Beijing as an important center of artistic culture in China, has attracted 80% of Chinese contemporary artists to live and work here. Meanwhile, it remains an irreplaceable city for anyone who has an interest in contemporary Chinese art as there are over 200 international and local contemporary art galleries spread across various art districts.
Unlike traditional art fairs or biennales, Gallery Weekend Beijing started in 2017 and it was intended that the focus would be on introducing Beijing’s unique artistic zone 798 Art District and its latest contemporary art developments. Contemporary urban structures and human conditions were the main themes for many exhibitions presented at 2018 Gallery Weekend Beijing, which have spread in the 798 and Caochangdi Art Districts. The Second Edition of Gallery Weekend Beijing underwent changes as it tried its best to attract the engagement of an ordinary audience while seeking the next-generation collectors and new patrons of contemporary art. Dramatic transformations of Beijing’s urban nature and social life as well as the love and hate related to the city have been the pervading subjects of contemporary art produced there. 798 Art District (Zone) is composed of decommissioned military factories in the city’s northeastern old industrial area, this area has been revived through art. The shrinking art market in recent years as well as the urban construction in Beijing have greatly affected the ecology of this district. Thus this event could be seen as a rejuvenation for its future development. The main purpose of Gallery Weekend Beijing seemed to lie in the communications between art collectors or potential collectors and artists. Unlike the art fairs or biennales, Gallery Weekend Beijing offers three-day tours for VIP members as well as public events for visitors during a condensed period, opportunities were provided for talks and further communication.
Amber Wang, the Director of Gallery Weekend Beijing, said that they hoped to build a platform not just to introduce art to the world but also the excellence of Chinese artists and art patrons but it was also intended to “prove that Beijing is an open and globalized center for international artists and galleries to hold exhibitions”.
Beijing Commune presented Turner Prize Winner Richard Deacon’s commissioned works from two series “Custom” and “Alphabet” for his first solo show in China. He emphasized on the construction behind the finished object with various materials and transformed the ordinary subjects into his metaphors. Boers-Li Gallery brought the group exhibition entitled “5 X BERLIN” to Beijing, the practices of these five mid-career artists foregrounded the genres that defined contemporary art in Berlin since the 1990s and they continue to challenge modernist notions in the visual field. Carsten Höller’s “Giant Triple Mushroom” occupied the largest space of Galleria Continua, the polyester sculpture stands as a towering testament to the wonder felt at those living, meandering organisms science has still not understood. New York–based Sarah Morris’s first solo show in Beijing, “Odysseus Factor,” revealed the surreal conditions interweaving the rapidly developing urban landscape with state capitalism, and act as a metaphor for bureaucracy in the globalized arena.
Liu Wei’s solo exhibition “Shadows” at Long March Space continued to reflect his sensitivity towards urban texture in China’s post-planning ear. While Human secretion, uncommon oral movement, even blood seeking creatures were used in Wang Haiyang’s recent creations for his second solo show with White Space Beijing, the artist combined an individual, immediate, sensational experience with the total life experience, for a pure consumption of life. Shao Fan kept challenging the audience’s ordinary viewing experience with his recent works of new imagery. “His works bespeak an almost obsessive fascination of Chinese traditional culture and its peculiar appreciation of Oldness”(Appreciation of Oldness, West Tiangezhuang Village, 2012). Liu Xiaohui’s new works presented in ShanghART have gradually switched from a painting style with a hint of narrative to an exploration of the ontology of painting which sounds to be more reliable and realistic.
The exhibition, entitled “The Precariousness,” at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing showcases recent projects by eight artists and three collectives. Various mediums have been used to take up the case of China to indicate the fact that world map has been transformed and folded, becoming ever more tightly connected to the revolving order and intertwining entanglement of global capitalism. Specifically, the presence of population distribution and management systems such as the city-countryside dual system and the household registry act as structural impediments to population mobility, at times increasing interregional tensions, marginalization, and inequality. It is such an attempt to respond to demands that we abandon simple global/local dichotomies, embracing the world while remaining rooted in our locality.
In recent years, a series of urban “renewal” policies forced many artists to leave their studios and many practitioners abandoned downtown businesses (including bookstores and independent art spaces), and countless migrant workers were kicked out of the suburban slums. The survival space for migrant artists seem to be less and less. Unlike prominent artists, it was more difficult for emerging artists to have their work exhibited or represented by galleries. The development of the 798 Art District has been accompanied with criticism that it grew more commercialized. Would Gallery Weekend Beijing actually bring new opportunities for the urban art ecology in the future? No matter what, without goals art life is not worthwhile.