30 January 2011

Top 5 in 2010

This is my subjective list of the most important or impressive exhibitions or art happenings in the region during 2010:

1 Nuart
Nuart got even larger in 2010 with large sizes and great artists. Nuart is keeping the position as one of the most important and interesting street art festivals internationally.

2 Yang Fudong at Kinokino
A daring project by Kinokino: to fill all the exhibition rooms and screening halls with video art by Shanghai artist Yang Fudong. A remarkable exhibition of world class in Sandnes!

3 Public Screens
The project of curated video art exhibitions on public screens was started by i/o/lab in 2010. This is a great, new idea with many possibilities for the future.

4 Stavanger2008 documentary
In the wake of the Stavanger Culture Capital 2008, the documentary was finally presented in 2010. A movie showing the fantastic moments, but also the controversies. This gave a spark to many discussions about the choices made before, during and after 2008.

5 R-Open
All artists in the county were invited to open their studio for visitors for one day. A great success with artist talks, workshops and a lot of interested people moving along.

And here are the most important headlines on art that will appear during 2011 (hopefully):

-The Tou Vision is fully financed, the artists are moving into the new studios

-Nuart is even greater than last year, Banksy turned up and left some pieces

-The art map/calendar is launched, showing all major galleries in the Stavanger region

-The Stavanger politicians decided to increase the funding for Sølvberget to keep the gallery running

-Nytorget is declared graffiti zone, the temporary walls are almost daily refreshed by new pieces

-Kunstpalasset has a grand opening after some months of rehabilitation works

27 January 2011


Various cartoon artists
Kinokino, Sandnes

A great exhibition started at Kinokino today. It is about cartoons documenting or commenting the world, with contributions from all parts of the world. Interesting theme, and very well presented. Again Kinokino succeeds in exhibiting something unique and important. I will write more about it, but first I have to return to read more cartoons and enjoy the exhibition with fewer visitors there.

Here are some visual highlights:


Webpage about the exhibition here

Performanse by a-bttfn
Performance by A-Bttfn during the vernissage.

Jubileé pavilion at Nytorget

Stavanger Arkitektforening (Architect Union) arranged a competition to make a pavilion at Nytorget, marking the 75 years of the organization. After a competition between 17 contestants, this is the winner:

Possible pavilion"SAF lounge" by KAP
This will be constructed during the spring 2011.

Honorably mention # 1:
Possible pavilion"Saft suse så mange huse" by KAP

Honorably mention # 2:
Possible pavilion"På Kanten" by Studio Ludo/sivilarkitekt Petter Aase

Other interesting projects:
Possible pavilion

Possible pavilion

Possible pavilion

Puls vs Kult

Today Rogalands Avis launched "Puls" - their cultural weekly addition to the newspaper. Will this be a competitor to Stavanger Aftenblad's "Kult"? Will we finally get a broad view and useful calendar on important art exhibitions and cultural happenings in the Stavanger region?

First of all, I have for a long time thought RA and SA should exchange names. While Stavanger Aftenblad is a regional newspaper for the south part of Rogaland county, Rogaland Avis is mostly writing about Stavanger. The same is visible in the cultural sections. A cultural magazine should cover not only the exhibitions within the municipality border of Stavanger, but also include venues like Kinokino in Sandnes and Hå gamle prestegard at Jæren, just to mention a few. After all the borders are not visible, and quite many cross these borders daily. Puls is not surprisingly Stavanger-focused, while Kult also includes the rest of South-Rogaland.

Then it comes to the definition of "culture". If the task is to cover all kinds of culture, sports included, there will be too much information. If all the "house band concerts", DJ sets and live screenings of Argentinian football matches are on the calender, we will drown in information. On the RA calendar I find that for instance both a vernissage at Kinokino and at Kunstgalleriet today are not included. The ideal solution would be to be able to choose or exclude for instance music, literature, movies etc. This is only possible on the web. This leads to the next question: Do we need this paper version? RA also run a webpage called "Siddisland", which seems like a mix of myspace, tourist information and advertisement space. The webcalendar is the closest we get to a fully functioning art calendar, even if fasr from all galleries are included.

