Wuzhen Contemporary Art Exhibition to return next March

Updated 2018-12-11 10:04:00

The silk-factory area in Wuzhen will display works by artists from across 21 countries at the second edition of the Wuzhen Contemporary Art Exhibition curated by artist Feng Boyi.

Two years ago, works from 40 celebrated artists from across the world were displayed in Wuzhen, a water town in East China's Zhejiang province, giving locals and tourists to the small town a sense of what contemporary art is.

The second edition of the Wuzhen Contemporary Art Exhibition will open next March and is expected to help broaden people's minds about the new trends in contemporary art, according to the team of curators.

Feng Boyi, who leads the team, says that next year's show will feature the work of 45 artists from 21 countries, all of whom are active in the international contemporary art world. The list includes British visual artist Julian Opie, Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima and Argentine artist Amalia Ulman, who is known for her internet art.

Feng was also a curator for the first edition in 2016. It highlighted pieces from such famous artists as Damien Hirst; Florentijn Hofman, who made a giant pink fish for Wuzhen; and Marina Abramovic, dubbed the "godmother of performance art" by the media. Feng explains that next year's exhibition will try to feature artists of different styles.

Feng Boyi.

For instance, organizers have invited 29-year-old Amalia Ulman, who is the youngest of the 45 artists to participate. She rose to fame due to controversies surrounding her work.

"We want to let tourists and locals see what is happening in the contemporary art world. The artworks must be varied in style," says Feng of their selection of artists for the show.

More than a dozen artists will make special pieces for the Wuzhen exhibition. Their works will be shown in different environments: the ancient water town area, a silk factory, a granary area and a village.

Zhuang Hui, one of the Chinese artists who will attend the exhibition, just returned to Beijing from a trip to Wuzhen. It was his first visit to the small town known for its scenery, ancient houses and bridges.

He had planned to exhibit a previous piece in the small town. However, the granary, decorated with a wooden interior, inspired him to create a wooden installation.

"The carpenters I met in Wuzhen were so good that it has driven me to create a new piece," says Zhuang, who produces artworks across the mediums of photography, video and installation.

The flexible exhibition spaces of Wuzhen differ from those of galleries and museums. They can better inspire artists to create new, tailor-made works, Zhuang adds.

Zhuang Hui.

In recent years, more art exhibitions have moved from cities to small towns and, in some cases, even smaller villages. Wuzhen is among the first towns in China to host exhibitions similar to a biennale or triennial.

In 2016, when the first exhibition was held, many locals had no idea what contemporary art is, and just as many had never even been to a museum. The invited artists exhibited their works in public spaces, such as an ancient theater, a garden's corner and along the stone streets. It effectively shortened the distance between the artworks and their audience, which was largely made up of tourists from across the country.

Feng says that, while there are lots of shows in art institutions in big cities in China - more than 60 shows were held in Shanghai in November - a show in a small town where people can encounter international art so casually as they can in Wuzhen is a rarity.

The 2016 exhibition in Wuzhen proved to be a success, both for locals and for art circles, says Feng. Some of the foreign artists who attended the show introduced the town to their friends and contemporaries, but the event still needs time to build its brand, says Feng.

Next year's show will take place between March 31 and June 30, and there will be a fund established to sponsor 12 Chinese artists who are younger than 35 years old.

Feng explains that the youth section aims to provide a platform for talented young Chinese to communicate with celebrated international artists.

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