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The First Today's Documents. Energy: Spirit, Body, Material

October 16 - November 13, 2007

Today Art Museum, Beijing, China

Wang Jin [1962, Datong, China] Wang, 2006 Steel...

Wang Jin [1962, Datong, China]
Wang, 2006

Visit: Beijing Today Art Museum

United under the theme of "Energy––Spirit, Body, Material" this large-scale contemporary art exhibition opens at Beijing Today Art Museum on October 17, 2007 and will be on display till November 13. This is the first time that the Museum will use "independent curatorial system" for such a large-scale and highly academic exhibition; the exhibition will make use of the entirety of the museum's exhibition space and will also include some off-grounds spaces. More than 50 artists working in mediums such as painting, sculpture, installation, photography, etc, will interpret from different angles their understanding of "energy" in contemporary society; these artists are individuals from the contemporary art world who are full of "energy," the public will feel the release of art's energy through their works.

As Beijing Today Art Museum's director, Mr. Zhang Zikang has asked before, as China's first officially recognized and privately owned public art museum, how can the Today Art Museum best define its position among art institutions? How can it find its unique voice amidst the current artistic tides? How can it assume the responsibility of its educational function? These are the issues that the Today Art Museum has devoted its efforts to since it's founding. This inaugural Today's Documents exhibition is poised to answer these and questions of "individual art cases" for all of walks of life in today's society. Examining it from this perspective and within this cultural context the yearlong preparatory process for this first Today's Documents exhibition embodies the collision of art museum and contemporary art, interactivity and the process of realizing energy exchange.

The Shining Stars of Today's Documents

Throughout the initial period of establishing the museum's brand name, the Today Art Museum has already built a reputation for bringing together the best people in contemporary art, Today's Documents vibrant and academic positioning will likewise present a "top notch" crowd of stars. By virtue of our exhibition the brightest stars in Chinese contemporary arts will display their personal "energy," artists from various fields such as Yue Minjun, Chen Wenbo, Li Jikai, Wei Jia, Guo Hongwei, Chen Jie, Li Guangxin, Sui Jianguo, Zhan Wang, Wang Yin, Xiang Jing, Cui Xiuwen, Shi Jinsong, Zhu Jinshi, Wang Luyan, Xia Xiaowan, Zhu Jia, Shi Yong, Wang Jianwei, Yang Fudong, Qiu Zhijie, and Miao Xiaochun, all bring out their most potent and newest "energy."

"Energy" is manifested through creation. According to introduction, this spring at auction Chinese contemporary artist Yue Minjun set a new auction record, to our exhibition he brings his new work the 5 meter long Mao Xinglan (the name of the painter's mother) which he has sketched out on the canvas a maze reflecting the artist's sentiments of being lost in society. Yang Fudong brings the fifth segment of his video work Seven Intellectuals in the Bamboo Forest, in this segment, "The Seventh Intellectual," the setting returns to the city, closing the distance between the artwork and everyday life and enhancing the relationship between man and society as well as our reflections on this relationship. Zhu Jinshi's installation work employs more than 3600 light bulbs to create one enormous light bulb, echoing a kind of analysis of physical energy. Shi Jinsong's work shows directly a pile of burnt charcoal, this display of expended energy assaults the viewers' vision, and at the same time represents the beginning of a new collection of energy.

Huang Du, as artistic director of the First Today's Documents 2007, believes that this exhibition theme is actually describing the state of creation in Chinese contemporary art through spirit, material and body: "Energy is not only shapeless and abstract, it can also be tangible and concrete; it is not only able to make up the promotion of positive significance, it also makes up the destructive power of the underside. No matter what environment the artist is in, all artists will rely on their personal references to interpret energy and the changes that it effects on reality.

"The Stars of the Future" Display the Energy of the Future

Looking around the exhibition hall one can see, Today's Documents is not lacking in new art works from the new comers to the art world, among them more than a handful have never before participated in an exhibition. The Today Art Museum believes, "In choosing these artists we are looking directly at the surge of power latent in the Chinese art world, I really want to exhibit works of art that viewers have not yet seen or have not yet noticed, artists and art works that will compose art's future energy."

