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55 Days in Valencia. An Encounter with Chinese Art at Instituto Valenciano de Art Moderno
VALENCIA.- The exhibition 55 día en Valencia. Encuentro de arte chino (55 Days in Valencia. An Encounter with Chinese Art), a title chosen in reference to Nicholas Ray’s film 55 Days in Peking, offers a broad overview of the contemporary artistic manifestations that are being produced in the Asian country and permits Western spectators to take a look at the rich, complex Oriental culture. This exhibition, sponsored by Ferrobús, comprises a total of 448 works arranged in three spaces, two located at the IVAM: the Sala de la Muralla, where the documentary photographs and a pictorial diary made up of 365 pictures are displayed, and Gallery 8, where installations and videos are shown. The third part of the exhibition, at the Museo de la Ciudad, comprises paintings, conceptual photography and a sculpture.

The catalogue published for the exhibition reproduces the works displayed and includes texts by the curators of the exhibition, Rafael Sierra, a journalist and art critic, Zuo Jing, art director of the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, and Consuelo Císcar, director of the IVAM.

Contemporary Chinese art began to develop in the late seventies, at the beginning of the Deng Xiaoping era (1979-1992). The eighties was a period of incubation for this art, a period that, like many new ideas, participated in the nation’s Enlightened Movement and made its own contribution to it. The 1989 Contemporary Chinese Art Exhibition was the closing ceremony of an era of contemporary Chinese art, which underwent profound changes in the second half of the nineteen nineties. The success of the Shanghai Biennale in 2000, in the post-Deng period (1997-), marked the recognition of contemporary Chinese art by official ideology. Chinese art today is even more complex and more diversified, partly as a result of the influence of market economy.

Today’s art in China has also undergone a spectacular transition since the year 2000. In simple terms, the centre of attention is no longer public history but the history of individuals, and reveals the presence of metaphysical thought reflected in the works.

The painting section of the exhibition includes two extensive series that represent very well the new trends in Chinese art: Beyond Painting and China 2006, by Zong Biao and Sun Jianchun, respectively. The first series comprises a large-format central piece and twelve separate paintings, paintings within paintings that produce a polyphonic visual effect. The second is a conceptual work made up of 365 oil paintings (one for each day of 2006), which reproduce journalistic photographs taken from the Internet and referring to an event that happened somewhere in the country. Thus the work constitutes a sort of graphic chronicle of that year. The exhibition also includes videos by important Chinese artists. Yang

Shanghai, a symbol of building development in China, so that the steeple of the Oriental Pearl Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, is balanced on the tip of the artist’s finger, thus defying the law of gravity and at the same time parodying traditional Chinese acrobatics.

The exhibition has more photographs than anything else, a total of 65 pieces. The documentary photograph section included in 55 días en Valencia illustrates the changes that have taken place in political and social life in the recent history of China, and gives an account of the fast development of the country until the present day. The exhibition also includes a large representation of the conceptual photography that China has been producing since the nineties.

Today more and more European and American museums are interested in Asian art, and specifically the art of China, which has taken the place of Japan at the forefront of Asia in the international art market. To divulge this phenomenon, the IVAM has scheduled three exhibitions focused on Chinese art. The first one, The Real Thing: arte contemporáneo de China (The Real Thing: Contemporary Art from China), was organised jointly with the Tate Liverpool, and was on show last April. 55 días en Valencia (55 Days in Valencia) is the second exhibition of Chinese art held this year and is the first exhibition of Chinese art organised entirely by a Spanish museum. The third, Tinta y papel contemporáneos (Contemporary Ink & Paper), will open on 29th July, and will show the combination of contemporary art and the tradition of an age-old culture, which for centuries has used ink and paper for artistic expression.

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