The Armory Show Puts China Into Focus
The Armory Show, New York's sprawling contemporary art fair that takes place on two former marine piers on the Hudson River, will put the spotlight on Chinese artists when it runs Thursday to Sunday.
For the first time in its 16 years of existence, the annual event will dedicate extra attention to China after naming the country its 'focus session' for the fair. (The Armory Show typically chooses one geographical region for one focus session each year.)
However, the China section won't include the country's biggest names on the global art market. Instead of rolling out the usual suspects -- Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, say -- the 17 invited galleries from China and Hong Kong are exhibiting up-and-comers like Xu Zhen, Zhao Yao and Wang Luyan.
'The theme is to show the dynamism of contemporary art in China,' said Philip Tinari, director of Beijing's Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, who curated the fair's Armory Focus: China section. The works from China will also serve as an eye-opener for New York's jaded art world, not least because many of the artists on show have never exhibited overseas -- mostly, these days, by choice.
'In the '90s, Chinese artists needed a show abroad, because they couldn't show anywhere inside China,' Mr. Tinari said. 'Today there are so many opportunities in their home market, so it takes extra effort for them to think about going beyond that.'
The fair's spotlight will shine brightest on Xu Zhen, the Armory Show's commissioned artist for 2014. Born in 1977 in Shanghai, Mr. Xu belongs to a generation that never experienced the Cultural Revolution and is more interested in conceptual art than realistic figurative painting. The latter is a hallmark of works by the most popular contemporary Chinese artists at auctions.
Among the pieces Mr. Xu produced for the fair is 'Action of Consciousness,' an installation in which two performers and 50 large sculptures are hidden in a large 10-foot enclosed white cube. From within the cube, the sculptures are thrown into the air to be viewed by the audience for just the split second they emerge.
Katie de Tilly, director of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong, is bringing the works of Huang Rui and Wang Keping, artists who were early pioneers in China's contemporary art movement. While auction houses have been instrumental in educating the world about Chinese art, much of the art sold at auction is in the style of 'cynical realism,' Ms. de Tilly said. That means the West still has had little exposure to 'the really good art [that] rarely leaves China as it is not necessarily commercial.'
Beijing Commune is bringing works by Zhao Yao, an artist from Luzhou, Sichuan province, born in 1981 whose paintings often resemble geometric shapes atop patterned backgrounds. Pekin Fine Arts is bringing Wang Luyan, a Beijing-born painter who comments on world geopolitics by coloring the gears of a watch with the flags of nations.
The artists on show, Mr. Tinari said, reflect two major forces in China's contemporary art scene. The first is 'a new group of younger artists, who see themselves as part of an international conversation.' The second: 'the resurgence of ink painting. It says something about China's willingness to embrace its own traditions as contemporary art.'
In addition to highlighting art works from China, the fair is holding a symposium focused on topics related to art in China, from the country's private museum boom to the state of the art market.
Adrian Cheng, the 34-year-old Hong Kong jewelry heir behind the K11 Art Foundation that is sponsoring the talks, said, 'There has never been so many Chinese galleries going to New York.'
'The timing is significant. You've a new leadership in China and the general feeling we're at a turning point,' he added. 'It's time to showcase a new generation.'
尤伦斯当代艺术中心(Ullens Center for Contemporary Art)馆长田霏宇(Philip Tinari)说，主题是要展示中国当代艺术的活力。田霏宇负责此次展会的“军械库焦点”(Armory Focus)：中国部分。来自中国的作品还将使纽约缺乏新意的艺术世界眼前一亮，原因之一在于参展的很多艺术家从未自己选择在海外办过展览。
徐震为展会创作的作品之一是《意识行动》(Action of Consciousness)。在这个装置作品中，两名表演者和50个大型雕塑被藏在一个10英尺（约合3米）高的巨型封闭白立方体中。表演者从立方体内将雕塑扔到空中，观众可以看到这些雕塑出现的一刹那。
香港10号赞善里画廊(10 Chancery Lane Gallery)的馆长Katie de Tilly将带来黄锐和王克平的作品。这两位艺术家是中国当代艺术运动的早期先驱。de Tilly说，尽管拍卖行在让世界了解中国艺术方面发挥了一定的作用，拍卖会上的艺术品大部分都属于“讽刺现实主义”风格。这意味着西方仍几乎未接触到真正好的艺术作品，这类作品很少走出中国，因为它们不一定是商业作品。
北京公社(Beijing Commune)将带来赵要的作品。赵要来自四川泸州，出生于1981年，他的画作常常描画的是带有图案的背景之上的几何形状。北京艺门(Pekin Fine Arts)将带来北京画家王鲁炎的作品。王鲁炎用各国的国旗图案装饰手表里的部件，表达出自己对世界地缘政治的看法。
34岁的香港珠宝巨头继承人郑志刚(Adrian Cheng)说，从来没有那么多的中国画廊去纽约参展。郑志刚是此次座谈会的赞助商K11 Art Foundation的主席。