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Voorlinden presents key work by Song Dong
Song Dong, Through the Wall (2016). Collection museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar. Photo: Dawn Blackman, courtesy Pace Gallery.

WASSENAAR.- Voorlinden presents the installation Through the Wall (2016) by Chinese artist Song Dong (1966) in the garden room of the museum. Whereas a wall typically poses an impenetrable barrier, Through the Wall instead offers an entryway into an endless secret passage. This monumental work of art was one of the main features of 2017's Art Basel Unlimited and is now being displayed for the first time in a European museum. The piece is part of museum Voorlinden’s highlights collection. Like the works by Richard Serra, Roni Horn and James Turrell, among others, this installation defies description: visitors must simply experience it for themselves.

With this enormous installation, which measures 4.5 metres high and 9 metres long and forms a free-standing partition in the space, Song lends a new dimension to the concept of ‘wall’ by adding an interior. Here, in fact, the artist challenges the wall’s expected role as a demarcation dividing two spaces. Upon approaching the work, you can see the space around it reflected in bits and fragments in the windows of varying shapes and colours: the effect is kaleidoscopic. Not only does the mirror-clad interior reflect the hundreds of different pendant lights within the installation, visitors can also see their own reflections endlessly cast back and forth in the work.

Through the Wall is made from dozens of found doors and window frames taken from the old, walled Hutong districts in Beijing. Since the 1990s, these historic neighbourhoods – Song himself was raised in one, and still lives in one today – are slowly being demolished to make way for new construction, a result of the ultra-rapid modernisation the country has been undergoing in recent decades. The installation was also inspired by the ancient Chinese screens known as Yngb or Zhob; these decorative room dividers were historically placed in front of an entrance to ward off evil spirits.

In his art, Song reconciles various contradictions – uniting tradition and modernity, past and present, Daoist philosophy and concepts from contemporary art theory. The notion of a wall is a recurring concept in the artist’s work, while his homeland of China, his childhood and his parents figure prominently as well. Because of the poverty the family endured during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Song’s parents had to make do with what they had. This is why the artist uses all manner of everyday, found objects in his work. It is his way of creating art by weaving together personal, historical and political elements.

Song Dong (1966) graduated from the visual arts department of Beijing’s Capital Normal University in 1989. He frequently collaborates with his wife, the artist Yin Xiuzhen (1963). Song is also a co-founder of the Chinese artists’ collective Polit-Sheer-Form-Office. Song has been the subject of solo exhibitions in China, the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany and other countries. His works are featured in the permanent collections of institutions including MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, China.

The presentation of Song Dong’s Through the Wall coincides with the exhibition Shilpa Gupta – Where do I Begin, which is on display from 17 February through 21 May. Both artists address the impact globalisation has had on their respective homelands; they are fascinated by the notion of barriers, borders and walls, both literal and figurative. The show featuring American sculptor Martin Puryear can also be seen at the museum through 27 May, and the collection presentation Stage of Being is scheduled to run through 17 June.

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