Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum in collaboration with New Century Art Foundation (NCAF) will present a group show of contemporary Chinese art titled “Everyday Legend” from November 8 to December 7. Curated by Jiang Jiehong and Nan Nan, the exhibition will feature 19 artists. Varying from painting, sculpture, installation and animation, these pieces aim to cast light on the artists’ research into and reflection upon the interplay between art and traditional crafts in the form of contemporary art.
Launched by the NCAF in 2014, this research-based curatorial project aims to probe into the inheritance of Chinese culture from the perspective of contemporary art in order to further investigate into and reflect upon the evolution and inheritance of the cultural threads, and to reveal the cultural dilemmas that are faced by China today. The project intends to cast critical light on the nation’s developmental strategy on culture, the progress of urbanization, the ever-changing social contexts and the construction of the educational systems. Under the backdrop of globalization, this project encourages artists and traditional craftsmen to deliver an effective communication and interaction to the public. What this exhibition wants to present is not merely how traditional handiwork can be applied and re-applied in the practice of contemporary art, but the fact how the role of these traditional practices is seriously marginalized and even endangered in people’s daily life nowadays. By doing so, it looks forward to arousing people’s awareness, in one way or another, about the issue of cultural disconnection.
During the past three years, a series of thematic seminars, field surveys, and visits to artists’ and craftsmen’s studios have been conducted. In the meantime, in-depth dialogues and explorations by contemporary artists and scholars have not only extended the dimension of our curatorial methodology of the project but also further supported the practice of artists. “Everyday Legend” at Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum can be reckoned as the presentation and a visual summarization of the fruits fostered by all the research during the past three years.
“Legend” does not come out of nowhere but it has to be embedded in the cultural origin of the material and the non-material. It derives from the tradition and goes back to tradition. To revisit the “legend” aims to propose critical views in the contemporary context, that are based on the respect and in-depth research of “origin”, as a way to effectively preserve, restore, extend and reinvent the tradition. “To revisit” does not mean to negate the tradition; On the contrary, it is a gesture to retrieve what has disappeared, to question the shoddy and low-quality techniques that are now almost everywhere, and to re-evaluate the creative insight slying in folk crafts as well as the cultural value it could generate today. It is the core of this project that to save the tradition, it is not simple a recovery or appropriation in the contemporary context; rather, it is in nature a progressive re-production.
Artists through their different perspectives and visual practices, probe into and respond to this overarching theme. The exhibition can be roughly divided into four threads of thinking and strategies, namely “Inheritance”, “Borrowing” the “Shape”, “Referencing” the “Materials” and Legend. All these four themes overlap and interact with each other.
“Inheritance”, evidently, means to learn from the ancestors and the nature. “Borrowing the Shape” refers not to the simple appropriation of visual forms, but the rediscovery of its contemporary aesthetic value during the process of borrowing. “Referencing the Materials” emphasizes more on the new visual exploration into the materials and the traditional techniques deriving from them than on merely taking reference from traditional materials. “Legend” intends to cast light on the fact that traditional crafts to a large extent are passed down generations by generations by mouth rather than in writing, which inevitably leads to some missing pieces during the course of time; but in the meantime, it also raises the possibilities for people to make their own creative interpretation and innovation.
A themed symposium will be organized during the exhibition. Scholars from different disciplines will be invited to share their views upon this project and the vision it represents. Public educational programmes will also accompany the exhibition, it will include talks and a series of workshops by artists and academics.
About the Curators
Professor Jiang Jiehong is Director of Research at the Birmingham School of Art and Director of Centre for Chinese Visual Arts at Birmingham City University. He has got extensive research and curatorial experiences in contemporary Chinese art andvisual culture. His recent curatorial projects include: Guanxi (Guangdong Art Museum and Today Art Museum, 2011), the 4th Guangzhou Triennial:The Unseen (2012), the 3rd Asia Triennial Manchester: Harmonious Society (2014), The Shadow Never Lies (21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, 2016) and The Distant Unknown: Contemporary Art from Britain (OCAT Shanghai, 2016). He is also the editor of Burden or Legacy: from the Chinese Cultural Revolution to Contemporary Art (Hong Kong University Press, 2007), and author of The Revolution Continues: New Art from China (Saatchi Gallery and Random House, 2008), Red: China’s Cultural Revolution (Random House, Jonathan Cape, 2010) and An Era without Memory: Chinese Contemporary Photography on Urban Transformation (Thames and Hudson, 2015).
Nan Nan is the president of the New Century Art Foundation, a non-for-profit foundation aiming to study and promote Chinese contemporary art. Thanks to her extensive experience and insights into the fields of public welfare and arts, Nan Nan has been working on figuring out a new operational mode of art foundation in China since NCAF’s establishment in 2014 in the hope to make foundations a true alternative force for the development of contemporary art. Nan Nan once served as the vice director of Today Art Museum and was one of the key figures in the management and development of TAM, the first privately-funded art museum in China. During her seven years working as the vice director, she was in charge of operation, marketing, exhibition and public education, and co-curated exhibitions such as “Today Archival Exhibition”, “Guanxi: Contemporary Chinese Art” and “FAT ART”. In the meantime, she has always put an eye on the development of young artists and has launched a series programmes including “Focus on the Future Art Talents Program” to support emerging artists.
About the Exhibition
Opening: 17:00 November 7, 2016
Date: November 8-December 7, 2016
Host: Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, New Century Art Foundation
Curators: Jiang Jiehong, Nan Nan
Artists: Hao Liang, Hu Xiaoyuan, He Xiangyu, Liang Shaoji, Liang Yuanwei, Liu Jianhua, Lu Pingyuan, Ni Youyu, Sui Jianguo, Sun Xun, Shi Jinsong, Shao Yinong, Wu Yiming, Yu Ji, Yang Mushi, Yang Xinguang, Zheng Guogu, Zhan Wang, Zhao Zhao
Courtesy of the artists and Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, for further information please visit www.minshengart.com.