Ai Weiwei, amnesty and digital tributes


Earlier this week it was announced that Ai Weiwei and Joan Baez have been named as co-recipients of Amnesty International’s 2015  “良心大使” ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award, the highest honour from the international human rights organisation which is bestowed upon figures “who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work.”

In a press release issued by Amnesty, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of the organisation is quoted as saying: “The Ambassador of Conscience Award is a celebration of those unique individuals who have used their talents to inspire many others to take injustice personally. That is why both Joan Baez and Ai Weiwei make such worthy recipients; they are an inspiration to thousands more human rights activists, from across Asia to America and beyond.” Adding specifically in relation to Ai’s nomination that: “through his work Ai Weiwei reminds us that the right of every individual to express their self must be protected, not just for the sake of society, but also for art and humanity.” Continue reading

March 27th, 2015

Beyond Ai Weiwei: How China’s Artists Handle Politics (or Avoid Them)

By: Christopher Bream      Source: The New Yorker (27/3/2015)

"Red White Black Grey” (2015), by Huang Rui

“Red White Black Grey” (2015), by Huang Rui


In a gallery in Hong Kong’s Chai Wan district last week, during the city’s third annual installment of the international Art Basel fair, the Beijing-based artist Huang Rui introduced a new live work called “Red Black White Grey.” At the start of the performance, four affectless women walked onstage wearing trench coats, then disrobed one by one as Huang, who is sixty-three, slathered their bodies with black and then white paint. He directed them to lie down on a canvas that looked like four Hong Kong flags, in configurations that by the end spelled out “1997,” the year in which sovereignty over the territory transferred from the U.K. to China, and “2047,” the year that Hong Kong is slated to merge completely with the mainland. As the soundtrack’s drums and electric violin built to a furious climax, the women put their coats back on and the artist painted single digits on the front of each jacket, to form “2015.” The music stopped, and the audience applauded. Continue reading

March 15th, 2015

Why China’s artists love (and hate) WeChat

By: Lisa Movius     Source: The Art Newspaper 15/3/2015


More than 400 million people use WeChat, including almost all of China’s young professionals. Above, Leo Xu Project mocks pointless WeChat posts

Sometimes the fastest way to get a laugh—and a social media repost—is to be a bit mean. That was the WeChat strategy employed by Shanghai’s Leo Xu Projects in January to publicise a solo show by the artist Aaajiao. The post on China’s dominant social media platform made fun of the clichéd posts from businesses. Xu was “criticising the wrong way of doing WeChat posts, but in an implicit way”. He poked fun at how galleries post entire, obtuse press releases to their official WeChat accounts. “Why do it bilingual? It doesn’t fit into the media. ‘We are pleased to announce… blah, blah, blah’,” he says. “You have to customise what you say and how.” Xu is also underwhelmed by many galleries’ use of Weibo, China’s popular microblogging site. “They use it in a stupid way too—posting photos from openings without stories. Who are these people?” he says.

China’s more than 400 million users of WeChat (Weixin in Mandarin), share messages and images with friends and followers, like a hybrid of WhatsApp and Instagram, or a streamlined, mobile-focused Facebook.  Continue reading

Before ‘duang’: character creation, art and ideology in the digital age

duang1eIn the last week there has been much media coverage devoted to an invented character whose viral dissemination amongst internet users earned it the dubious distinction of being labelled ‘The word that broke the Chinese internet.’ The character in question? an onomatopoeiac utterance issued by Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong born action star and movie veteran. Like many celebrities Chan maintains a lucrative side career endorsing commercial products, his prolific and many would argue indiscriminate advertising career has seen him endorse everything from electric bicycles to anti-virus software, auto-repair schools to frozen dumplings. One of his most famous commercial roles is as the herbal shampoo ambassador for Bawang 霸王, the fourth most popular shampoo manufacturer in China. Chan has served as the company’s spokesperson for over a decade, appearing prominently in its visual ads as well as featuring in numerous TV campaigns in which he invariable attributes his glossy, flowing mane to the rejuvenating effects of the herbal remedy. This commercial alliance has not been without its setbacks, in 2010 controversy arose after the company was accused of replacing the supposed traditional Chinese medicine ingredients in its darkening and hair loss-fighting products with carcinogenic chemicals after the Hong Kong based Next Magazine reported that samples of its anti hair-loss formula had 10 parts per million of 1,4-dioxane.

