Go Figure! Contemporary Chinese Portraiture

Art Life , Exhibitions Oct 12, 2012 No Comments

From Andrew Frost

Contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei recently spoke out against the very idea of contemporary Chinese art claiming that it does not exist. What he meant was that contemporary art is based on the idea that it has a critical relationship with its time and context and, in an authoritarian state with little in the way of Western-style democracy, it serves merely as window dressing for a lack of such criticality. Yet Chinese contemporary art does exist, and has done for decades. Go Figure! Contemporary Chinese Art at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation is drawn from the collection of Uli Sigg, a Swiss businessman, diplomat and art collector who has been collecting work since the late 1970s.

Split between Canberra and Sydney, the SCAF portion of the exhibition includes work by Shen Shaomin, Wang Jianwei, Zhou Tao and recalcitrant critic Ai Weiwei himself. The key work of the show is Old People’s Home by Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, a collection of life-like world leaders confined to wheel chairs, some perhaps sleeping, many perhaps dead. While gently critical, the work is also ambiguous, leaving the viewer wondering just what is being said – a position familiar to Western audiences.

Until December 1
Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Paddington
Pic: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Old People’s Home [detail], 2007, mixed media installation. Detail. Courtesy M+ Sigg Collection, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation and National Portrait Gallery.

Andrew Frost

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