What is the content of Puls and Kult today? Kult is on 24 pages, while Puls boast of 40. But almost one third is not about culture: 6,5 pages of car and shopping advertisements, 4 about food and 2 about exercise. That is a rather wide definition of culture. The rest of the pages are about music, movies and art. Puls on the other hand leave almost one third (7 pages) to the television programme for the coming week. Also a quite wide definition of culture, but the rest are features about literature, movies and art. Puls has 8 pages of mixed culture calendar for all February, while Kult has 5 pages for the coming weekend and week, divided into museums, galleries and other. A rather small part of both magazines are dedicated to visual art.

In my opinion we need both Puls and Kult. Even if they do not complete each other, together they bring a wider view than just one of them alone.

So, what is my suggestion? Well, look to other cities. I have seen good examples in different cities like New York, Copenhagen, Modena and Tallinn. The concept is an art map-calendar, with a map showing the spots of the galleries and art venues and a list of the on-going and up-coming exhibitions, their opening times and other info. These maps are distributed on major art spots and cafes around in the city. There was a leaflet like this as a cooperation between Tou Scene, Checkpoint Charlie and Folken for a short time some time ago, focusing on music. The same could be done for art. Or if a paper version is too expensive to make, create a web version!

my view on Aftenbladet's coverage on art is here

UPDATE: After waiting in vain for three weeks, I realized that Puls actually is issued only monthly, not weekly. This puts is far behind Kult when it comes to freshness and actuality.

26 January 2011

Red Gate Gallery: 20th anniversary preview

20th anniversary preview
The Red Gate Gallery, Beijing

The Red Gate Gallery has a great lineup of art as a preview to their 20th anniversary. This is a great opportunity to get an overview of important Chinese contemporary artists. Here are some highlights:

Han Qing: Night Trip No 3Han Qing: Night Trip No 3

Zhou Yun: China Central TelevisionZhou Yun: China Central Television

Li Gang: Black Light No. 1Li Gang: Black Light No. 1

Chen Yufei: Taking EvidenceChen Yufei: Taking Evidence

Xie Guoping: Approaching MeXie Guoping: Approaching Me

You get more impressions and a better view on the pieces on the gallery web page here.

25 January 2011

Chen Wenling: The Suspense

Chen Wenling
The Suspense
Today Art Museum, Beijing

Shark eating hippo eating crocodile eating man. Or is it the other way around?

A fantastic way to fill this large hall at Today Art Museum in Beijing.

This seems like an obvious story of nature defeating man. The hunter is eaten by a crocodile, which is eaten by a hippopotamus, which is eaten by a shark. The man has got the wild animals hooked, but are then attacked by them himself. The gigantic installation is breathtaking. The fear, the rage and the pain is immense. The viewers become small compared to the large creatures. The humans are dominated by the wild.

But this is also a comic setup, like a dog biting its own tail. The figures are like animal toys in gigantic sizes and turned bad.

This is no game or joke, this is blood and violence. According to a polaroid picture and notes on the wall, the installation is inspired on a real incident 15 year ago, when the artist and his girlfriend was stabbed by robbers. The hunter/victim of the installation is a self portrait, attacked by vicious creatures.

But, wait a minute! The exhibition continues into the next room, where the shark, hippo and crocodile are all dead. The man is missing, but blood tracks are leading away from the scene. Man defeated nature. The artist defeated the attackers. In real life one of the robbers was executed, one got a long prison sentence, and one is in hiding.

What at first seems like a comment on man versus nature or the extinction of wild animals, is furthermore a personal catharsis of the artist, gaining control over traumatic memories. It could be a story about bloody revenge. But it is also a story about forgiveness. Connected to the exhibition is the establishing of the Suspense Foundation, offering education and art lessons to poor children in the village where the robbers came from.

Chen Wenling - The Suspense
Chen Wenling - The Suspense
Chen Wenling - The Suspense

Laurens Tan: Chinese Toy Story

Laurens Tan
Chinese Toy Story
The Opposite House Gallery, Sanlitun, Beijing

Laurens Tan: Chinese Toy Story
Laurens Tan: Chinese Toy Story

Really impressive sculptures by Laurens Tan in this exhibition curated by The Red Gate Gallery in the architectural gem The Opposite House design hotel.

