Chen Wenling, God of Materialism(s).

The Figurative and Social Reality of Chinese Contemporary Art

Zhang Xiaogang, FamNo. 2, 2005, 400 x 280cm, © Zhang Xiaogang.

Xiang Jing, Bang! 002, 2002, Fibre glass painted, © Xiang Jing.


Museum Moderner Kunst
Stiftung Ludwig Vienna
Museumsplatz 1
+ 43-1-525 00
China – Facing Reality
October 26, 2007-February 10, 2008

In cooperation with the National Museum of China (NAMOC), MUMOK presents a glimpse into contemporary art in China. The question of the relationship between realistic art and social reality in China represents the central concern of the exhibition. Realistic modes of expression constitute a recurring theme in contemporary Chinese art where since the 1990s, the forces of globalization, rapid urbanization and the media creep in society have generated an immense plurality of media and topics.

The exhibition begins with works by the “cynical realists” who began working after the death of Mao Zedong in a climate of relative cultural freedom: Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang are considered to be the three most important representatives of this school of realism in which the tension between the individual and the collective, between social liberalization and political impotence constitutes the thematic framework.

In addition to painting and sculpture, digital photography, video, film and computer animations are the dominant media for the younger generation of artists who in the midst of globalization and commercialization are attuned to the contradictory nature of these icons of progress: The works by Liu Xiaodong, Shen Ling, Chen Wenling, Cui Xiuwen and Jiu Jianhua deal with questions of individual identity between tradition and innovation, communism and capitalism in a society which is simultaneously determined by its contradictions, insecurity and potential. Wang Jianwei’s larger-than-life-sized figures on the façade of the MUMOK make reference to a new and shifting image of man between anonymity and individuality.

The city as a rapidly changing living space is the central theme of a series of photographic and video works by artists such as Miao Xiaochun, Song Tao, Song Dong, the group They or Yang Zhenzhong. In this context, the transition between the real and fiction is fluid: Tang Maohong’s or the Unmask Group’s works, with their motifs drawn from science fiction and fantasy present magical, utopian worlds of escape in which the archaic and the ultramodern are interwoven.

Exhibition artists include: Chen Wenling, Chenke, Cui Xiuwen, Fang Lijun, Ji Dachun, Li Hui, Liu Jianhua, Liu Qinghe, Liu Xiaodong, Liu Ye, Miao Xiaochun, Shen Ling, Song Dong, Song Tao, They (Tamen), Tang Maohong, Unmask Group, Wang Jianwei, Xiang Jing, Xu Zhen, Yang Jingsong, Yang Zhenzhong, Yin Xiuzhen, Yue Minjun, Zeng Hao, and Zhang Xiaogang.

Exhibition curators are, Edelbert Köb, MUMOK, and Fan Dian, NAMOC.

Liu Jianhua, Yiwu Survey, 2006, Installation, mixed media, © Liu Jianhua.