In 2015, a Chinese studio known as People’s Architecture Office made waves on art and architecture media when they used metal air conditioning pipes to create large-scale Chinese characters on the front exterior of the Tabular Baitasi Visitor center during the Beijing Design Week. The Tabular Baitasi Visitor center has long been used to host events and exhibitions that showcase renewal or regeneration strategies for Beijing’s Batasi, which refers to a cultural and historical preservation zone situated within the capital.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu – Dogs Which Cannot Touch Each Other, 2003, 8 Bull Terriers, 8 Running Machines Without Drive
The video work titled Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other has only recently been removed from Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition series known as Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World. The video series has been met with disapproval and disparagement not only by some art critics but animal lovers and welfare organizations as well. Critics claim that the exhibition would have featured a series of various distinct video presentations depicting instances of unmistakable and unacceptable animal cruelty in the name of art.
Shirin Neshat – Installation view of The Book of Kings at Faurschou Foundation Beijing
Photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud
The Gladstone Gallery and the Faurschou Foundation in Beijing, China are just some of the art spaces that have had the pleasure of exhibiting Shirin Neshat’s The Book of Kings. The exhibition consisted of a total of 56 black and white photos framed in unmated and black frames that were hung across the two galleries. Neshat, “persona non grata” in Iran due to her art, created the photographs to reference a broad array of important and modern political metaphors.
Zhang Huan – 12 Square Meters, 1994, single channel video, 3min 2sec, documentation of a 40-minute performance
Zhang Huan is no stranger to controversy. Having attended school at a time when China was undergoing a dramatic time in its history, Zhang learned a lot from the years of protests and demonstrations that would be staged in front of the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. As an avid fan of Avant-garde art, Zhang did not really have adequate resources at his disposal that would allow him to execute his artistic vision. As such, and not surprisingly, Zhang decided to change the way he expressed himself by adopting a more provocative and transgressive form of performance art, which was later photographed and documented.
Andy Warhol blowing up Silver Clouds, Los Angeles, 1966
Andy Warhol is no stranger to critical acclaim; his various works introduced thousands of audiences to contemporary art which helped to put American artists on the map, and it waged a war against abstract expressionism. Warhol effectively managed, time and time again, to shatter distinctions in art and he helped to reshape the aesthetic criteria that many people used to categorize art. In true fashion, Warhol inspired an artistic revolution of epic proportions that was felt not just in America, but in other parts of the world as well.
Yue Minjun – Untitled, stainless steel sculpture, 95x197x143cm
Yue Minjun was born in Daqing in Heilongjiang, China in 1962. For most of his life, Yue moved from place to place, because his family had to move from oilfield to oilfield to find work. Before starting to work as an electrician, he graduated from Hebei Normal University in 1989, where he studied oil painting. 1989 was the same year in which China was left shocked by the infamous student-led demonstrations and the suppression of such on Tiananmen Square. These movements played a large part in the inspiration and mood of Yue’s work. In order to fight the dark mood of the hour, the dark reality of the time, he created vibrant self-images embodying an almost mania; The laughing image.
Ai Weiwei – Study of Perspective, Tiananmen, 1995-2010, C-Print, 32,5×43,5cm
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist and activist whose activism comes out in his artwork. He has been vocal and openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. His work has captured global attention and served to bring attention to social injustices, human rights violations, and systemic violence.