The Question of Globalization and Asia in Contemporary Chinese Art of the 1990s

​Cai Guo-Qiang, The Immensity of Heaven and Earth: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 11, 1991

​Cai Guo-Qiang, The Immensity of Heaven and Earth: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 11, 1991. Realized at Kashii former train yard, Fukuoka, September 15, 1991, 6:54 p.m., 5 seconds Gunpowder (30 kg), fuse (1,300 m), seawater (600 kg), ice (1,200 kg), railroad ties and rails, and kite, land area approximately 25,000 sq. m. Commissioned by Museum City Project, Fukuoka. Installation process of The Immensity of Heaven and Earth: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 11, Fukuoka, Japan, 1991, 2009. Photo Courtesy Cai Studio​

Reconsider the existing narratives of 1990s Chinese art 

This lecture looks to revisit and potentially revise existing narratives of contemporary Chinese art during the 1990s by situating events within a broader context of Asia. Often presented as the moment of globalization for Chinese art, the decade of the 1990s is well-known for its major survey exhibitions of avant-garde art in Western museum institutions, the meteoric rise of the art market and attention for diasporic transcultural Chinese artists. However, this narrative has been largely predicated upon understandings of China vis-à-vis the West, and there have been few considerations of how this formative moment of globalization may have been shaped by events occurring around Asia, namely in Japan, and concurrent discussions there around pan-Asianism and the emergence of an Asian modernism. By reviewing activities such as the exhibition Exceptional Passage in Fukuoka in 1991, which featured site-specific works by Cai Guo-Qiang, Gu Wenda, Huang Yong Ping, Wang Luyan, and Yang Jiechang; I will explore the new artistic languages put forward by these artists, as well as the the ways in which these activities contributed to a growing awareness of national, and therefore international identity. This body of research is part of a larger project concerning spatial histories of contemporary Chinese art. 


Pauline J. Yao is Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds and Lead Curator, Visual Art at M+, the new museum for twentieth and twenty-first century visual culture being built in Hong Kong. She has held curatorial positions at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and worked as an independent curator and writer in Beijing for six years, during which time she helped co-found the storefront art space Arrow Factory. A co-curator of the 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Yao is a regular contributor to Artforum, e-flux Journal, and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art and her writings on contemporary Asian art have appeared in numerous catalogues, online publications and edited volumes. She is the author of In Production Mode: Contemporary Art in China (Timezone 8 Books, 2008) and co-editor of 3 Years: Arrow Factory (Sternberg Press, 2011).​

​Tate Research Centre: Asia has been established with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In association with the Leverhulme Trust who provided additional support for this event.​

This event has been provided by Tate Gallery on behalf of Tate Enterprises LTD.

Date & Time

26 April 2017 at 18.30–20.00