The energy of the Chinese arts world is not contained, codified, and confined like a lot of work elsewhere; there is a plurality of practice and style, none of which can be said to represent Chinese art. Any idea of a unitary or coherent identity, for the country as much as for the art, has collapsed into an open space of possibility and opportunity.
The exhibition does not therefore seek to be exhaustive, but instead focuses either on those works made since 2000 that are of special interest, or those artists at the forefront of the contemporary scene, either through their continuing relevance and influence, if older, or the power and interest of their ideas and work, if younger.
The year 2000 was chosen as the cut-off point for various reasons: the turn of the millennium was a watershed economically and socially in China – China was admitted to the World Trade Organisation in 2001 and won the right to stage the 2008 Olympic Games in 2003. Ease of movement with increasing international contacts and freedom of information with the opening of the first internet cafes in 2003, had a huge impact upon the kind of art being produced, as did the increasing availability and affordability of new technologies.
2000 also marked the moment when the State recognised the importance, politically, of contemporary art, and the power that contemporary culture could exercise on the international stage, signalling a radical shift in both the status of the artist, and the possibilities open to them.
It would seem that now is a good time to be an artist from China: with the extraordinary international interest in China’s contemporary art, and with ready access to labour and materials, perhaps at no other time, and from no other country, does an artist have the opportunity to make works of such ambition.