Jackie Chan features prominently in an ad for Bawang, China's largest herbal shampoo manufacturer.

Jackie Chan features prominently in an ad for Bawang, China’s largest herbal shampoo manufacturer.

On February 24th of this year, what many believed to be a new advert for Bawang starring Jackie Chan was released on Youku, the video, however, was a parody created from splicing together old footage from a 2004 TV advertisement. In the original ad, Chan pokes fun at the digitally enhanced images that have become a ubiquitous feature of contemporary commercials, these misleading ‘special effects’ according to Chan, “can make hair go “‘duaaang!’ Very black! Very shiny! Very soft!” whereas Chan’s tonsorial youthfulness is of course naturally credited to his continued use of Bawang. When the original advertisement was first aired over a decade ago, it attracted the attention of Chinese censorship officials who interpreted the company’s exaggerated claims as a misleading promotion of the shampoo’s effects. Continue reading

12th March, 2015.

China’s New Generation of Artists: Younger group focuses less on politics, more on basics like painting technique

By: Gu Wei         Source: The Wall Street Journal   12/3/2015

‘Under heaven’ by Xu Zhe, 37, was created with pastry bags filled with oil colors and is a satire about society's obsession with extravagance.  XU ZHEN/MADEIN GALLEY

‘Under heaven’ by Xu Zhe, 37, was created with pastry bags filled with oil colors and is a satire about society’s obsession with extravagance. XU ZHEN/MADEIN GALLEY

Young Chinese artists are the hottest commodity in the art world right now. Prices hit records for works by artistssuch as Jia Aili and Hao Liang, both of whom sold paintings for more than $1 million each last year, even though they are flat or falling for many of the country’s best known contemporary artists.

Works by both groups will be among the thousands on display in Hong Kong this week as Art Basel , Asia’s biggest contemporary art show, and several other exhibits draw collectors from around the world . On Wednesday night, an overflow crowd packed the opening of a show called “Inside China,” which aims to promote little-known Chinese artists internationally. Continue reading

March 5th, 2015

China’s Young Art Collectors Come of AgeMillennials urge their parents to buy foreign contemporary works

By: Gu Wei        Source: The Wall Street Journal 5/3/2015

collectorsMeet the young Chinese collectors—and their parents—who are upending the art world. On the cover of a Sotheby’s auction catalog two years ago, Lin Han saw a painting by Zeng Fanzhi, famed for depicting men in grinning masks. During a holiday with his parents, Mr. Lin, now 28, wanted to make his first art purchase by bidding for the work, and ended up paying $1 million. His parents, investors who formerly worked in the Chinese army, don’t collect art, but they pay for 20% to 30% of his art purchases, which totalled $4 million last year, and help Mr. Lin, an entrepreneur, fund his private museum in Beijing.

The boom in Chinese collecting, like the boom in the Chinese economy, has upset traditional art-world rules, compressing decades of change into just a few years. Young, often Western-educated family members have pulled their parents away from traditional ink paintings, calligraphy and ceramics, and steered them to contemporary artists, both Chinese and foreign.

Starting March 14, many of China’s biggest collectors, both parents and children, will descend on Hong Kong for Art Basel, part of the fair network that includes Art Basel Miami Beach and is the most important annual art event in Asia. More than 230 galleries from 37 countries selling everything from Chinese contemporary ink drawings to abstract installations will be vying for their attention. Continue reading

The dividing point between ‘zombie social activism’ and artistic mobilisation

In an article that appeared recently on artnet news, Daria Daniel asked Is a new artistic activism emerging via social media and forms of public protest? The article focuses on international art groups who have created works in response to recent social and political crises, from a collective of Mexican artists who posed naked in public spaces to demonstrate against recent student killings to Titus Kaphar and Hank Willis Thomas’ artistic reaction to the Ferguson protests as well as the outpouring of political cartoons and visual tributes which emerged following the Charlie Hebdo Attacks.

Titus Kaphar Yet Another Fight for Rememberance .  Photo:

Titus Kaphar, ‘Yet Another Fight for Remembrance’

Illustration by graphic designer Lucille Clerc.  Photo:

Illustration by graphic designer Lucille Clerc.


Continue reading