Disappointment finally reaches a climax at the end of a journey through the eight cities—Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Marl, Mülheim, Recklinghausen—participating in the exhibition “CHINA 8.” Rather than an in-depth overview into the diversity of contemporary art in China, it offers only quantitative superlatives. Among painting, photography, calligraphy, installation, sculpture, and video from established and very young artists, many notable, important, and talented artists remain absent. Even after the marathon through all the stations of the show, the themes artists currently cope with are difficult to grasp.
A total of 500 works from 120 artists are scattered across nine museums. It is impossible to discern any selection criteria through the tour. Walter Smerling, director of the Museum Küppersmühle, said that the show would be the best ever held, and might change views of Chinese art on an international scale. This ostentatious proclamation—an advertising slogan meant only to attract the sponsors—was seemingly let loose without asking how it might become a reality. Perhaps the question never crossed Smerling’s mind, as his collaboration remains confined to regional museums hardly known outside the country.
The event is more closely related to economic interests than art or its themes and debates. Speeches at the opening ceremony were translated into neither English nor Chinese, leaving the many Chinese artists who traveled to the opening to stand outside smoking and killing time. The three main texts in the 493-page heavy, red catalogue, co-authored by Smerling; Tobia Bezzola, of the Museum Folkwang, Ferdinand Ulrich, director of the museum in Recklinghausen; Fan Di’an; and Philip Tinari; circle very generally around questions of what has changed in today’s Chinese art world without concern for background knowledge. All in all, a missed opportunity.
Text by Heinz-Norbert JOCKS
Nine museums along the Rhine and Ruhr