Charting the future of China's public art
What will China's art galleries and museums be like five to 10 years from now? Why are conventional art exhibitions failing to attract attention from younger audiences? What can be done to keep the public art sector alive in the age of 5G mobile communication and the internet of things?
These are some of the key questions China's most influential curators are seriously thinking about. They discussed the issues at Curating in China 2019, an academic forum held from Saturday and Sunday at the Beijing World Art Museum.
Co-organized by the Art Curators Society under the Chinese Artists Association and the museum, the event brought together over 60 attendees, including top-notch curators from China's major art galleries, museums and art academies to tackle the challenges and opportunities for the curatorial community.
"Over past years, art curators have played an active role in promoting public art and artistic innovation in China. I believe curators will have an even bigger role to play in the near future," said keynote speaker Fan Di'an, who is the chairman of the Chinese Artists Association and principal of the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
"As art galleries and museums, publically-funded or privately owned, have been popping up nationwide, and the general public is showing a keen interest in art, China is setting a big stage for public art,'' said Wu Hongliang, vice-dean of the Beijing Painting Academy and a key organizer of the forum.
During the forum, curators spotted trends in China's public art scene but expressed mixed views.
The most conspicuous phenomenon is the nationwide rise of so-called new media art shows, often staged in newly-completed real estate sites or malls, attracting people to come and check out the exhibition, and upload photos and videos on social media, said Qiu Zhijie, a curator and researcher with the Central Academy of Fine Arts' School of Experimental Art. "You can find this type of show even in remote, small cities."
"Curators of these flashy, pop-up shows are touting hi-tech, immersive, interactive, artistic experiences," Qiu said. "What they are offering is actually sheer entertainment and what they care about most is just commercial return. To me, the trend is disappointing and worrisome."
However, Gao Peng, curator and dean of Today Art Museum, holds that the future of art galleries lies in creating technology-powered, immersive and interactive experiences for viewers.
"After putting millions in money into exhibitions, prepared and promoted in conventional ways, we only found very few people coming to our shows," Gao recalled. "Some younger viewers did not even bother to stay for half an hour in the exhibition halls. They just took some photos and selfies, and then left hastily. This prompted me to ponder over how to bridge art and the public more effectively."
From Aug 19-Oct 27, Gao and his team with the Today Art Museum staged De Ja Vu, a large-scale exhibition featuring cutting-edge works from 13 international artists.
Organizers used technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality to enrich viewing experiences and arranged gigantic exhibits in unconventional ways to fully tap the space potential of the three-story museum.
Also, the new media show went along with mobile games, on-site art workshops and live music performances, touching upon a myriad of topics, such as neural networks, the relationship between artificial intelligence and mankind, and the relationship between art and science.
The exhibition turned out to be a huge success, attracting tens of thousands of viewers of different age groups and raking in more than enough to cover costs, said Gao, adding the show will go abroad early next year.