SETTING THE STAGE
A biennial aims to promote international and contemporary art among residents of Northwest China. Lin Qi reports from Yinchuan.
Xie Suchen says she often awoke with anxiety during the eight months of planning the Yinchuan Biennale.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Yinchuan’s artistic director led a young and inexperienced team for the museum’s first biennial — an event forwhichmostestablishments spend two years preparing.
The MOCA Yinchuan opened a year ago in a commercial compound along the Yellow River, about one hour’s drive from the downtown of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region’s capital.
“People inNorthwestChina have the same privileges to enjoy art as people in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou,” says Xie, who’s from Taiwan.
“They’re as curious and passionate about art.”
She invited Mumbai-based artist Bose Krishnamachari to curate the event. He founded India’s first biennial, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, in 2012, that advanced contemporary art in Kochi city.
Xie hopes his experiences can be transplanted in Yinchuan, a critical node of the ancient Silk Road.
The inaugural event, For an Image, Faster than Light, that runs from Sept 9 through Dec 18, features a star lineup of 73 artists from 33 countries, including Yoko Ono, Anish Kapoor and Song Dong.
Works inside and outside the museum address wideranging political, economic and cultural issues and ways to improve the world through better thinking, Krishnamachari says.
Beijing-based lithographer Yang Hongwei visited Yinchuan for the first time to attend the biennial’s opening. His Century Altar series is on show.
“The city has more than 1,000 years of historyanddeep cultural traditions,” he says. “I’vecomehere to present contemporary art. I hope to activate the modern parts of Yinchuan’s culturalDNA.”
It isn’t a place for artists to gain fame and fortune like they can in such art hubs as London and New York. Instead, they take nourishment and energy.
British artist Abigail Reynolds says displaying her works is only part of her visit to the city.
She won Art Basel Hong Kong’s third art-journey award six months ago for her 10 am-5 pm,Mondays closed, through Dec 18. MOCA Yinchuan, 12 Hele Road, Xingqing district, Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region. 09518426111. The Ruins Libraries of series.
She will start from Yinchuan and travel to the sites of libraries destroyed by conflict and natural disasters across China, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Italy.
“This is an old and newcity with a very strong relationship with the Silk Road, both in the ancient form and contemporary manifestation,” she says.
“The earliest-dated printed book was found (in Mogao of Time: the Silk Lost Road Cave in neighboring Gansu province’s Dunhuang city). So it is quite fitting to start my journey here.”
Xie says the biennial is an initial step toward boosting the local art scene.
“We’ll achieve our goal slowly, because we have to,” she says.
Organizers brought professional workers from the national capital and bought tools online to trim expenses, she says. “It’s painful,” Xie says. “We only hope we don’t let the audience down.”
The event not only continues the MOCA Yinchuan’s efforts to educate locals about contemporary art but also shows art can be close to everyday life. Many works are made with such local items as clay and rice stems.
The MOCA Yinchuan has staged several contemporaryshows along with permanent displays of its collection of antique maps and oil paintings.
Xie says the museum receives 200 to 300 visitors on weekends, and less than 10 percent of them are tourists.
“Many are families of three generations, and I often secretly follow them. Iknowit sounds odd, but I enjoy it.”
She often overhears visitors say they can’t understand the works. “That’s OK,” she says. “It’s great that people have questions about, or marvel at, the works. I feel that even people’s misunderstandings of a work can make it more beautiful.” Krishnamachari agrees. “I think everybody in Yinchuan should visit the show, and they don’t necessarily understand anything and everything at the first sight.”
He never imagined the Kochi-Muziris Biennale would become globally significant, he explains.
“It’s achieved only through the local people — they need to understand the depth and power of it and then share it with others,” he says.
“Once in Kochi, a family came to the biennale and was asked by a journalist about their feelings. The mother was quoted as saying: ‘This is completely crazy. We’re coming the third time.’ This is what I think is important (of a biennale) — that people keep coming back.”
10 am-5 pm, Mondays closed, through Dec 18. MOCA Yinchuan, 12 Hele Road, Xingqing district, Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region. 0951-842-6111.
Visitors get up close and personal with contemporary art at the Yinchuan Biennale, a major art event in northwestern China.
Xie Suchen (right), artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Yinchuan.