Cao Fei, I, Mirror, A Second Life City, 2007, Video still, Astrup Fearnley Collection.

Contemporary Chinese Art and the Astrup Fearnley Collection in Oslo

Cao Fei I. Mirror, 2007, China Tracy aka: Cao Fei (author), Video installation, Astrup Fearnley Collection.

Cao Fei I. Mirror, 2007, China Tracy aka: Cao Fei (author), Video installation, Astrup Fearnley Collection.

Birdhead (Song Tao & Ji Weiju), Frames, 2007 / Birdhead Suitcase, 2005, Astrup Fearnley Collection.

Huang Yong Ping, Colosseum, 2007, Ceramic, soil and plants; 226 x 556 x 758 cm..Photo by Anders Valde, Astrup Fearnley Collection.

Liu Wei, Love it, Bite it!, 2007, Ox hide and pig skin, size variable, Astrup Fearnley Collection.

Kan Xuan, Looking looking looking for..., 2001, video, © Kan Xuan, courtesy of Galleria Continua San Gimignano/Beijing/Le Moulin, Astrup Fearnley Collection.


Pinacoteca Giovanni
e Marella Agnelli
Via Nizza 230
+39 011 0062713
China Power Station
Contemporary Chinese Art
from the Astrup Fearnley Collection

November 7, 2010-
February 27, 2011

Contemporary Chinese art has established itself in the international arena of art via certain key artists. In preparing this exhibition, three curators, Gunnar B. Kvaran, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones, have delved into the Chinese art milieu, and chosen young artists who represent the new generation of contemporary Chinese art. The exhibition presents a multiplicity of styles and expressions, and underscores the versatility and quality of today’s Chinese art.

China Power Station, is an evolving project which springs from a partnership between Serpentine Gallery and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo. Part I of the exhibition was shown at London's Battersea Power Station in Autumn, 2006. Part II was developed for Oslo in 2007 and Part III was staged in Luxembourg in 2008. Now with a new layout and new works, the exhibition is being presented in Turin.

Artists in the exhibition include: Birdhead (Song Tao & Ji Weiyu), Cai Guo-Qiang, Cao Fei, Yang Fudong, Chen Qiulin, Chu Yun, Duan Jianyu, Huang Yong Ping,Hu Xiangqian, Kan Xuan, Liang Yue, Liu Chuang, Liu Wei, Liu Weijian, Lu Chunsheng, Pak Sheung Chuen, Qiu Anxiong, Song Tao,Sun Xun, Xu Zhen, Xue Tao, Zhang Ding, Zhou Tao, Zhou Zixi.

Each stage was structured around a different selection of artists and works of art, devised according to the context in which they are presented. The exhibition at Mudam in Luxembourg aimed to link the generation of artists who emerged in China in the 1980s, a time when China underwent a surprising artistic explosion, with a younger generation of artists who appeared on the international artistic scene from 2000.

In China, the social, political and economic conditions have undergone some drastic transformations since the 1980s. Before this date, the country had endured a long period of cultural and artistic isolation. Unlike their precursors who often began their careers in Europe and the United States, most of the artists from the new generation decided to remain and live in China. In general, they have been able to enjoy an artistic education combining history from western and eastern art, as well as the freedom to travel, which has enabled them to develop relationships and exchanges at an international level. The fact that these young artists have stayed to live in China means that they witness and partake in the profound changes that the country is presently going through.

Over the last decades, in the global context, China has moved from the periphery to the centre, so much that the country is marked by an optimism similar to that which energised the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. In this radically changing environment, undoubtedly more than elsewhere, contemporary Chinese artists have developed and are continuing to develop their practice in direct response to the context in which they live. Right from the start, the China Power Station project’s aim has been to highlight the most innovative responses produced by a particularly rich artistic field of exploration. Therefore, it is not surprising that China Power Station: Part III at Mudam explores the themes linked to urban space, the historic and contemporary situation in China, and to everyday spaces. The exhibition marks, through the example of a country which is currently undergoing accelerated economic change, together with the danger of unrestrained urbanisation and uniformity connected to globalisation, the ways in which current artistic practices respond to the challenges which stimulate the contemporary world.

It shows a particular interest in the quest for modernity and a return to tradition while revealing a real sensitivity towards urban and environmental transformations. In this way, the artist Huang Yong Ping associates aspects of western modernity with the traditions of his country of birth, often ironically, in his works of art. The artist, Lu Chunsheng, talks of the industrial era and the story of communism through films and photographs. The exhibition China Power Station: Part III at Mudam Luxembourg concentrates on installations and videos, which have been developing in China since the end of the 1990s. Video is used more and more by this generation of Chinese artists because it works both as a way of recording reality and as a writing tool translating the desire of these artists to bring a subjective and critical view of the changes that China is undergoing today.

The artist Cao Fei’s work is a good illustration of the use of new media in modern Chinese art. In I. Mirror: A Second Life City, 2007, she sheds light on the virtual world of Second Life. In this world which is accessible via the Internet, users the world over can live a second life, developing all kinds of activities. Cao Fei created a persona called China Tracy through whom she has been able to experiment with behaviour which would be considered strange, or even indecent, in the real world. Some of her adventures have been aggregated in the video installation made up of transparent walls and reflective surfaces whose futuristic forms are an invitation to enter and take part in this virtual reality.

This exploration of the collecting phenomenon brings a new kind of patronage to Turin: after producing the exhibition China Power Station in its entirety, the Astrup Fearnley collection then decided to purchase it and make it part of its permanent collection, based in the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, Norway.

The Turin show presents the creative explosion of contemporary Chinese art, with the works of avant-garde artists as Cai Guo-Qiang and Huang Yong Ping, together with the new post-Mao generation of artists born in the late 70s and early 80s, including Cao Fei, Liu Wei, Yang Fudong, Sun Xun and Zhang Ding.

Videos, major installations, painting and sculpture reveal the vibrant Chinese art scene, showing some of the most innovative responses emerging from the country, which is fertile ground for artistic experimentation.

Confirming this interest in Chinese culture, on November 7, 2010 the Pinacoteca Agnelli hosts The Future of China, a marathon event with critic Hans Ulrich Obrist, which presents a dialogue with Chinese philosophers, artists and architects on the future of the world’s second largest economic power.

Zhang Ding, N Kilometres towards the West, 2006, Sound Installation, diameter 165 cm, Photo by Anders Valde, Astrup Fearnley Collection.