We remember the art world highlights of the past 12 months, and ask some of its movers and shakers what they have in store moving forward.
Anna Eschbach, I: Project Space
One of the biggest achievements for I: Project Space
was the second edition of the Independent Art Spaces Festival (IAS), which took place in August and was a collaboration among several spaces. In 2016, we concentrated more on the question of what an independent art space is in comparison to museums or galleries. We were able to invite groundbreaking and interesting projects from all over Beijing to join. We will have the third edition of IAS this August, and are also currently working on a publication that will collect material from the previous two years and pay tribute to some of the projects that helped shape the scene. This publication will be launched in spring, together with an Independent Art Spaces Archive to continue to document the work that is being done in Beijing.
A beautiful addition to the art and culture scene in the hutongs is the newly opened Cultural Center in Neibuwujie, close to Dongsi. The team there was responsible for organising the One Hutong Festival in September. It was amazing to see how lively an interaction between art and a community can be, and to realise art projects in the public space was a unique treat! We will continue working with the Cultural Center for a new exhibition format called ‘Window’, for which we will use one of the community windows as an introduction to international projects by artists, curators and institutions from all around the world.
In 2016 we also realised one of our biggest dreams by opening a publishing house, Tria. We launched our first three books last autumn, all close collaborations with artists. After Chinese New Year, we will open a new residency space and second exhibition space in the hutongs around Baitasi. We are thrilled to have the chance to host more exciting projects from all around the world in this brand-new residency space and explore the life around the White Pagoda.
Emma Law, M Woods
Aside from Andy Warhol: Contact, which has been popular beyond our expectations, another highlight for
the M Woods
in 2016 was presenting All Means are Sacred
, a selection of works central to the philosophy and future ambitions of M Woods – works that spoke to clarity, romance and timelessness across generations, geographies, cultures and histories. Organising Summer Art Night in June was also very special for us. Working with other galleries and institutions brought a palpable sense of community to 798, and to see street food, performance, live music and around 5,000 people come to the area was spectacular.
This year is a big one for us, as in addition to presenting three exhibitions at the museum, we are opening a new space in Sanlitun. Unlike some museums which are getting bigger, this is a smaller space, which we intend to use as a platform to present the work of emerging artists. When we were born in the ’80s and ’90s, Sanlitun was a radical place and one of the beating pulses of the underground scene – perhaps because of the diplomatic community, there was more scope to host experimental exhibitions. We’d like our new space to reclaim some of that territory, amidst a shopping and entertainment landscape today, which is like that of any other international city.
Kerryn Leitch, Loreli
For 2016, I was extremely proud of the exhibition of emerging Chinese artists that Loreli
put together at Más, As Long As We Have Fun
, and the Loreli Affordable Art Market. Both events perfectly supported Loreli
’s purpose: to promote emerging artists that don’t find it easy to get into the 798 system. I was really pleased with what we were able to achieve with the exhibition, as some artists had extremely detailed and complete mission statements for their work and were able to sell prints and expand their audience, while other artists used it to sure up their confidence and really begin to see themselves as artists rather than hobbyists.
The market was an experiment. Yulia Lobyntseva from the Bookworm lamented that at the many markets held in their space there were always artists whose art was admired, but patrons always threw their money down for vintage clothes and bagels instead. She pitched the idea of an art market to me, and we ran with it. It was only supposed to be a one-off, but the artists enjoyed it so much that we’ve been encouraged (bullied) into running it more regularly. It’s always a great day, and the quality of the art is incredible considering the price tag.
This year, Loreli is going to do its best to shed its ‘laowai media’ label and try to go deeper into the local emerging art scene. I don’t have any events planned yet, but I have planned a series of articles on the small hutong galleries of Gulou.
Cruz Garcia, Intelligentsia Gallery
’s highlight for 2016 was A Great Event is in the Making, But No One Has Noticed.
