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下一个中国
                    文/ Teixeira Coelho(巴西圣保罗美术馆馆长)
 
当下困扰当代艺术的有两个问题:学院主义和拖沓繁冗——后者部分是由于前者造成的。后者比前者更具必然性,但二者都普遍存在并且同样造成困扰。学院主义表现在当代艺术对某些陈旧的原则和形式上的死守,让艺术家在重复中感到精疲力竭,或甚至主导了一些艺术家的全部创作。四年前在巴塞罗那市区的一个宾馆里,我就发现当代艺术的一个权威符号最终演变成了一种学院主义。我房间墙上所挂的几幅作品很明显是曾经被称为观念艺术的作品。现在它的风格变得柔和,如同宾馆所展示的其他东西一样,但还是完全可以辨识的。这种柔和化的倾向与一般艺术作品相比可能没那么严重,因为它毕竟是观念艺术。这些纸上作品是宾馆房间一般乐于展示的类型,但它们仍然是观念艺术而不是装饰艺术里边的一般水彩风景画,也不是那种常见的拙劣的抽象画。它们带着与观念艺术的某种联系出现在我宾馆的房间里。它甚至不是这些年流行起来的那种观念性和设计感的酒店,而只是巴塞罗那老城区里一幢具有现代化内部装修的旧建筑里一间比较舒适的传统三星级酒店。
 
这个例子正好印证了西班牙独立策展人Estrella de Dieg的观点,最近他悲叹当代艺术“无论你走到哪里看上去都是一样的”。画廊和美术馆都陈列着相似的作品,或者从更深层次地说,它们形式上不同但本质上相同。全是学院主义的复制品。确实在某些方面,对某些艺术来讲无论在哪个时期都是这样一种状况,无非是程度深浅的问题。但这并不能减少当前的现象让人烦恼的程度。
 
当这个进程愈演愈烈之时,人们把目光转向了别处,一个离我们遥远的地方。在19世纪末,这个“别处”指的是日本。在我们即将开始遗忘的20世纪的后期,则是指中国。世纪末第一批中国艺术作品在大型国际双年展上的亮相如同一股清新的空气涌入,并很快发展成为一阵强劲的风掠过画廊、回顾展、博览会以及百万美元规格的拍卖。当纽约古根海姆还有Soho那部分建筑时,它那个关于中国文化艺术的重要展览,是中国表明对“另一面”的艺术的开放姿态。1999蔡国强获得威尼斯金狮奖则重申了这一姿态(他于2008年在古根海姆办了个展)。新成员向既定观念提出了挑战,比如平面绘画功能上的消逝,或者具象艺术的最终消亡。
 
全新的可能性,反学院主义的期待,冲入了僵化的体系。诚然这种复兴不单来自中国,但是中国的艺术有着突出的贡献。在全球化的今天,它意味着观念和价值要以空前的步伐和强度相互交流和融合。体制不再固步自封,艺术也不例外。尽管有互联网这虚拟桥梁,距离依然存在。尤其是语言,这个作为阐释世界的最重要过滤器在当代艺术中也很活跃,完全保持了它作出区分的权利,尤其在进入东方表意文字和西方语言运用的完全抽象的符号这种完全独立的系统中。一些当代艺术的形式,如那些建立在描绘客观物像理论之上的,鉴于它们的本性而最终殊途同归;而另外一些,比如油画,有能力展示给西方研究者不同的东西,这些东西需要他们的感知以不同的方式开展工作。一方面,这是因为它们涉及以我们的立场来看未知的体验,比如正发生在那边的一整套社会的再形成机制以及正在发生的生活方式,我们站在一定的距离之外观察着这些,并作出短暂性的判断;另一方面,因为他们以一种令人惊奇的、西方理性主义极力反驳的 “古老”想象力自居,尽管它们不能被消除掉。
 
作为以更广泛的项目来拓展展览视野的第一步,圣保罗美术馆于2007年策划的这一展览有很多引人注目的特色。管理组织工作授予了在巴西出生现居德国的独立策展人Tereza,她对中国情况比较熟悉。现在呈现给观众的展览是专为巴西美术馆和圣保罗美术馆准备的有关中国艺术的第一例。胜于提出无趣、无用的艺术模型,此次展览将为大家开启理解中国当代艺术的门户。
 
1960年代,国内外有个观点强调去“接近”中国。确实,当时Marco Belocchio 的电影《接近中国》深深地影响了众多年轻人,它被翻译过的意大利题目丢掉了“中国在附近”这层意思,然而它保留了中心主题。影片内容很复杂,远远超过了可预言的意识形态领域,一个从它的题目和那段历史中所期望达到的领域。但主题很明确:之后我们意识到中国并非离我们想象的那么近,它甚至也不是我们想象的样子。现在又是一次接近,但此次是对这个词最好的感悟——“艺术的接近”。

