection through their organic forms. Liu drew his inspiration from discarded packing materials of daily consumer goods. The aim of the exhibition is to display the connections between objects and space as it is impossible to discern what the original packing materials were intended for, but can be understood through the pieces relation to the space occupied. In one of his pieces, Liu stacks the same shape several times, organizing them into an entirely new object. Despite being able to connect the pieces to packing materials, the viewer knows nothing about them.

Art Labor’s exhibition of “The Knowing Nothing of the Thing” is an example of the way in which the Shanghai art market is becoming more internationally oriented. In an interview with Smart Shanghai, Martin Kemble stated that it was a priority of Art Labor to showcase works of international artists. One way in which Art Labor has attempted to attract national and international attention is by featuring artists with ties to China but work elsewhere. Additionally their participation with the China Shanghai International Arts Festival shows the galleries’ international agenda as well as Shanghai art market as a whole. The shift of the Shanghai art market of becoming more internationally oriented and recognized is an extremely interesting factor in the art markets development.

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The Museum Boom: Power Station of Art

Power Station of Art

Power Station of Art

In the past couple years Shanghai has seen an exponential growth in museums. According to the New York Times in 2011 alone 390 new museums opened. During this building boom museums have only seen small increases in funding and many are struggling to attract visitors. For instance NPR has reported that by noon on an average weekday Power Station of Art, one of the largest government funded museums in Shanghai, has only seen 200 visitors.

Power Station of Art is the first government-backed museum of contemporary art in China. It is housed in a renovated power plant and located right across the river from another major government funded museum, Shanghai Art Palace. There are currently two exhibitions on show, Cartier Time Art and Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave. Despite these high profile exhibits the museum is extremely empty for a city of 24 million and you can often find yourself standing alone in the exhibition halls looking at the breathe taking pieces.

The Ninth Wave, Installation, 2014

The Ninth Wave, Installation, 2014

Cai Guo-Qiang is a renowned Chinese artist currently living and working in New York City.When I visited Power Station of Art last week I was blown away by his exhibit the Ninth Wave. The featured piece for which the exhibition is named, The Ninth Wave, is a large-scale installation featuring a fishing boat carrying fabricated animals. The animals all appear to be seasick representing their inability to stop the deterioration of the environment. In addition to several large scale installations the exhibition also includes canvas and gunpowder pieces, porcelain and gunpowder pieces, and videos of his explosive shows. In his work I couldn’t help but see a mix of both conventions of ancient Chinese and contemporary art.

All of Cao Guo-Qing’s works relate in one way or another to nature and man’s interaction with it. Some of the most notable materials Cao uses are ones traditionally found or created in China, such as porcelain and gunpowder. He then takes these traditionally Chinese conventions and stretches them to the limits. In his work Head On he draws connections between man and animal to indicate how we often make the same mistakes that animals do. Cao Guo-Qiang also uses porcelain and gunpowder in new and inventive ways as in his work Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter he replaces his canvas with porcelain and his paint with gunpowder.

Head On, Installation, 2006

Head On, Installation, 2006

These works show a Western influence as Cao creates contemporary art, but also relies heavily on Chinese artistic conventions. The influence of Western contemporary art shows a common theme in the development of the Shanghai art market as artists and collectors move away from Ancient Chinese arts and towards modernity. The museum boom is yet another example of the rapid modernization of the art market– as most feature contemporary art– with few dedicated to the art history of China.  These are aspects I will continue to explore in my research of the development of the Shanghai art market.

 

Liuli China Museum

Loretta H. Yang. Healing Hand. 1993

Loretta H. Yang. Healing Hand. 1993

Liuli refers to many things in the eyes of Chang Yi and Loretta H. Yang, co-founders of the Liuligongfan and the Liuli China Museum. It refers to the artifacts found in Western Han Tomb of Emperor Liu Sheng, to ancient Tang poems, Buddhist scriptures and most importantly to the artistic style of Liuli. Liuli is an ancient lead barium glass art form that first appeared during the western Zhou Dynasty. The process referred to by the French name of pate-de-verre can be traced back to 206 B.C.-220 A.D. in China, after which point it was lost.

Visiting the Liuli China Museum located in Shanghai, was my first exposure to Liuli. The museum is currently showing an exhibit called “Why Glass?” which traces the history of glass art from the pioneering works of Emile Galle, to the creation of the American Studio Glass movement, culminating in the museums collection of works by Chang Yi and Loretta H. Yang. While the art pieces themselves where extremely enamoring, what was even more interesting was the history and creation of the museum.

