Shanghai History in Making from 1979 till 2009

436 Jumen Rd., Shanghai, China

9 september - 10 october 2009


Curatorial Concept:
As highly active and experimental, artist groups in Shanghai have long played an important role in the shaping of the contemporary art world in China. History in the Making: Shanghai 1979 – 2009 intends to trace an all-encompassing overview of the Shanghai contemporary art scene since 1979 through to the present. This exhibition would encourage discussion around three aspects, and the curatorial framework will help to clarify the sequential role the Shanghai art groups have played within the larger framework of the development of Chinese contemporary art in general. This exhibition is not only an overview of the Shanghai contemporary art scene, but also the first time that several generations of characteristic artists from Shanghai (including different age groups, different artistic approaches) have been brought together in the form of an exhibition. In this way, the exhibition also is an accumulation of the city’s cultural growth and current status through the perspectives and attitudes of nearly 50 artists and cultural practitioners who have contributed to the urban culture of Shanghai. We can comfortably say that History in the Making: Shanghai 1979 – 2009 will be a 3-dimensional historical analysis of the Shanghai contemporary art scene. The exhibition would sort through and explore the multiple layers of the social and cultural fabric of Shanghai, taking note of several important clues:

First, the exhibition will reflect upon the cultural background of Shanghai: from 1979 through to the present, how have the historical trends of the Shanghai contemporary art scene, within a larger cultural perspective, influenced the individual reflections of the practitioners? How have their artworks developed over time, and how are they closely connected to the social background from which they emerge?

The exhibition will also reflect upon the use and adaptation of different artistic languages: from the performative works in the 80s to installations in the early 90s, art groups in Shanghai were always the first in China to experiment with new artistic languages and presentation tools. Many of the active artistic venues in Shanghai were used as places to practice and experiment with different mediums, while none of the other artistic centers of China could compare to the brave and abundant wisdom of Shanghai during this period.
Finally, the exhibition will reflect upon the various styles of presentation developed over the years: this exhibition has consciously avoided the typical mode of presentation for an overview of this scope. The placement and curation of the works by the artists on show will be decided after discussions between the artists and the curator, taking into account the current status of the different artists. The presentation of the individual artists will be informed by the following considerations: The important turning points in an artist’s career, including early works or symbolic objects that express some evolutionary step.
Certain installations from the early 90s will be reproduced, since few have been preserved to this day as a result of the limitations of available resources, materials and space. Thus, the artists will attempt to restore the original status of the installation using modern techniques. The accepted creative style of years past will be adopted as a starting point to create new artworks that reference also the contemporary attitude, using the realities of the present day as the materials for creation. The works could also reflect the current social background and society today.
The overall exhibition of individual artistic documents and works will present the many attitudes of the artists, and whether or not they were consistent throughout the development of their personal artistic histories or if they have changed along with the times and places. Some artists will exhibit their recent works, which also helps to fill the generational gap of participating artists, and will further explicate the historical changes of the Shanghai contemporary art scene.

The last part of the exhibition invites young artists in Shanghai to re-experience or re-consider the historical works. With the establishment of this link, the curator hopes the younger generation will connect more intimately with the history of artistic development in China and abroad, and warns against cultural amnesia and the loss of the history of art.

This exhibition is the work of curator Biljana Ciric, who has been actively collecting the many historical documents from Shanghai contemporary art exhibitions over the years and interviewing over 30 artists so far. All interview materials will be sorted out and published along with other exhibition brochures.
The exhibition hopes to reveal to the great extent that Shanghai contemporary art groups have contributed to the development of contemporary art nationwide, while detailing the individual processes of development and creative clues that are visible in the presentation of the various materials and works. In recognition of the artistic strength it requires to operate at this scale of activity, it is important to note that numerous local arts institutions, such as the Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art and the Ke Center for Contemporary Art, have provided supported to the exhibition.