“I hope to highlight the rich ‘unofficial’ exhibition histories of contemporary art in China, and the role photography and art can play to help illuminate the larger social and cultural landscape of China at that time.” Victor Wang
PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai’s 2018 edition of Insights will be curated by Victor Wang 王宗孚, a curator and researcher based in Shanghai and London. For the exhibition, Wang is drawing on the photographic exhibition history of Shanghai and revisiting the 1999 artist- curated photo exhibition ‘The Same But Also Changed’, that was scheduled to open at 859 Tian Yao Qiao Road, Shanghai, from September 4 – 6, 1999, but was prematurely closed by authorities before it could open to the public.
The exhibition was one of the first to explore contemporary photography in Shanghai. It brought together 15 artists based in China to explore the distinct aesthetic qualities images hold, and an innovative technology that allowed for unconventionality, spontaneity, and a provocation of what was considered to be ‘contemporary art’ at that time.
Many of the artists featured in the original exhibition are today recognized as influential to the development of Chinese contemporary art, and to the development of a larger artistic network in the region. Shanghai’s 2018 Insights exhibition will feature artworks by the original artists displayed in the 1999 exhibition, such as Geng Jiangyi, Yang Fudong, Hu Jieming, Xu Zhen, Liang Yue, Chen Xiaoyun, Yang Zhenzhong, Xiang Lqing, amongst others, alongside a new generation of Chinese artists working in various image-producing mediums. On the eve of the fair's opening, Victor Wang and Georgia Griffiths - Group Fair Director - accepted to answer a few questions.
Marine Cabos-Brullé: Why such focus on this prematurely closed exhibition in 1999?
Victor Wang: I was interested in making an exhibition that spoke to the exciting photo history of Shanghai, and more broadly, photography in China. Pointing to an ‘unofficial’ history of contemporary art in China as an important side of the art history of China. While also considering the difference between perceiving photography as a subject and medium of study (as an art subject and history) and as a technique to produce historical records that can help illuminate the larger social and cultural landscape of making exhibitions in China at that time.
M.C.: Which artists of the new generation connect particularly well with those exhibited in the original exhibition?
V. W.: Both the artists of a new generation, and those of the original exhibition were working and making art in very different conditions. However, there still can be both aesthetic and conceptual linkages between both generations – such as the exploration of cultural modernization, to the expansion of photography into more conceptual practise, or the pursuit of a photo based abstraction. Yet important still is how artists continually push technology and innovation using photography- expanding on the once defined terminology and medium.
M.C.: What changed in Chinese contemporary photography between 1999 and today?
V. W.: Photography has always had a relationship with technology. Therefore one could look and the innovation and development of image making technologies, and how that has greatly changed in the last 20 years. For example hand held cameras, or the integration of cameras into smart phones. This is expanded, of course, in the development of image sharing platforms, such as Instagram, or Wechat, that have also shaped how we view and make photos. This is also further progressed into questions of analogue technology VS Digital technologies, and the impact they have on the types and ways in which we see and make photos.
M.C.: Why invest in photography?
Georgia Griffiths: Contemporary fine art photography is a sound investment and China, as the world’s largest luxury goods market and second-largest art market, is recognising the potential of the photographic medium.
The price point of the medium is very accessible, but editions are capped to ensure that works hold their value.
If you are unsure about investing, a fair is a great opportunity to get up close to the art and experience it first-hand. PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai offers you a unique opportunity to meet the artists, hear the experts speak on panels and see a broad view of photography from masters of the medium through to the cutting-edge of today. We also offer an advice service for those new to buying and for established collectors seeking to uncover emerging photographic talent.
M.C.: In you opinion, what are the criteria for a “good” piece of work?
G. G.: The galleries and artists for PHOTOFAIRS are carefully selected so that visiting collectors, curators and buyers are given an expansive range of photography to view. The boutique scale of the fair (each edition has up to 50 galleries) ensures we create a highly curated experience and we work with each gallery to ensure that they are presenting new, different and exciting works.
As the Fair Director, I am looking for artists working in unique ways as much of the work presented at PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai is designed to challenge the limits of the photographic medium.
M.C.: How do you see the Chinese photography art market changing in the next 5 years?
V. W.: More digital platforms that share and create images – this will be a great influencer on art and its markets.
G. G.: Asia has become the place for collectors to uncover new work and there is a much greater understanding of the investment potential of photography in China. In the 5 years since we launched, Shanghai has embraced the medium of photography with great energy and confidence. This is exemplified in sharp rise of museums dedicated to photography and photographic exhibitions opening across China.
Looking forward to the next 5 years, I see further growth but also more artists from across China engaging with the medium in new and exciting ways as technology develops.
M.C.: Is there a specific Chinese photographer you recommend to invest in?
V. W.: Visit PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai to find out!
G. G.: There is a great deal of energy and excitement around Chinese artists working in image-based art at present, so it is difficult to just name one photographer.
Personally, I love the diverse practices of Chinese artists like Jiang Zhi (Blindspot Gallery) as it really pushes the boundary of the medium whilst having strong classic references. In terms of the next generation, I am really excited about the work of Chen Zhe, Fan Xi and Miao Ying all of whom are being shown in the Insights | The Same But Also Changed exhibition curated by Victor Wang which is part of the public program at the Fair this year.
When looking to invest in photography I always recommend that you should buy what you love. PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai offers a great opportunity to build relationship with the dealers from both China and around the world and to meet a wide variety of artists who are part of the public program at the fair.
For those new to collecting make sure you get our ‘Guide to Collecting Photography’ available via the PHOTOFAIRS Wechat account which will offer expert advice on how to start your collection.
About Victor Wang | Recent exhibitions curated by Wang include the first presentation in the UK of Shanghai-based artist Xu Zhen’s ‘XUZHEN Supermarket’ (2007/2017) and the group exhibition ‘Zhongguo 2185’ at Sadie Coles HQ, London; the first institutional solo exhibition in China by Estonian artist Katja Novitskova at the Cc Foundation, Shanghai (2017) and Neïl Beloufa: Soft(a)ware (2016), the first institutional solo exhibition in China by French-Algerian artist Neïl Beloufa at the chi k11 art museum, Shanghai. Wang has written for art periodicals such as Artforum, Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and was a Guest Editor of LEAP Magazine. In 2018 he will curate the first solo exhibition in China by British artist Michael Dean at ShanghART Gallery and has been selected as curator of the 11th edition of David Roberts Art Foundation Curator’s Series.
About Georgia Griffiths | Georgia Griffiths is Group Fair Director at PHOTOFAIRS. Prior to her appointment, Georgia was Fair Manager for Art16 in London where she played a vital role in the development of London's global art fair from it's inception in 2013. Georgia was involved in the launch of Art Central Hong Kong working as their International Development Manager bringing in galleries from Europe and North America.
PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai
From September 21-23, 2018
Shanghai Exhibition Center
No. 655 Changhua Road