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Fei Dawei and '85 New Wave 2
    2007-12-11 16:59:21     CRIENGLISH.com

Fei Dawei, Artisitic Director of UCCA and Curator

When Belgian art enthusiasts Guy and Myriam Ullens meet Fei Dawei, the result was the forming of the Ullens Foundation. Up to now, this foundation claims having the largest collection of contemporary Chinese art in the world. This collaboration has also led to the establishment of the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing, which is destined to become the cornerstone of the Chinese art scene. We'll continue to introduce you to Fei Dawei, the artistic director of UCCA and curator of its opening exhibition '85 New Wave: the Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art.

In 2002, Belgian art enthusiasts Guy and Myriam Ullens invited Fei Dawei to manage their extensive collection in contemporary Chinese art. The next year saw the establishment of the Ullens Foundation in Switzerland.

"From the time I took over the management of the Ullens foundation, I proposed that the organisation should play a leading role in sponsoring contemporary art in China. Art collection should not just follow artistic creation. Rather, the collector should be involved actively in promoting the artwork."

That is Fei Dawei, distinguished art critic and curator, explaining his principle of curating.

Based on this principle, the Ullence Centre for Contemporary Art was established in Beijing, which opened with the inaugural exhibition: '85 New Wave.

"We had several options for the opening of UCCA, but I think the present exhibition is the best. As the '85 New Wave marked the birth of Chinese contemporary art, it happens to coincide with the start of the new centre. Furthermore, when materialism begins to pervade the art world, a look back into the idealism of the past is also a spiritual need."

Between 1985 and 1990, a group of over 1,000 young Chinese artists living in an environment without galleries, museums or any systematic support, initiated a fundamentally influential artistic movement. This is the famous '85 New Wave movement.

Twenty years on, Fei Dawei, once an ardent participant of the '85 New Wave movement, has put together a retrospective exhibition of this epoch-making event.

"My primary concern is how to re-present the most vibrant and most creative works of this massive art movement and how to bring the best out of it. This is not a nostalgic look back at the past. All the exhibitions I have done aim to tackle problems we are facing at the moment, as well as to look to the future."

A total of 137 works featuring a wide range of media, from painting to photography, to video works and installations, by 30 artists are presented in the exhibition. These works represent different schools in the movement, for instance, conceptual art, Dadaism and pop art.

The '85 New Wave movement not only produced artworks. It was also a movement that produced ideas and texts. A selection of textual documents are displayed as the prologue of the exhibition.

Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art

These valuable publications recount the social and artistic events that set the tone for the '85 art movement, from the death of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1976 to Fei Dawei's being invited by the Centre Georges Pompidou to attend the groundbreaking exhibition "Magician of the Earth".

"I think this documentation is a necessary supplement for a retrospective exhibition like this. The reason is I want to convey a sense of history to the audience. The underlying implication is that every era and cult will pass. China has experienced the craze of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976; it was followed by the utopian passion coming along with the reform and opening up of the country in the 1980s. Since the 1990s, the country has been subject to the influence of materialism and consumerism, especially in the art scene. I want to provoke the audience and the artists into thinking about what will be left when these cults are gone."

As the '85 movement has already become history, and the problems it encountered have now faded into the past, what we are now able to see precisely those works that have been able to establish themselves purely on the basis of their artistic value.

"This exhibition is a calm retrospective on the '85 movement. The method I adopt in mounting this exhibition is a detached observation. We must take an objective attitude so that we can preserve the essence of this critical period. Only 30 artists and a very limited number of works are selected in this exhibition. These works are displayed in a spacious venue, which leaves enough space for the audience to ponder. I manage to present this exhibition with dignity and solemnity. I think I have achieved this purpose."

The '85 movement is over, but it is possible that we will, through this fleeting historical moment, come to reconsider our present circumstances and open new possibilities for the future.




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