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Exhibit showcases 27 young artists

Updated: 2013-09-03 10:45
By Chen Jia in San Francisco ( China Daily)

Telling the story of modern and contemporary art, 27 young Chinese artists will have a joint debut in the US next year thanks to a cooperative program between the Tampa Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg in Florida.

"Together, we recognized a unique opportunity to offer our visitors a glimpse into the world of art in what is becoming one of the most engaging and intriguing centers for art today," said Todd Smith, executive director of the Tampa Museum of Art. "This will be the largest and most significant engagement with art from China in our history."

When Smith visited Beijing and Shanghai earlier this year, he was struck by the freshness of the artwork he saw and the wonderfully insightful way in which the many artists he met saw the world within and outside of China, he said.

The exhibition focuses on a group of artists aged 26 to 37, he said, because he felt that theirs were stories that he wanted others to see and experience.

He began working with curator and art critic Barbara Pollack six months ago on the original concept for this exhibition. Pollack, who has been covering contemporary Chinese art for US art magazines for years and began focusing on young, emerging artists three years ago. Her book Wild, Wild East, which offers readers a first-hand account of the expanding world of contemporary Chinese art and the art market, was published in 2011.

Traveling to China, Pollack was so impressed by the work of young Chinese artists and the fascinating lives they were leading, that she caught "the bug" and wanted to do a show, Smith said.

Earlier this summer the Tampa Museum of Art entered into a partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg to present the exhibition in two parts, half at each of the venues at the same time. In total, they will show about 50 works, some of which will be created specifically for this show.

The museums are working with several other organizations to organize a traveling show.

The exhibition is organized to highlight several important characteristics of the art being produced by this young generation, addressing issues ranging from the generation gap and the difficulties of intimate relationships to the urbanization of the Chinese landscape and pessimism about political solutions.

In addition, the exhibition also argues that the commonly held view of artists as narcissistic, apolitical, and unengaged needs to be rethought.

"As the international art world has become more interconnected and collectors around the world have greater and greater access to information about artists around the block and around the world, it is inevitable that collectors in the US will grow in their interest and knowledge of contemporary Chinese artists," Smith said.

"This exhibition is meant as an introduction for US collectors and museum goers to a generation of Chinese artists who have begun to establish careers within China, throughout Asia and who have just started to find followings in the US and Western Europe," he said.

Contemporary Chinese artists have begun to be shown fairly regularly in galleries and museums in New York or Los Angeles, but in a city like Tampa, most of US visitors have very little knowledge about China's latest art movements.

"It is important to bring these artworks from China to our museum-goers, and perhaps through this exchange, our visitors will get a better understanding of what is happening in China, beyond the news headlines," he said.

Many people in the US, even with little knowledge of Chinese contemporary art, probably have the impression that Chinese artists are still fascinated by the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

But this younger generation goes beyond these first impressions, creating works with a greater range of styles and issues, he said.

"I believe that these works, made in the last ten years, will be more accessible to US audiences because they demonstrate a wider range of individuality and personal expression," he said.

Younger artists are also more knowledgeable and comfortable with international art movements and are therefore more easily understood by Western audiences, he added.

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