This is a show of work from eighteen artists from China who were selected partly because they are one of the most interesting group of people at work in China today. Simon Groom who is head of exhibitions here has been thinking about doing this for many years. This is not new. When we started work on The Real Thing I think the main point was not to have any curatorial theme. We wanted to find artists who perhaps had a work that they had been thinking about for a long time but because of circumstances they hadn’t been able to do it. And we wanted to have an opportunity, no matter how challenging, to let them do that piece of work.
We have tried to include a wide range of media in the show to really reflect what is happening now that we think is of artistic interest rather than mercantile interest. This show really distinguishes itself I think from any other show of contemporary Chinese art in the number of really spectacular commissions that we have been able to achieve.
One of the works I think that offers a very interesting comment on China now is Yang Fudong’s new work that was especially commissioned by Tate for the show which is called East of Que Village, what it is, is a film that’s really about the existence as experienced by a lot of people who live outside of those sort of up and coming and rapidly developing urban centres and he makes this stark comparison between the dogs that scavenge for a living there and the people, meaning that the living conditions between the two are actually very little different and I think its an incredibly poignant piece that looks at sort of you know just the humanity and the human issues for China today.
You come into the building here and you see a sign that says ‘only 118 steps to the top of Everest’. This is a piece produced by Shanghai based artist Xu Zhen which comprises all the equipment and documentation of a trip to Everest he made last year including the top of the mountain which is presented in a marvellous glass case. This is a marvellous work in illustrating the humour which the Chinese artists are capable. It’s also something that really challenges perceptions about what you’re really looking at when you walk into the space and see this monumental container with a mountain top in it.
This show isn’t limited to just the things in the gallery but also includes commissions for outside and of course we went for the most ambitious which is a floating chandelier with eight hundred bulbs in it made of real crystal that was put together in China and it finally floated for the opening of the exhibition. We have also commissioned a firework spectacular by this young group based in the south of China. It is not just a spectacle it really is announcing that actually there is a new generation of Chinese artists that have arrived and really it’s a signal to the older generation: watch out the young Chinese are on their way