Prior to 1987 Chang Yi and Loretta H. Yang were prominent figures in the film industry, Yi as a movie director and Yang as an actress. In the last project of their collaborative film career the two brought in a collection of glass as set props, soon realizing the collection held pieces from all over the world, except for China. Thus they were inspired to revive the ancient art form of Liuli and established the Liuligongfan in Tamshui, Taiwan in 1987. The creation of this glass studio reintroduced the process of pate-de-verre to China, and glass as an art form in general.

Prior to the creation of the Liuligongfan in 1987, and then the Liuli China Museum in 2006, glass was not seen as a material with which to create art in China. Meanwhile in America the Studio Glass movement began in the 1950s, quickly becoming very popular and spreading to Europe, the UK and Australia, only becoming introduced to China, and Asia as a whole with the creation of Liuligongfan (http://www.cmog.org/article/american-studio-glass-movement). The delay in the introduction of the Studio Glass movement in China is due in part to China closing its doors to western societies in 1949, right at the beginning of the Studio Glass movement, and only opening them in 1973. The Chinese Studio Glass movement has been greatly delayed but is currently gaining recognition as Yi and Yang pioneer this field and gain acclaim throughout the world.

Shanghai Art Scene – Visiting the Shanghai Museum

This week I visited the Shanghai Museum. Shanghai Museum focuses on ancient Chinese art, ranging from sculpture, bronze works, painting, calligraphy, seals, jade works, furniture, coins and Chinese minority art. I toured all the exhibits but thought the four that would be most integral to my study of the development of the Shanghai art market would be the sculptures, bronzes, ceramic pieces and paintings.

The first exhibit I visited was the Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery. Although Buddhism wasn’t introduced to China until the Han dynasties in the 1st century, much of ancient Chinese statuary finds it’s roots in Buddhism, featuring many statues of the Buddha or Buddhist values. Prior to the introduction of Buddhism, statuary typically featured animals. The representation of the figures of dogs, lions, tigers and dragons occur repeatedly. These animals where chosen due to the power and strength their forms represent. The religious pieces also displayed power through the facial expressions on the figures faces and their stances, as well as an emphasis on enlightenment. In ancient statuary the human form is exaggerated so that the head is much larger than natural. This exaggeration emphasizes an importance on the power of the mind. The theme of power and strength is one that occurred repeatedly throughout the other exhibits.

Dog Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D.618-907

Dog Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D.618-907

Lokapala Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D. 618-907

Lokapala Stone, Tang Dynasty A.D. 618-907

Mahavairocana Budda, 2nd Year of Shengming Reigion, A.D. 1163

Mahavairocana Budda, 2nd Year of Shengming Reigion, A.D. 1163

The next exhibition I visited was the Ancient Chinese Bronze. The Bronze Age in China started in the 21st century BC and lasted about 200 years through the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties. The art of bronze casting was a process that was highly technical and bronze pieces were only obtained by those in the upper class. Bronze pieces were a reflection of the owners social status and power. The bronze pieces displayed were weapons (knives, axes ect.) drinking vessels, or musical instruments. In all situations obtaining and using bronze pieces such as these represented power; weapons as a literal representation, and drinking vessels and instruments figuratively as they indicated a high social standing.

Bronze Drum, B.C. 25-220

Bronze Drum, B.C. 25-220

You (Wine Vessel) With Animal Mask, Early Spring &Autumn (770-early 7th century B.C.)

You (Wine Vessel) With Animal Mask, Early Spring &Autumn (770-early 7th century B.C.)

Ancient Axe, Unknown

Ancient Axe, Unknown

After visiting the bronze exhibit, I continued on to the Chinese Ceramics. Walking through this exhibit I found myself making connections between ceramic works created in China too works created in Southern Europe. Up until the discovery of porcelain the development of Chinese ceramics was almost identical to the development of ceramics in Southern Europe. For example one of the Majiayao type vases created between 3100-2700 B.C. has much in common with early Cycladic works of 2300-2200 B.C. Similarities in ceramic pieces between China and Europe continue up until approximately 400BC. The Two Ear celadon shares several similarities with it’s contemporary Greek work Column Crater. In each there is an emphasis on lines, and a similar shape is used. However, at this point in Greek vase painting the focal point shifts towards humanity and designs becomes exceedingly intricate. On the other hand Chinese ceramics becomes more simplified focusing on the shape and form, integrating detailed designs years later. The use of porcelain, which was exclusive to China, is a key factor in the emergence of differences between Chinese ceramics and Southern Europe ceramics. Porcelain allowed artists to create works that were more skilled, and delicate in their creation. This later allowed for more precise and detailed glaze designs. The representation of power, is prevalent as many ceramic pieces feature physical shows of strength or animals which obtain such qualities. Additionally only wealthy Chinese would own porcelain pieces, thus representing a life of luxury, the same way many bronze pieces did.