This is toys in grand size, jewelry made into sculptures, everyday objects turned into art objects. The shining, bright bicycle taxis are transporting large Chinese signs (that I unfortunately do not know the meaning of) and a revolving sculpture. The bicycles are not to be pedalled, not to be steered. All that is left of the bicycle is the form.

24 January 2011

Today Art Museum

Some highlights from the collection and temporary exhibition at the great Today Art Museum in Beijing.

Sculptures by Yue Minjun
These characters are characteristic of Yue Minjun. He makes both sculptures and paintings of these smiling men. This installation is just outside the Today Art Gallery
Sculptures on the roof of Today Art Gallery

Zhang Yongxy - City Construction
Zhang Yongxy - City Construction

This painting really points to the extreme development of Beijing. Maybe the only place left to dig and build highrise buildings are just in front of the Forbidden City
Wu Daxin - Highway Railing
Wu Daxin - Highway Railing

Great idea! The typical fence dividing bicycles and cars in Beijing is a refrigerator! With the needed gas and compressor and everything, the installation not only divides, it also cools down.
Yue Minjun - Free and Leisure -10
Yue Minjun - Free and Leisure -10

the smiling men again
work by Wang Yang
painting by Wang Yang

I was really taken by this painting. A great comment on art and art viewers.
Chen Wenling - How To Flee
Chen Wenling - How To Flee

An impressive installation from Chen Wenling. If you think this is great, have a look at his gigantic installation "Suspense" in the main exhibition hall (see next post on this blog).

DAZE: Solo exhibition

Solo exhibition
Changart gallery, 798 art district, Beijing

It is not easy to find graffiti and streetart in China, at least not outside the 798 art district. That makes this exhibition special. This is the first solo show by graffiti pioneer "Daze" Chris Ellis (b. 1962) in China.

There is a thin line between the tasteless kitch and the impressive artwork in any line of art, but especially in graffiti. There are some few writers that really create art, and a lot of writers that are living by the rule "more is more", the more colours the better.
As an art field that has developed quite a bit since the early days, it is mostly interesting as a historical background to see the Daze artworks. The aestetics of the 70s and 80s are very present in these works.
I find one piece more interesting: He has painted a subway door, with tags on it. Very interesting approach, painting your tags.

DAZE solo exhibition
DAZE solo exhibition
DAZE solo exhibition

Daze at Changart gallery

Xu Yong & Yu Na: Solution Scheme

Xu Yong & Yu Na
Solution Scheme
798 space, 798 art district, Beijing

A former bar hostess and call girl is taking charge in this real life story. From being dominated Yu Na is the one taking control. She may appear at first to be the victim, but then you realize that she is holding the camera button. She is in control, the men are her puppets.

Yu Na: Solution Scheme
Yu Na: Solution Scheme

The exhibition was strangely hidden inside the impressive 798 factory hall.

Link to the 798 space

Thukral & Thagra: Match Fixed

Thukral & Thagra
Match Fixed
UCCA, 798 art district, Beijing

Entering the exhibition room is like an overdose of sugar and candy. Pink walls, colorful wallpapers, gold and bling. What first appear to be a Bollywood wonderworld is in fact a story about loss, cheating and loneliness.

Thukral & Tagra tell a story about Indian men being established in the west, returning to India to get married to a local girl. Then they disappear with the money from the wedding, while the wife is left alone. What seems like a glamorous life is actually an empty and sad life.

Thukral &Tagra: Match Fixed

22 January 2011

Liu Xiaodong: Hometown boy

Liu Xiaodong
Hometown boy
UCCA, 798 art district, Beijing

An established artist returns to his hometown. This results in paintings of everyday life and his family and childhood friends. But also in many schetches, diary notes and ideas. I wish I had more time to explore this exhibition. Did he return as a hero, or did he fall back to who he was when he lived here? Had the people there changed? How does his hometown visit influence the creative process? He is painting in the pool hall, the karaoke pub, in the fields and in the backyards. He brings everyday life in a typical Chinese village to the canvas and gallery walls.

Liu Xiaodong: Hometown boy

Liu Xiaodong: Hometown boy

Lu Zhengyuan: 84 days, 84 works

Lu Zhengyuan
84 days, 84 works
UCCA, 798 art district, Beijing

An exhausting project: to create one unique art piece every day during 84 days. I guess it went smooth the first days, then sooner or later you run out of ideas. This is when it starts getting interesting. Also in Lu Zhengyan's collection of 84 works, some are not impressive at all, but then again some are. And is the most important the outcome of the creative process, or is the process itself the most interesting? 31 works were presented before the vernissage, then one work a day during the exhibition period.