Next China

 

Two spectres haunt contemporary art today: one is academicism, and the other -- partly its consequence --  redundancy. The latter is more inevitable than the former, but both are prevalent, and annoyingly so. Academicism is revealed in contemporary art's fixation on certain "old" principles and forms repeated to exhaustion among artists, or even within the oeuvres of certain artists. I spotted a definitive sign of contemporary art having finally reached academicism when staying at a hotel in downtown Barcelona four years ago. On the walls of my rooms were examples of what was evidently supposed to be conceptual art. Toned down somewhat, like anything shown in hotel rooms, but fully identifiable. And perhaps less toned down than usual precisely because it was conceptual. These were works on paper, of the type hotel rooms are wont to show, but belonging to the conceptual family instead of the usual watercolour landscape based on figurative art, or the equally frequent abstract works also done very badly with awkward stains. There they were in my hotel room, with their conceptual affiliation. It was not even one of those "concept” or "design" hotels that have recently become more widespread: just a traditional comfortable three-star in an old building with a modernized interior, in the historic quarter of Barcelona.

 

This example illustrates the point rightly made by independent curator Estrella de Diego from Spain, who recently bewailed the fact that current art looks the same wherever you go. Galleries or museums,  all have similar works, or, significantly, works thought to be similar although different1. Repetition as a result of academicism. In some ways indeed, this has always been the case for some art, whatever the period: more in some, less in others. But this does not make the current phenomenon any less annoying.

 

When this process becomes more acute, people turn elsewhere, to some distant land. In the late nineteenth century, "elsewhere" was Japan. In the late twentieth century, which we are now beginning to leave behind, it was, or is, China. The first Chinese works to be shown at major international biennials at the end of the century were like breaths of fresh air that soon became strong winds at galleries, reviews, fairs and million-dollar auctions. A major exhibition of Chinese art and culture at the New York Guggenheim, when it still had the Soho annex, was a gesture showing openness to art "from the other side", reaffirmed by the 1999 Venice Golden Lion prize being awarded to Cai Guoqiang (who got a Guggenheim solo in 2008). The new arrivals posed a challenge for certain ideas, such as painting being no longer of any use, or figurative art being finally exhausted (once again).

 

The possibility of something entirely new, the expectation of anti-academicism, flushed into the sclerotic system. Renewal does not come from China alone, for sure, but its art has made an important contribution. In these times of globalization, it means interchange and rapprochement between ideas and values at an unprecedented pace and density. Systems are no longer closed in on themselves and art is no exception. But despite the virtual bridge of the Internet, distances still exist. Language in particular, as the great filter for interpreting the world, also active in contemporary art, fully retains its power to differentiate, especially when it comes to such totally distinct systems as the ideograms of the East and the totally abstract signs used by Western languages. Some contemporary art proposals, such as those based on a system of objects, tend to move closer to one another at all latitudes due to the very nature of their references, whereas others, such as painting, have the ability to show  western observers something unusual that requires their perception to work in a different way. On the one hand, this is the case because they refer to experiences that are unknown on our side, such as the reformulation of a whole society and an entire way of life that is now taking place there, which is being watched from here at a distance, with judgment suspended. On the other, because they pose elements of an "old" wondrous imagination that Western rationalism feels must be refuted, although it has not been able to eliminate it.

 

So there are many attractive features of this event that MASP planned in 2007 as the first step in a broader program to expand the horizons of its exhibitions. The curatorship was offered to Tereza de Arruda, an independent curator from Brazil based in Germany, who is familiar with the Chinese scene. The exhibition now offered to the public is the first sample of Chinese art specially prepared for a Brazilian museum and MASP's first on these lines. Rather than propose models that are of no interest or use in art, this exhibition may contribute by throwing open doors and windows.

 

In the 1960s, there was an idea abroad that emphasized the proximity of China. Indeed, Marco Belocchio's film La Cina é vicina (1967) profoundly impacted many young people at that time, its Italian title a play of acoustics lost in the translation "China is Near", while conserving the central idea. The film was complex and far from the predictably ideological tract that might be expected from its title and the history of the period. But the idea was clear.Back then we realized that China was not all that near to us, and nor did we even want it to be. Now there is proximity again, but this time in the best sense of the word: artistic proximity.

 

Teixeira Coelho

Chief Curator

MASP, Sao Paulo

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