Painted Pottery Pot with String Pattern, Majiayao Type of Majiayao Culture, 3100-2700 B.C.

Painted Pottery Pot with String Pattern, Majiayao Type of Majiayao Culture, 3100-2700 B.C.

Kernos (vase for multiple offerings), Early Cycladic III-Middle Cycladic !, ca. 2300-2200 B.c. Terracotta

Kernos (vase for multiple offerings), Early Cycladic III-Middle Cycladic !, ca. 2300-2200 B.c. Terracotta

Two Ear Celadon with Vertical Stripes, Warring States, 475-221 B.C.

Two Ear Celadon with Vertical Stripes, Warring States, 475-221 B.C.

Column-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) Classical, ca 430 B.C., red figure.

Column-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) Classical, ca 430 B.C., red figure.

Polychrome Glazed Pottery Statue of Heavenly Guardian, Tang A.D. 618-907

Polychrome Glazed Pottery Statue of Heavenly Guardian, Tang A.D. 618-907

White Glazed Vase, Tang, A.D. 618-907

White Glazed Vase, Tang, A.D. 618-907

Detail of Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

Detail of Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

Vase with Underglaze Blue and Red Design of Dragons and Sea Waves Jingdezhen Ware, Yongzheng Reign (A.D. 1723-1735). Qing

The Chinese Painting Gallery was the last exhibit I visited. Throughout this exhibit I noticed many stylistic elements unique to Chinese painting. Chinese works often include some form of characters, and are typically painted on long scrolls that can extend up to several feet in length. The topic of most of the paintings in this exhibit are nature, and mans interaction with nature. Fishermen by Wu Zhen created in the 13th-14th century shows a highly detailed mountain range with surrounding lakes, and fishermen rowing around the lakes trying to make a living. Despite the time period throughout the exhibit nature is the prevailing topic. Comparatively while many European works featured nature, as time progressed other genres and styles of painting emerged; religious works, portrait painting, genre paintings and many more.  At the same time the Chinese painting Lady with Fan by Fei Danxu was being painted, Eugene Delacroix was painting  Lady Liberty Leading the People. The vast difference in the genre of painting reflects cultural values, and the extreme differences in the development of the art markets.

Zhen, wu. Fishermen. Hanging Scroll. Yuan Dynasty

Zhen, wu. Fishermen. Hanging Scroll. Yuan Dynasty

Cen, Gao. Endless Landscape Scenery. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty

Cen, Gao. Endless Landscape Scenery. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty

Shouping, Yun. Flowers. Album Leaves. Qing Dynasty.

Shouping, Yun. Flowers. Album Leaves. Qing Dynasty.

Danxu, Fei. Lady with a Fan. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty.

Danxu, Fei. Lady with a Fan. Hanging Scroll. Qing Dynasty.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix. 1830.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix. 1830.

Visiting the Shanghai Museum was extremely informative providing a vast amount of knowledge of ancient Chinese art and the beginning of the art market.  In studying the development of the Shanghai art market it is integral that I have background knowledge of these things, which the museum provided me with. I was able to make rudimentary comparisons, which will help to jump-start my research of the development of the Shanghai art market. It was extremely interesting to see how even though European and Asian societies did not have much contact previous to the 15th century, there where many similarities in the art they where producing. I can’t wait to explore more about how the opening of China and the mass contact with European and American societies affected the art market.

 

Sources:

Abattista, Guido. European Encounters in the Age of Expansion. European History Online. 24, January, 2011. Web. 24 September, 2014.

Department of Greek and Roman Art. Athenian Vase Painting: Black- and Red-Figure Techniques. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October, 2002. Web. 24, September, 2014

Department of Painting: French Painting. Liberty Leading the People. Louvre. Web. 24 September, 2014.

 

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