Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christian and Lydia + Imagine, the world’s most famous unknown artist in Shanghai

The entry below was recently featured on Art Forum's, ever so gossipy and inevitably well read Scene & Herd column of the magazine's website - in a highly edited form. I am reprinting my original, perhaps slightly more crass, version for those that are interested in the real Yoko Ono Shanghai opening story.

I also wanted to give an extra shout out to the other artists who braved the long flights to come and share their wares in Shanghai, which is desperately poised to become another international center for contemporary culture. Ahem Yeeaaa

...especially my man Christian Marclay who is not only an old friend (through the music scene in NYC more than the art one, both which he navigates quite cleverly) as is his lovely lady and ex-Bronx Museum curator Lydia Yee who accompanied him here, BUT for his Hi/lo-tech virtuosity and its affects on the old ladies whose park was hijacked by the eArts festival that he was participating in that night. Above is a pretty bad remixed collage version of what the artist was up to: He created a single channel film from archival b/w footage, he then overlayed graphic clues- lines shapes circles and asked three groups of very different musical ensembles to interpret the "Visual composition". Twas very nice indeed

Anyway... YOKO
Over the past two months Shanghai has experienced a flurry of international art visitors. It started when Christian Marclay and Eliot Sharp flaunted their NY downtown grandeur at the second incarnation of the city government run eArts Festival; then there was Shanghart’s “Involved” exhibition, in which Bern Kunshalle curator, Philippe Pirotte was accompanied by the likes of Luc Tuymans, Knut Åsdam and many others for the opening festivities; just last week James Cohan Gallery presented its third exhibition in Shanghai giving the space over to Folkert de Jong and his jolly, Styrofoam sculpted simians, who along with his entourage from the Office for Contemporary Art in Amsterdam, met everyone that was anyone in the local scene during their extended stay. But nobody was more anticipated than the crowned queen of conceptualism, Yoko Ono whose China debut took the form of FLY, a retrospective of her instructional works dating back to the early sixties at the, barely two year old, Ke Center for the Contemporary Arts.

“I feel like Marco Polo must’ve felt when he first came to China,” exclaimed Yoko Ono during an anecdote of her arrival at Shanghai’s hypermodern Pudong Airport last Thursday. Besides being Ono’s first exhibition in China it also Ono’s first time visiting mainland China. Ono who, like most Japanese, was raised on classic Chinese culture, admitted that she learned her strategies for life from Sun Tze’s Art of War at the lively press conference which ended with the artist painting her Chinese name, not on the paper prepared for it, but on the window curtain instead.

The next day’s opening was even more comic when a twenty person per viewing rule left hundreds stampeding the artists’ Ex It, 1997 wood casket pieces, which had been installed in front of the museum’s entrance, while overhead an Ono world peace promotional video blasted John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance through a steadily building drizzle. In the rear of the crowd Shanghart gallery’s Lorenz Hebling and artist Zhou Tiehai shook their heads at the potentially hopeless, rain soaked wait and opted to head off early to the dinner instead. As the evening’s drizzle developed into a downpour the museum’s doors swung open and the wet masses funneled into an already overcrowded exhibition. “A typical Shanghai scene” joked one local standing above the crowds on a platform built into the gallery space.

While hundreds participated in Ono’s instructional pieces including the Blue Room Event, 1966 and Wish Tree, 1996, Ono herself was upstairs in the museum’s lounge area dancing “like a chicken on acid” as artist, Rutherford Chang observed. Her short-lived dance performance for the masses changed to a more serious tune at the exclusive dinner attended by a select few at the recently opened Kee Club. This Hong Kong nightlife classic had recently been transported to Shanghai’s Dunhill mansions complex, a spectacular courtyard in the center of the city, which besides being blessed by the presence of Jude Law just a few weeks earlier also sports a very handsome, very Zen, Shanghart Gallery outpost.

After dessert Ono descended to the post-dinner cocktail for one last photo op with the locals before heading back to her hotel to sleep off the jetlag, leaving the dwindling crowd to soak up her blessings of universal love—and also the pouring rain.

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