Speaking of the unique characteristics of Post 70s generation, or even the Post 80s generation, Huang Du believes them to be more individual, more egotistical, and sees them as having a microscopic view of the world. "They are good at expressing their personal experiences in the world, for example, individual experiences of loneliness and pain, etc., much different from how the previous generation's art work demonstrates social responsibility and reflection of history. It is precisely these things that are the traces of an era, at the same time they are what make up Today's Documents documentary exhibition."

As for standards of participating artists, the curator takes "equilibrium" is his most basic principle. "This is not to speak of a simple equilibrium of the artist's fame, age or specialty, this implies the curator's selection from different realms, and contemplating and choosing artists from various levels, to date this is not a common phenomenon in mainland exhibitions." The exhibition's participating artists span age groups from 25 to over 50 years old, creative mediums range from traditional painting to new painting, from sculpture to installation, from photography to multi-media and include other various methods, putting forth the most experimental, forward-looking trends of Chinese contemporary art.

Today's Documents is Born of an"Independent Curating System"

The concepts of curator and an "independent curating system" are still unfamiliar to many people. "Today's Documents uses international standards in independent curatorial systems, this is done to ensure the vividness, freshness, integrity and quality of the exhibition," stresses museum director Mr. Zhang Zikang. Contemporary art is just now developing and the debate is growing; former exhibition organizational methods of using 'collective curating' had absolutely no academic position. "When several curators collectively put their ideas into one exhibition, we have no way of determining whether the result is academic or some sort of relational equilibrium."

Beijing Today Art Museum not only forbids the participation of any internal members in its exhibitions, it also mandates that independent curators organize all of its exhibitions. "Huang Du's academic positioning is consistent with that of the museum. We respect his academic standpoint and hope that the exhibition is ripe with fresh individualism." Huang Du has a wealth of curatorial experience, having organized many large-scale contemporary art shows both on the mainland and abroad, he expressed to us that not only does the significance lie in the exhibition itself, but in the curator's establishing a series of regulations, "establishing a means of discourse with the art museum, and transmitting this discourse though the exhibition platform, expressing the independent voice of the art museum, and enabling the museum to operate in an optimum environment."

A Contemporary Chinese Art "Energy"?

It's said that the Chinese art "surge" is now at its peak, perhaps not as good as saying that its has emerged from a background of "hot money" that is rolling in. Can this art "fever" prove its energy potential? In this commercial atmosphere does planning an academically oriented exhibition seem outdated? In this regard, curator Huang Du believes that inaugurating Today's Documents is similarly a question to the arts community––what is, after all, behind this art upsurge? By what criteria do people judge what is art?

In recent years various large and small biennales, triennials and documentary exhibitions are emerging in response to an increased demand, in comparison to these, we are not pursuing such an enormous scale, but are examining from a more microscopic view, this is the unique approach of Today's Documents. As Beijing Today Art Museum's director Mr. Zhang has expressed, Today's Documents is an exhibition born of the current climate in Chinese contemporary arts, it has no fixed time, and does not abide by the rigid approaches used in biennales or triennials, it only takes these methods into consideration.

At the same time, the host of Today's Documents and the exhibition curator independently maintain their positions; on one hand, the Today Art Museum promotes the exhibition from the perspective of a major new art movement–– Today's Documents rises along with emerging art movements, new art concepts and art happenings, grabbing onto the most current artistic changes in art and using flexibility and resourcefulness to organize this "documentary exhibit." In this way it captures the use and significance of current documents––approaching contemporary works of art as documentation of today and using tomorrow's vision to define today. On the other hand, the museum officials and curator are attempting to stimulate the visual arts of today, and are committing themselves to establishing a genuine history and academic field that defines itself, a complete regression to the nature of the exhibition. In the preparatory stages of the exhibition, Today's Documents' clear positioning has already aroused the attention of various sectors in society. China Minsheng Bank has established the "Minsheng Art Foundation" in support of the exhibition and Chow Tai Fook fine jewelry has instituted the "Chow Tai Fook Outstanding Female Artist Award" to promote and encourage women in the arts.

Exhibition Title: The First Today's Documents 2007
Exhibition Theme: Energy––Spirit, Body, Material
Artistic Director: Huang Du
Host: Beijing Today Art Museum, Minsheng Arts Foundation

Exhibition Dates and Location:
October 17–November 13, 2007
Opening Reception: 16 October 2007, 4pm
Today Art Museum:
Pinggod District 32 Baiziwan Rd. Bldg 4, Chaoyang District, Beijing

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