Art and Shanghai at the Turn of the Millennium

SHANGHAI, China — UCCA Edge opens in Shanghai with the inaugural exhibition “City on the Edge: Art and Shanghai at the Turn of the Millennium,” on view May 22, 2021 to July 11, 2021. This exhibition looks to the city UCCA Edge calls home at the juncture when China’s art world came to envision itself as part of a global contemporary, bringing together new and important works by 26 major Chinese and international artists, many with deep connections to UCCA and the development of contemporary art in China. Participating artists include Matthew Barney, Birdhead, Ding Yi, Fang Fang, Greg Girard, Andreas Gursky, He Yunchang, Hu Jieming, Huang Yong Ping, William Kentridge, Lee Bul, Liang Yue, Ni Jun, Shi Yong, Xu Zhen, Yan Lei, Yang Fudong, Yang Zhenzhong, Yu Youhan, Zhang Enli, Zhang Peili, Yung Ho Chang, Zhao Bandi, Zheng Guogu, Zhou Tiehai, Zhou Xiaohu. “City on the Edge: Art and Shanghai at the Turn of the Millennium” is curated by UCCA Director Philip Tinari.

In and around the year 2000, amidst emerging markets, reforming institutions, and artist-led organizations, a slate of exhibitions occurred that would expand the range of possibilities for experimental art in a city on the verge of a new international centrality. New art took root everywhere, from industrial warehouses to municipal museums, from retail space in unopened shopping malls to the opening ceremony of a major international summit. Two decades later, “City on the Edge” situates itself in the city’s multiplicitous cosmopolitan history, reflecting on the rapidly transforming urban fabric and the generative development in contemporary art by assembling important works that have brought this flourishing formation and provocative scene into being (as chronicled in the TV documentary series Arts and Artists, produced by Fang Fang (b. 1977, Beijing, lives and works in Beijing)), in dialogue with works that refract the city’s globalizing present. This exhibition follows in a tradition of UCCA opening exhibitions, begun by Fei Dawei’s “’85 New Wave: The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art” (2007), that position a new museum in relation to the art historical context in which it will function. Seen today, these artists and their contributions allow us to reflect on how far the city and its cultural ecology have come and to understand the experimental ethos that underlies Shanghai’s current position at the forefront of China’s global art scene.

Reenacting his 2002 performance piece March 6 at this exhibition, Xu Zhen (b. 1977, Shanghai, lives and works in Shanghai) once again stages a rebellion against the mutely quotidian—as in Shouting (1998/2005, edited 2021)—with provocative acts that are self-affirming while probing at the boundaries between self and others.


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