Marked in the form of a two-year salon exhibition with 24 artists and artist collectives – one for every month the gallery had been open – it showed Intelligentsia’s global ambitions. Another highlight was Hypertext
, which we presented in collaboration with The Door. An exhibition to be ‘read’ rather than to be looked at, it was a take on the diverse ways artists engage with the symbolic, semiologic, philologic, political, abstract and philosophical imperatives of language.
In 2017, Intelligentsia will have its third anniversary exhibition, a series of small one-person and collective
exhibitions including works by Xiao Xiao and Oliver Haidutschek. We will also continue with our exhibition and publication programme, which includes artists’ books as well as children’s publications.
Alan Yeung, Ink Studio
2016 was a great year for Ink Studio
, which only recently celebrated its third birthday. At our Beijing gallery we continued our record of museum-quality milestone exhibitions of major artists. For example, last May we debuted ink painter Li Jin’s new series of monochrome paintings in the expressionistic daxieyi
style, a striking departure from the colourful paintings of contemporary life that he is best known for. This was followed by a show of ‘Chaos Script’, the latest and most radical innovation by Wang Dongling, China’s most famous calligrapher. Our most recent show was on the contemporary calligraphy of Wei Ligang, with a significant section devoted to material and video documentation of his career from the late ’80s onwards.
We have been busy preparing a solo show with Tai Xiangzhou for February, and another with Yang Jiechang for May or June. Tai Xiangzhou is a painter who is equally well versed in art history and astronomy. Coinciding with his presentation during Asia Art Week in New York, his show will feature some fantastic ink paintings of landscapes and rocks that evoke extraterrestrial worlds and uncover the astronomical content of traditional art. Yang Jiechang’s solo show will coincide with a major 60th-birthday
retrospective at Minsheng Art Museum, and will be the first time his Thousand Layers of Ink series is systematically presented. Yang began this series in the landmark 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and it is extremely important in the history of contemporary Chinese art.
Jenny Fung, Long March Space
For Long March Space
, I would say that we had a lot of challenges last year. Since we began representing Chen Tianzhuo in 2015, we were glad to have his solo show Ishvara
in our gallery last summer. He infused new blood into Long March Space. At the end of 2016, we held the group show Trembling Surfaces
, which gathered nine emerging young artists from around the world. We saw new faces here, and got inspired. To be honest, as one of the oldest galleries in 798, we are getting more and more vibrant. This year, Long March Space will have solo shows for Wu Shanzhuan, Inga Svala Thorsdottir and Chen Chieh-jen.
Chen Tianzhuo, Asian Dope Boys
The performance I did at Long March Space, Ishvara, and the Asian Dope Boys parties in Beijing and Shanghai were my highlights for 2016. Asian Dope Boys did a Christmas party before [Shanghai club] The Shelter closed – that is the best party I had this year. I also especially liked Lu Yang’s solo exhibition at NYU and Duck Fight Goose’s album release shows in Beijing and Shanghai last year. For 2017, I will stage both Ishvara and a new production in Lisbon, Vienna, Hamburg and Graz.
Wan, Beijing Commune
Commune held five exhibitions in 2016: Liang Shuo’s 'Temple of Candour', Yu Ji’s 'Black Mountain', Ma Qiusha’s 'Wonderland', Zhao Yao’s 'The Last Egg', and
Shang Yixin’s '一一'.
It was the first time for us to hold solo shows for both Liang Shuo and Yu Ji.
Beijing Commune has always been committed to mining a new generation of young
artists, and in the past year, from the selection of the artists to the
arrangement of the exhibitions, we’ve stuck to this idea. In addition to
showcasing our regular active artists in 2017, Beijing Commune will also
present our first solo exhibition for a foreign artist: Richard Deacon, a
famous British sculptor and recipient of the Turner Prize. We’ve been working on
this show for a long time, and are very much looking forward to it!
Yuan Fuca, Salt Projects
will focus on publication and research-based projects in 2017. We will open the
exhibition season with a solo project from a Chinese American artist, and a
collection show from an Argentinian museum. We will also continue our monthly
performance happenings. Aside from that, we will also host a screening program
from the Anthology Film Archive.