press release

Witness the Graceful Bearing of Chinese Contemporary Art and the Glamour of International Easel Art

An international art biennale is an influential cultural event of grand scale. Its crucial position is not inferior to that of the Olympic Games, Oscar, the Nobel Prize, World Fairs…

Since the first Venice Biennale of 1895, more than a century has passed. The Biennale receives great attention because of its outstanding cultural functions, rich economic repayment and profound international influence. Participating in the Biennale becomes a lifelong glory of many outstanding artists.

Sponsored by China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, People’s Government of Beijing Municipality and Chinese Artists Association, The Beijing International Art Biennale has been developed after China’s successful accession to WTO and winning the bid for the Olympic Games. Its purpose is to show the graceful bearing of opening-up in an all-round way. China, as a country with a long-lived ancient civilization and the largest developing country in the world, promotes the development of plurality in the world’s culture. China aims to establish a new biennale style with Chinese characteristics by referring to the conventional practice of international art biennales, to support, promote innovation of easel art, and make contributions to the development of world art and human civilization.

Grand Occasion of the First Exhibition

From September 20 to October 20, 2003, the first Beijing International Art Biennale was held in a grand manner. The theme exhibition and the four special exhibitions showed 577 works from 45 countries of five continents. In addition, eight national exhibitions were held as the Serialized Exhibition. All the exhibitions mentioned above were held simultaneously in seven exhibition sites. According to CCTV news, compared to other international exhibitions held in China up till now, the Beijing Biennale is the exhibition with the highest standard, largest scale and most visitors; the flow of the visitors in two main venues per day was over 20 thousands. The Beijing Biennale is also an important cultural event commemorating the 850th anniversary of Beijing’s founding as the capital, and is praised highly by media as “Biennale ―― the most beautiful scenery in Golden Autumn” and “the hot spot of hot spots during the ‘Golden Week’ holiday for the National Day”.

Characteristics of the First Exhibition There were some remarkable characteristics of this exhibition: 1, Painting and Sculpture. The exhibits were mainly paintings and sculptures, instead of such forms as installation and video – the mainstream forms prevailing in other biennales in other countries. The First Beijing International Art Biennale on the one hand raised aloft the banner of originality, and on the other hand, confined the exhibits to the categories of painting and sculpture. The sponsors believe that although new art forms, such as new media, have extended the realm of contemporary art, painting and sculpture, as the traditional art forms have not lost their potential for development. 2, Masters’ Gathering. Among participating artists, some are prestigious worldwide and celebrities who have already made their mark on art history while they are alive. They represent each different country respectively. Linking their names is just like exploring the contemporary history of painting and sculpture between east and west and is a summary of the art circles of the 20th century. In addition, numerous potential rising stars participated, forming the prospective art circles of the world in the 21st century. 3, Excellent Works Assembled. The attraction of this exhibition lay in its concentration on contemporary expressive ways for traditional art. It is not difficult to get insight into contemporary artists’ pursuit of the spirit and symbols of national traditional culture and many kinds of possibility of self-development and self-renovation of local culture in the context of globalization. Thus it offered a kind of new experience and pattern for world contemporary art.

Foreign Guests’ Appraisal

The international curator Vincenzo Sanfo said, “The Beijing Biennale has attracted close attention of world art circles. The Beijing Biennale emphasizes art quality. The artistic quality of the participating works is very high, making people feel surprised. If each Beijing Biennale in the future insists on this characteristic, it can create its unique brand, becoming the biennale with the largest scale and highest quality in Asia and also occupying a prominent position in the art world. The task of the Beijing Biennale now is to show Chinese art to the world, and to let the world pay close attention to this old and modern land. Many westerners only know Chinese ancient art; they do not know the condition of Chinese contemporary art. After seeing this Biennale, I want to hold an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art in Europe and introduce more Chinese artists to the west.” Sanfo predicts, "If there is a place where a new and revolutionary movement takes place in the course of art development, that must be China."

“I am very glad for winning the prize, but it is not most important to win the prize, the more important thing is that artists have chances to exchange, because art needs exchange,” said Iranian artist Nosratollah Moslemian, who is a Best Work Award winner. “It is unexpected that the works exhibited in the Biennale have such a high quality, which expressed unique impression which gave me deep impression. Artists face the same problem in every city, namely how to reflect current incident as well as not to abandon history and tradition, which makes us more close to each other. Beijing Biennale was held well, I hope Iran can hold biennales in the future.”

