In the summer of 2006, Beijings art atmosphere was as hot as the weather.
Three big jeeps carried over ten Chinese and foreign artists, starting from Beijing and riding six hours to the ancient city of Qingzhou, located in central part of Shandong province. On the way passing Dezhou, famous food such as their braised chicken called out to us, so we stopped for a while and bought a fat one, and after eating it we all felt quite good.
The ancient city of Qingzhou has a long history and a strong cultural atmosphere. The colored stone carvings collected in the museums here are particularly exquisite. Artist Sun Baijun and I worked together with the Qingzhou museum and jointly planned the "2006 Qingzhou International Art Exhibition. Including Qingzhou local artists, more than 40 artists attended the exhibition.
The style of this exhibition is completely different from exhibitions at art districts in Beijing. It uses the local government to organize large-scale cultural activities. Huge colorful banners and advertising billboards surrounded the museum as Qingzhou leaders and cultural bureau members attended the opening ceremony. Zheng Zuoliang, director of the Collection Department at the National Art Museum of China and famous printmaking artist, cut the ribbon for the exhibition.
In fact, in just a few short days, many people from all over came to see the exhibition. Besides local poets and scholars, ordinary locals visited the show. They probably heard about the exhibition from a report on the Qingzhou radio stations. People cheerfully communicated with the exhibiting and attending artists. We were all very happy, although the terrible Dezhou braised chicken that had made us so happy before now made me and Shen Jingdong go to the hospital with food poisoning before the end of the exhibition.
This year is a good time for Chinese contemporary art. Beijing is China's most important art battlefield, with numerous exhibition activities concentrated there, they seem to all fight for land. Many artists are busy with little time to travel away from Beijing. During this time, we planned the modern art exhibition in little Qiangzhou, which is far from the noisy city and really out of serious artists responsibility. Modern art in Beijing is already very active, which gets the worlds attention. But small and medium cities have no clue what modern art looks like! In Qingzhou, the ancient cultural city that it is, peoples knowledge of tradition is extremely high. Compared to other places where traditional culture is not as strongly rooted anymore, choosing such places as a pilot location of publicity and popularity of modern art would have had a better effect.
We're really a bunch of idealists.
In the summer of 2009, the weather of Beijing is still hot, but art scene has cooled" down a lot.
Artist Bi Hongliang and I, together with the Zibo museum, jointly planned the 2009 Zibo International Art Exhibition. To conduct this activity, we drank together many times and had many meals together! Hongliang did a lot of detailed planning, both large and small, for the exhibition, such as implementation of the exhibition hall, invitations to leaders and insiders, artists accommodations while in Zibo, a visit to a manual mill, graphic design, printing, etc.
Compared with 2006, todays art environment has changed significantly. The global economic crisis has cooled Chinas popular art markets. Many artists are like hungry hearts scratching, with no interest in participating in exhibition activities without any form of benefit. In fact, the exhibition activity opportunities are far better than last time. The organizers will print brochures for us, arrange accommodations, arrange visits to places like colored glaze factories and ceramics factories, and other destinations. There are really good cultural and artistic activities in which to partake.
This exhibition is full of famous Chinese artist elites: oil painting master and professor of Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts Sun Jianping; engraving master and famous art educator, now a professor at Chinas Central Academy of Fine Arts Wang Huaxiang; Pioneer of modern art Shen Jingdong; true power heavyweight artists, professor of Luxun Academy of Fine Arts Wang Jiazeng; Representative of the new realism Bi Hongliang and Jin Guangri; active international modern artist, the Chinese character biennale planner Pan Xinglei; Academic painting master Zhang Chun; dean of Nanjing engraving yard and famous engravings artist, "practice power" contemporary engraving literature exhibition curators Liu Chunjie; Chinese modern experimental ink artist Sun Baiun; installation artist and curator Zheng Xuewu; Wang Chuanhe Qingdao drawing artist, well-known for his sea drawings. International artists attending this exhibition are: Tokyo sisters Kabata Yuuri and Kabata Chihiro; American Chicago artist Alsion Rhoades, North Carolina young artist Lauren Goding, New York's installation artist Hee Jung Cho; Slovakia copperplate painter, professor Peter Kocak; famous Australian painter Jayne Dyer; South Korea installation artists Kim Namo and Yoon Ilkweon; Dutch photography installation artist Rienke de Vries; American painter and found material artist Kathryn Gohmert.
Every artist is like flying flags in the wind. Whereever these colours dance to, there will be bright beautiful scenery. We are sincere about our artwork, have an eternal love of art, we will go to more places and enjoy pleasant sensation that come from the collision of different cultures, different space and time, and with many more different people!
We believe, in the future, the climate will remain cold in winter, hot in summer. What will the art be like? We can only wait and see.
But we always expect, if China has more places like Qingzhou and Zibo to accept and host modern artists and activities through various media with various means, we can let ordinary people have access to modern art and foreign culture in different forms and with a fresh vitality. We hope the ordinary Chinese peoples drab aesthetic orientation formed in the past hundreds of thousands of years now will expand and become accepting of modern aesthetics.
Thanks to all the Chinese and foreign artists. Thanks to all the people who participated in all the various activities.
Songzhuang studio, night of June 7, 2009