You may not think of South China as having a strong arts scene, but just a century ago, it was the go-to destination in China for Western businessmen looking to purchase custom-made art work for their families back home.
Art Canton – an international art fair that attracts tens of thousands of visitors and collectors every year – serves to revive Guangdong’s rich artistic legacy. Last year, the show featured pieces from world-class artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Fernando Botero, Joan Miro, Kazuo Shiraga and Mao Lizi.
Now welcoming its 8th edition, this year’s fair will be the first to feature an additional four-day contemporary art show, developed by a team of acclaimed Chinese art professors. To give you a better sense of what the fair is all about, we chatted with Art Canton’s chief curator, Wu Shaoning.
What kinds of artists will have work featured at Art Canton this year, and how were they selected?
This year’s fair will feature the work of nearly 100 young and middle-aged artists from China who are at the forefront of contemporary Chinese art. A few outstanding examples are Mr. Fu Zenan, influential for his role in the avant-garde 85 New Wave Movement; Jianghai and Wang Liming, both leaders of China’s New Wild Group; and a number of female artists such as Liu Xin, Xia Yu, Xu Rong and Ji Hongwei, who have unique perspectives about the reality of Chinese society today.
When choosing art work, we considered whether the ideas expressed are contemporary, insightful and suit the aesthetic values of Chinese viewers. We also wanted to focus on finding relatively young, vibrant and creative artists this year.
Will the exhibits include English descriptions?
This year's art fair will be presented in both Chinese and English. Foreigners who wish to participate in the event will be able to learn more about the development and prospects of Chinese contemporary art.
Anything you’re particularly looking forward to at this year’s fair?
The most exciting thing is that we are finally able to do a complete, pure contemporary art exhibition. This is the first time such a show has been held in Guangdong province.
Many people say Guangdong lacks a strong arts scene, at least compared to Beijing and Shanghai. Do you agree?
Guangdong has a unique and superior Lingnan culture, so is sometimes resistant to the influence of foreign art. But as society progresses, more and more young people have been or are beginning to focus on contemporary art. If contemporary artists are to create genuinely great works, especially ones that adhere to core Chinese aesthetic values, then I believe Guangdong will actually lead the trend of national contemporary art in China.
Where does Chinese contemporary art currently stand on the global stage?
China's contemporary art is spreading rapidly to the world. The situation now is much different from in the 1980s, when international contemporary art inundated and intimidated Chinese artists. Today, after decades of China's own development, there is a more obvious national self-confidence in culture and art.
Artists from the past used to copy foreign art, but now, China’s contemporary art scene is proving to have a large number of capable and thoughtful artists. I believe that as contemporary art in China grows and expands, it will also have a greater impact on the global contemporary art scene.
Sept 15-18 (International Art Fair); Sept 21-24 (Contemporary Art Fair); RMB50 at door. Hall 5, Guangzhou Liuhua Exhibition & Trade Center.
Contact Justin on WeChat (ID: jofbestart) or visit www.artcanton.com for more info.