Russian painter Tair Salakhov highly praised that, “the exhibition is very big in scale, the works are beautiful. I have met new friends here. China has become a bridge of art exchanges between east and west. The opening ceremony is very grand, well organized and unforgettable. The sculpture exhibition is held in the street, which keeps in touch intimately with the pedestrian, art and makes people feel cordial. A beautiful book of abstract of the symposium are printed for convenience. We are provided with accommodation of five-star hotel and delicious food; we are received and escourted by interpreters speaking in every language respectively. Everything is very thoughtful.”

“Coming to China to participate in the Beijing Biennale this time makes me have a deeper understanding of China. Young Chinese painters’ works are very outstanding because they permeate new vigor through China's traditional painting. The works gave me new thoughts, feelings and inspirations,” said Mexican painter Rafael Cauduro.

“The development of China in all fields these years has offered the condition for holding Beijing Biennale successfully. The first Beijing biennale is very successful, with unexpectedly large scale, which can compare favorably with the famous Biennales held in Italy and other countries. The catalog is very good which attracted me to read for two evenings in hotel, unwilling to go out,” said Zamfir Dumitrescu, president of Romanian Artists Association.

“Beijing Biennale is an important activity and a good beginning for Beijing to become an important contemporary art exhibition venue. It is necessary for Beijing to establish a world art center by itself. If it regards itself as peripheral, Beijing will have no good exposure, so it must be clear about its localization in the inter-action with the rest of the world,” said Grete Marstein, president of Norwegian Artists Association.

Media Coverage As the grandest visual art activity of China, this exhibition attracted domestic and international media's extensive concern. A journalist from Philadelphia of U.S.A. said, “Someone told me in Philadelphia that there is a large-scale exhibition in China; you must go to have a look.” Mass media from Italy and Portugal made appointments to interview curatorial committee members during the exhibition; professional media from the U.S.A. and Malaysia requested the exhibits’ materials; Macao Daily commented that the Beijing Biennale is a new action for developing Chinese contemporary culture; British Reuters made a short TV program of the Beijing Biennale; Taiwan’s “Artist” magazine published a special edition devoting several dozen pages to the Beijing Biennale. More than 50 domestic media outlets including newspapers and periodicals, magazine, TV, broadcast, network etc. covered this exhibition in depth. “JoongAng Daily” of Korea remarked that while the world art has been dominated by Europe and America, a new power has been rising quickly in Northeast Asia over the past century. Thanks to the initiation of Beijing Biennale, China may compete with western countries in the field of visual art, creating a great source of enlightenment comparable to the Gwangju Biennale.

Academic Discussion

Today’s world is experiencing profound change in political and economic patterns and facing a new situation of exchange and merger between eastern culture and western culture. With the deepening of economic globalization, the variety of world culture started to face violent impact and the national character of culture is being lost constantly; this phenomenon is particularly outstanding in the field of fine arts. The theme of Beijing Biennale “Originality: Contemporaneity and Locality” is the focus which the world art circle is facing. The Beijing Biennale demonstrates a special cultural quality of combining contemporaneity and locality. The direction of art development advocated by this Beijing Biennale is to analyze, study and identify avant-garde art selectively and to study, inherit and expand traditional art positively. The keynote of the theme and exhibits of the Beijing Biennale implied such a theoretic topic: how can tradition combine with modernity and how can traditional forms radiate vigor nowadays?

After the opening ceremony of the first Beijing Biennale, the international symposium was held September 21-23, 2003. Over one hundred art scholars and artists from various countries and regions conducted a wide and deep discussion on contemporaneity and locality in art, inheritance and development of tradition, the current situation and perspective of painting and sculpture, women’s art etc., adding academic atmosphere to the First Beijing Biennale and producing precious theoretical documents.

Overseas participants to the exhibition and international symposium expressed sincerely that the Beijing Biennale reflected the cultural opening and progress in the new century in China, and it was a farsighted grand cultural event. It offered an important exchange platform for the artists from various countries to introduce their culture and to learn from other national cultures, drawing the world’s attention to this ancient and vigorous land.

Wan Qingli, Professor from Hong Kong University pointed out, “western popular culture, especially American popular culture, is becoming the global culture with the economic and information globalization. Popular culture, driven by commercial packaging, media hype, supplemented by hi-tech acoustic, light and color effects, and all-round stereo dissemination, is quickly expanding in the developing countries and eroding the living space of national culture. Facing such grave reality, any responsible government of the developing countries has to think over its countermeasures. China's historical experiences have proven that, for the developing countries, it is wise and beneficial to take the initiative in opening. If they adopt passive or closed strategies, the national culture may lose the hard-won opportunity to finish the modernization transformation in the current world cultural exchange.

