China - Contemporary rebirth
Great collective at Palazzo Reale in Milan

review by Jizaino, 27 December 2009

Cina - Rinascita contemporanea (China - Contemporary rebirth)
Palazzo Reale - Piazza Duomo, 12 - Milan
from 11 December 2009 to 7 February 2010
opening times: Tuesday - Sunday 9.30-19.30, Monday 14.30-19.30, Thursday 9.30-22.30
31 December: 9.30 - 14.00
1 January: 14.30 - 19.30
6 January: 9.30 - 19.30
ticket: full rate €9, reductions for groups, children and other categories[]>

The exhibition

This short review is simply meant to tell the positive experience with this interesting collective exhibition of artists from the Chinese Popular Republic.
There are over 50 artists, with a good female attendance, and more than 180 artworks since 1993 upto now that cover the main artistic disciplines: painting, photography, Videoart, sculpture, installations, performances. The artists names are among the most valued ones at an international level.

Feng Zhengjie, "China Portrait No.53"
2008, silkscreen, 81.3 x 81.3 cm

The exhibit is one of those occasions not to lose, though surely not the only one by now, to know and to recognize the artists, and maybe to remember those Chinese names that in the West one would remember with difficulty.
The artworks are a lot and very different, making the show to almost seem like a small fair of contemporary Art that would satisfy who is looking for something new or even eccentric. Under this aspect, perhaps the Chinese artists are more fresh and vital then the Western ones and can stir up the surprise with theirs inspired creativeness.
One can admire some of the crazy armored baby-carriages and strollers by Shi Jinsong and the rainbows made up of commercial brands by Jiang Zhi, from the dreamy little girls by Chen Ke to the pregnant student girls by Cui Xiuwen, the classical paintings comically reproposed with the face of Old Joe from the Camel cigarettes by Zhou Tiehai or the exasperated and obsessive laughter of the ubiquitous character by Yue Minjun, and many others.

Xu Zhongmin, "Egg Shape No.1" (detail)
2006, animated installation
, 150 x 180 cm

The exhibition is subdivided in seven thematic sections, among which there is the one dedicated to East Village (the artistic movement formed in a district of Peking in the 90s) with some photographic documents of performances; to the eyes of a westerner these could appear something already seen, but that is the evident sign that the Chinese culture is approaching the international one.

Zhang Huan, "12m²"
1994, performance

Zhu Ming, "The anonymous mountain raised by one meter"
Silver print of the performance of 1995, 40 x 59.5 cm

In a general view, the artworks of this exhibition reveal that China is by now totally projected toward the consumerism and the capitalism, more than one would expect from a country with such a well rooted millennial culture.
In these artworks of large and very large sizes we find subjects that are becoming by now almost entirely impermeable by the traditional Chinese culture (that often it is a bit inscrutable for us) replacing them with others that are more globalized, and that do not speak any more only to China, but to an international public.

Cui Xiuwen, "Angel No.2"
2006, c-print, 83 x 400 cm

The visual icons of classic China, like the pagodas or the student uniforms, are in some way turned into characterizing elements, that is to say forcibly included in the artworks to underline somehow their own origin to the eyes of international beholders. Certainly, without these characteristic elements, the artworks would definitely become globalized, getting mixed up with the international contemporaneity; would these be the last shreds of the Chinese folklore and the sense of cultural belongings?

Zeng Hao, "In the noon, 26 June"
2003, oil on canvas, 209.5 x 280 cm

Zhang Xiaogang, "Comrade Portrait No.1"
1998, oil on canvas, 190 x 150 cm

On the other hand in the artworks exhibited there is a generally diffuse and well present strong critical sense against the invasion of the consumerism in the daily life of the Chinese people, whose body represents by now the only difference in a dimension made of household appliances and consumer products that the multinationals "administer" to the masses.

CHEN Ling Yang, "25:00 No.1"
2002, c-print in lightbox

Huang Yan, "Couple Landscape 3"
2006, c-print, 100 x 80 cm


Exhibition not to lose for the variety of the artworks. Catalogue of good quality and complete, Motta Editore, 35€.

Jizaino -

Read also: review of the exhibition on Edward Hopper at Palazzo Reale in the same period.