Portal: Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Prints, Photos and Sculpture

Some of the most important contemporary artists of China will be featured in “Portal: Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Prints, Photos and Sculpture,” an exhibition to open at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7th. Internationally recognized superstars in the show include Zhang Xiaogang, Feng Zhengjie, Yang Qian, Guo Wei, Huang Yan, and Sui Jianguo. Along with a wide selection of serigraphs, the exhibition will include a Plexiglass “throne” chair by Yang Fan.

Zhang is best known for his series called “Big Family” portraits, inspired by old family photos and European surrealism. Their staring, expressionless poses comment on Chinese collectivism while small differences offer a glimpse of their individuality.

Feng Zhengjie, another of the best-known Chinese artists, will be represented by three of his “Chinese Portrait Series” silkscreens. Their exaggerated makeup and flamboyant hairdos reflect the artist’s view that “the influence of the Western culture makes our women appear as hybrids sometimes.”

The multimedia artist Huang Yan superimposes traditional Chinese landscape scenes upon photos of faces and the human body. His fusion of ancient art forms with contemporary views of the body creates a new concept that every Chinese can relate to.

Sui Jianguo, referred to as “a leading figure of China’s New Sculpture movement” in the “China Onward” catalog of the renowned Estella Collection, draws attention “to the political and economic system behind the toy industry” through his “Made in China” series and toy dinosaurs. He views his dinosaurs as parallels to much of the world’s manufacturing: designed in the West, made in China, and then exported globally—not unlike Chinese contemporary art, inspired by Western traditions.

Works by Zhang, Feng and Yan are in the Sigg Collection, widely considered the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of contemporary Chinese art. All three artists were included in “Mahjong,” an important exhibition held in 2009 at the University of California’s Berkeley Art Museum, as well as the current “101 Artworks-A Stroll through the Sigg Collection” at 88MOCCA, the Museum of Chinese Contemporary Art on the Web. Both shows were compiled from SIGG Collection artworks.

Along with sculpture by Sui, artworks by Feng, Guo, Huang, and Zhang also are represented in the Estella Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art, first exhibited at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in 2007.

The works by Yang Qian are from his “Bathroom” series, images viewed through a mist of water drops, suggesting the overlapping of reality and illusion, sometimes categorized as “dual paintings.”

Works by Guo Wei focus on everyday life, often with relationships between adolescents, emphasizing the development of individualism in China since the homogenization of the Cultural Revolution.

Leading print and online publications, such as “The Economist,” “The London Times,” and Artprice.com have reported the soaring prices of contemporary Chinese art. Although virtually all art prices recently dropped somewhat as the worldwide economy sagged, the media have reported that contemporary Chinese art prices are leading their resurgence.

“Some of the artists in this show are stellar,” said gallery owner and curator Virginia Miller. “For example, in October 2007 Charles Saatchi, one of the world’s great collectors, paid $1,570,800 for a painting by Zhang Xiaogang. In 2006 one of his paintings sold for $2.3 million.”

“This will be our fourth exhibition of contemporary Chinese art,” Miller noted. “These works offer an exceptional opportunity to acquire original works by some of China’s leading artists.”

Included in “Portal” will be paintings by artists who were represented in earlier Chinese shows at the gallery, including Wang Niandong and Cao Xiaodong. Wang is well known in China and abroad for hyper-realistic images of women as commercialized products. Cao, one of the many artists forced to become graphic artists during the Cultural Revolution, contrasts that era’s uniforms with Playboy bunnies and Mao Zedong with Hugh Hefner. His paintings are rendered in Ben Day dots reminiscent of the screens for printing old newspaper photos.

A number of works in the exhibition will be serigraphs. Serigraphs, the art of printing multiple images through screens originally made of silk, originated in China more than a thousand years ago. The technique became popular with artists throughout history due to its versatility. In recent years the market for limited-edition serigraphs by contemporary artists soared; in 2010 a serigraph by Andy Warhol sold for $63,362,500.

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