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Philip Tinari, Director, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, July 9, 2015

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Philip Tinari, Director, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, July 9, 2015
Image courtesy of Artnet News

 

Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors.

 

 

Finally, we are at a point where work by Chinese artist is not interesting only because of what it says about China. It’s not only interesting in the context of a giant group show about China; it’s interesting on its own terms. Chinese artists are full participants in the global art world.

How do you see the growth of international interest in Chinese art in the recent years?

You see that happening. You can see that around here at the fair. There are wonderful mainland galleries showing their stables, but you also have increasingly younger Chinese artists inserted into the stables of galleries from around the world. You look at Huang Ran at Simon Lee, and of course Yang Fudong at Marian Goodman, and Xu Qu and Almine Rech, and on and on and on, the list goes on. It’s really exciting mainly because it just means there are so many new possible communities of interests for this work.

How did the growth of the Chinese art scene begin?

There was a fear in the beginning that that initial wave of foreign interests will dry out, and the Chinese scene will be kind of like the very vibrant Russian scene at the very end of Soviet Union. So through the 2000s, people kept asking that question what happens when the interest goes away. And then what happened in the mid-2000s is that the domestic market overrode. So you suddenly had a significant collector base inside of China. And what we see now is that collector base growing and growing, and also growing more interested in art from outside of China. But, you know, in absolute terms, continuing to expand.

What should we be cautious of amidst the rapid growth of the China art scene?

I think what we actually need to be careful of is that things stay in sinc with the rest of the world. I mean, just give an example, you look around now you see works by very well established younger European artists selling for fractions of the prices of works by less established Chinese artist. That a function of the fact that Chinses collectors and the Chinese art world and its information-sphere is still somewhat self-contained. There are not necessarily the links to cultures of institution, no exhibition, global foundation and other kinds of networks. So on the level of young artists, it really does mean that there just need a bit of caution, because the last thing you want is a sphere where certain market standing and prices are out of sinc with global norms.

How are the key characteristics of the young Chinese artists today?

This is a generation that has no direct experience of what I would like to call high socialism, the period between [19]49 to [19]79, when China was basically a communist country. They have grown up entirely in the 80s and 90s. They started making work and practice as artists, kind of after the year 2000, and in a lot of cases, even after the year 2008, as there has been an actual system for contemporary art in China, unlike the early artists, who were kind of underground revolutionary, and sort of then came into the light, a little further along in their careers. So, I mean one issue is that I think a lot like the baby boomers were in the America, who were born after the war, there is a sense on this generation of the post 1980s, what we have called in our show, the “On and Off” generation, that they are the center of the universe. That’s a historical condition. They are also the generation of only children. That of course that adds to this feeling in a very significant way.

How does these young artist differ from the older generation of Chinese artists?

You know, what’s interesting is to look at how they still engage with the situation and condition and realities of China in ways that are not so direct. Earlier generation could take sort of image from political posters and critique it directly, in this kind of symbolic manner. I think this generation is much more ambiguous, ambivalent and multivalent, and less unified in terms of particular visual style, but still, I think, deeply critical of the world around it in many cases. The biggest threat is that, it seems like such a race in China now, with this kind of emerging market mentality. I think artists sometimes felt pressured just to keep up with all of these kind of profession developments. And that is sort of distracts from sort of more pure kind of attention to one’s practice and development of it.

 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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