Some examples:
- Wrote a secret on a bill, then spent it
- Pictures of scratches on cars. Did he do it or is it arranged?
- Warmed a portion of the desk with my hand. That portion of the desk was my work of art.

Lu Zhengyuan: 84 days, 84 works

Lu Zhengyuan: 84 days, 84 works

Yang Yong: Lightscapes

Yang Yong
UCCA - Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 798 art district, Beijing


I am amazed of this great installation of 200 lamps with all kinds of decorations. Photos of pop icons, magazine covers and movie captures, fluffy materials and laces, all enlightening us. Each lamp is hand-painted. All are images that at some point of time made some impression on the artist.

There is too much light, too much information. You end up looking upwards until your neck starts to hurt. As in the information age, you notice some and ignore some of the images. Almost as interesting as the installation itself is seeing how other visitors percieve the artwork.

Yang Yong: Lightscape

Yang Yong: Lightscape

Li Hongjun - Into Papers

Li Hongjun
Into Papers
PIFO New Art Gallery, 798 art district, Beijing
link to webpage
Li Hongjun has made sculptures of paper sheets. From bundles of papers shapes and faces appear. I was struck with awe when I discovered that each of these sculptures consists of hundreds of papers cut to fit perfectly in. Each paper is crucial, and a mistake in one paper would destroy the whole. Each head is a topographical landscape with each paper representing each height curve. Some heads are slightly distorted. Some heads are juxtaposed with the block of paper with a hole exactly matching the head.

Into Papers - Work by Li Hongjun.

Expansion of the Paper no 1

Into Papers - Work by Li Hongjun.

Into Papers - Work by Li Hongjun.

20 January 2011

Aftenbladet vs art

Stavanger artist Ingrid Toogood Hovland started a debate in the regional newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad about their coverage of visual contemporary art. Recently Aftenbladet launched a weekly magazine about culture, setting the hope that now art and culture will get more publicity. Toogood Hovland is disappointed, seeing that the cultural coverage mainly consist of meeting nice old ladies playing with paint in their spare time in their own basement.

This was followed up by an article by Hege Warberg-Nilsen, posting some important questions. Do we need the newspaper to tell us which art is good and which is not? Does only art made by established artists with art education count as good art? Her opinion is that Aftenbladet is covering the cultural environment well.

I agree with Hovland in that Aftenbladet has a disappointing lack of coverage of important artists, exhibitions and art events. Although when they do choose to cover an exhibition, it is well done. But I notice that several important exhibitions remain unnoticed in the press. This was also one important incentive to start this virtuallwallworldblog. My intention was to contribute to a wider coverage of the art scene in the Stavanger region and beyond.

Although it was probably not intended, Ingrid Toogood Hovland indirectly attacks the not-established artists and venues, and also the viewers. I can agree on Warberg-Nilsen's reaction on that. It is not always easy to distinguish between important and mediocre art, between potentially important and stagnating artists. Sometimes this distinction is not important, while the viewer's perception of the artwork is. Although I do agree that there should be more focus on the dedicated "full-time" artists than "hobby-artists" in the cultural section of the newspaper.

I do not know if the scope of cultural coverage is based on an editorial choice or a result of lack of resources. I hope the editor of Stavanger Aftenblad will response to the articles, saying something about the newspaper's vision on the art field. Hovland is still hoping for a change in Aftenbladet, for it to become an important information channel on art. Is art depending on the printed newspapers? How will the art be affected the day Aftenbladet decides not to write about art at all, only about football and celebrities?

Is it not rather passive to wait for the journalists to come and write? The information age provides many possibilities to publish. The information on the webpages of the galleries and artists is becoming more and more important. The marketing of exhibitions is more precise through newsletters and facebook than an advertisement or article in the paper. What is left is the critic of the exhibition. But is it crucial that it is published in Stavanger Aftenblad?

16 January 2011

Happy 2011!

Happy New Year! I am back again from some travelling, will soon provide some art impressions from Denmark, China and Indonesia when I get my pictures and thoughts sorted.