“It is very important to combine traditional art and modern art. It was fine to come to Beijing. The symposium is very essential too. We didn’t get answers for all the questions of contemporary art, but the symposium gave us enlightenment for the future of art development, and it is very valuable to discuss innovation with representatives from various countries. Under the globalization situation, innovation is unavoidable. We should turn globalization into the positive form,” said Danish artist Bjoern Noergaard.

“In the face of cultural cloning, we must think what we should do; in the course of art globalization, we should avoid simplification,” said Alexander Rozhin, who is a Russian art critic.

Japanese artist Ru Jiangguan appreciated that it is commendable that the fine arts’ new trend has already combined with Chinese traditional culture ingeniously. The key to art does not lie in new or old expressive forms, but this expression must come from artists’ “moving ”.

“The characterer of Beijing Biennale is distinct. A lot of narrative and symbolic works of excellence have emerged, which have broken the convention of the Venice Biennale paying attention to the video art. That method of image viewing is comparatively –time-consuming and doesn’t leave a deep impression on viewers. The power of art can make us unite, and it can transcend various kinds of boundaries, such as the boundary between culture and class,” said Swedish critic Ylva Hallback.

“It is very meaningful to see so many painting works. When historical tradition limits the development space of painting, require innovation responding to the traditional history of painting. Innovation may just be the possession of enough respect for the past brilliance, but it doesn’t rely on the past brilliance. The Chinese works are abundant in content; abstraction and realism can coexist in harmony, video is not the only way to reflect reality. It is a trend for the varied parts of the world to influence each other,” American painter Tom Birkner said.

“Most works on the contemporary art scene of America and Europe are video and installation. We found everything fresh and new when we saw so many paintings and sculptures from different countries in China. The traditional media should not decline because of the new media’s appearing,” said Swedish artist Anders Liden. “China offers one fulcrum for the world; world contemporary art inclining towards America will now begin to tend towards equilibrium because of China’s involvement. This is the point which made the Beijing Biennale different.”

Artists of the mainland of China think that in the era of specific influential centers’ existence and cultural combination, it is particularly important to emphasize locality. The purpose of art activities is to represent and share characteristics and to reflect connections of modern arts among different regions. Representing the cultural landscape of various nationalities is a principal feature of Beijing Biennale. Western culture is occupying the status of controlling through publicity. Chinese culture has been undergoing enormous impact from western culture for a long time, while having little chance to influence world culture and change the standards westerners apply when thinking about non-western culture. The Beijing Biennale makes us change the way of thinking, now there is so much interaction between China and West. So many works from non-western countries were assembled together, most of which are new to Chinese visitors. Thus the vision of China is available to the world finally, with relationship between Chinese and Western arts expanded into relations between China and the rest of the world, local and global. If there is a closed cultural boundary between China and West, and if the efforts to pass through this boundary are made only by the Chinese side, then it is apt to cause disequilibrium in culture naturally; when there is no longer such a boundary between local and global, China can talk with the rest of the world self-confidently. The future of Chinese contemporary art depends on our ability to expand the international influence of Chinese art and keep our unique culture.

With the theme “Contemporary Art with Humanistic Concerns”, the Second Beijing Biennale will be held in September, 2005, together with the 16th IAA (International Association of Artists) Representative Assembly. When the time comes, artists and representatives of art associations from over a hundred countries will gather in Beijing. This Beijing Biennale will become part of the world’s cultural landscapes and its international influence will further speed the steps of Beijing to become a contemporary world art centers.

When art is attracting attentions of various circles, it is a good chance for enterprises to gain business opportunities, to expand industries and to enhance reputation. Therefore, we are willing to combine enormous social resources, widen the source of the funding, and absorb further patronage of society for assisting the grand occasion of the Beijing Biennale.

We are sincerely looking forward to a better biennale. Beijing International Art Biennale Office Dec. 12, 2002

only in german

2. Biennale Peking 2005
The Second Beijing International Art Biennale 2005

"Contemporary Art with Humanistic Concerns"

Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Huang Zhou
und die Schwerpunkte zeitgenössische Kunst aus Italien, Russland, Uzbekistan und China

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