WANG PENG’S WONDERWALL
On November 20, 1993, Wang Peng held a solo exhibition at the short-lived Contemporary Art Gallery at 123 Longfusi Street in Beijing. The name of the show was “93: Wang Peng’s Installation Exhibition,” but there was only one work, entitled “Wall.” At the time, Wang was still a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The gallery was officially part of the preparatory school of the Academy, and each year an exhibition would be put on to showcase the work of professors, any of whom could apply.
Recalling this show, Wang Peng says: “After 1989, it was as if the whole country had stepped backwards into a very conservative state. Installation and performance art were strictly forbidden in public.” At that time, government censorship of exhibitions was commonplace. Right before Wang’s exhibition, a show at the same gallery was shut down after just one day. Confronted with such conditions, Wang decided to go through with “Wall,” spending RMB 700 to have workers seal up the entrance to the gallery overnight. He printed his own posters, with the title “’93: Wang Peng’s Installation Exhibition.” At the time, all artists printed their own posters, and for this one, Wang especially added one line of characters: “Attention: Not Open to Foreigners or Hong Kong/Taiwan Art Dealers.” It was this sentence that made the show a great deal more interesting. In Wang’s words, “Back then when foreigners came to see exhibitions they would often start yapping. And there were very few good art dealers from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Most treated art as business, just selling nudes and landscapes.”
The exhibition opened the next day to a crowd of seven or eight people, Huang Du, Zhao Bandi, Zhang Huan, and Zhu Ming among them. It continued until noon the following day, when the gallery asked Wang to tear “Wall” down. As the show had only been slated to last three days, the gallery’s request effectively helped Wang execute the work in its entirety.
Faced with the frequent censorship that the art world suffered those days, Wang first sealed off his own show (the actual execution of “Wall”), so that when he was asked to demolish “Wall,” the exhibition was ultimately opened. Apparently, the day after the opening, Pi Li, Qiu Xiaofei, and others came to see the installation— the first Pi Li saw in Beijing. Nearly twenty years later at the December 16 opening of the group exhibition “Out of the Box” at Boers-Li Gallery, we had the opportunity to see Wang Peng’s poster one more time.