ForewordThe newest exhibition of the Hubei fine art museum will probably be the place to be for every amateur of contemporary objets d’art in Wuhan. Not only the visit will provide a feeling of smartness, felt when one enjoys the view of cleverness, it is as well a matter of fashion. Featuring the collection of a famous Chinese gallerist, Cheng Xindong, this exhibition is co-organized by the french consulate in Wuhan.
Therefore I will assume a different way of looking at those artworks: the Han exhibition was organized by a strong historical background, reliefs unearthed in China; the exhibition about Chen Zijun was the work of a unique artist; the lacquer exhibition was also unified by the same medium for every artists; this exhibition is a collection of an art expert, a professional of the art market. Careful, he is not a creator himself, and you will find here works from a dozen of different artists, either Chinese, American or European.
By the way, most of the works displayed here can be usually seen in Beijing, more precisely in Dashanzi, the north-east suburb of the capital dedicated to contemporary artistic life.
The exhibition itself is divided into three rooms. In the first two you can admire different kind of sculptures. In the last one you can learn more about Cheng Xindong himself. To be honest, not like the person who wrote the poster of the exhibition, you will find not only sculptures here but also different kind of installations, to use a fashionable world of art, made out of wood, plastic as you will see in the pictures in this article. You can also find a painting, probably miserable and sad to be called a sculpture.
Hasty readers will, hopefully, forgive me for this paragraph but I would like to show some urbanity in my judgments. I said this exhibition was about contemporary art but to be more precise, I should add conceptual art. May I also cite pop art, kitsch, surrealism? All of those would be considered slightly out of fashion in the west, but we can see here influences very close to Jeff Koons or Takashi Murakami, two of the most popular contemporary artists recently.
In fact, this exhibition should be praised as a good occasion to educate the public eye to contemporary art. Unfortunately considered as ugly (as if beauty had any relationship with art), un-understandable (can we understand masterpieces and their endless mystery?) and too complex (are Rembrandt’s paintings simple). Please note that by educating the public eye I think about Chinese people, indeed not familiar with this kind of creations (When you have a Qi Baishi, do you need anything else?), but also about Wuhan Social readers from all over the world.
What would be a contemporary art exhibition without kitsch ?
As this concept of kitsch might not be familiar to some readers I might as well give a couple exemples to clarify it.
The feeling of smartness I was talking about is especially aroused by conceptual art, where the idea underneath the creation is clearly indicated (as a price on a good) and the material dimension of the work itself is neglected.
Chinese society as a topic
This exhibition has a clear political agenda. China is important in the globalized art trade world, and Cheng Xindong is a part of this success. Traditionally, London and Paris are known as world capitals of trendy productions, for a historical reasons. The US is also known as the biggest consumer of favored art. But actually the Chinese art market, as a consequence of China’s economic growth rate, is now preponderant in the world.
References to Chinese culture and society are then omnipresent. It will be a most interesting topic to discuss with your Chinese friends if you can go there with them.
Socialism is also a theme very dear to Cheng Xindong, like every person with a good heart proud to see the ideas of its country glorified.
Due to globalization, China is affected by western influence, more precisely American one. Of course you can find works of artists from other countries, like this installation magnifying Qi Baishi.
In a very expected way American pop-culture is associated with consumer society and therefore denounced as a threat for local culture.
The same idea can be put more straightly in a very bold way
Because of Cheng Xindong personal life, who spent a lot of time studying and dealing art stuff in France, this country also has a special place in this exhibition: it seems to me France represents here the classical western influence, as opposed with the American pop-culture. Therefore this exhibition has a second message: France will accompany China in its effort to be an important country of contemporary art.
What city do we want for tomorrow?
But let us not forget that this exhibition is about China, more precisely about one of its most urgent problem, like in other parts of the world. How to construct tomorrow’s city? How to build enough housing for a continuously growing population?
When your wish is granted
I want both of those in my office
And here comes again the theme of decoration and uselessness and I was so thrilled to see the come back of lacquer in some of those pieces.
Weird things happen
Chinese museology improving step by step
Monsieur Cheng Xindong
Do not miss the third room, dedicated to Cheng Xingong achievements and personal works as well as his fashionable photographs. Do not forget your French friend, along with the Chinese one, to explain you pictures and books’ titles.
What to think after this exhibition?
I advise those who have not seen the movie to watch Achilles and the Tortoise or, for those who have not read the book, L’Œuvre d’Émile Zola.