Exhibition review–Tate Modern

Speaking of Chinese modern and contemporary art, what will you think of? Propaganda posters in 1960s that highly resemble those during Soviet Union? Young artists gathered in Beijing East Village and their shocking performance art? Or Ai Weiwei’s rising finger in front of Tian’an men and his detainment by the authority? Today in Tate Modern, you have the chance to witness two of China’s most “non-submissive” artists in the 1990s, who were constantly exploring the boundaries between art, body and society, and who were persecuted by authority’s harsh censorship.

Fen Ma Liuming 1993  photo credit to Tate

In Room 7, we can find three photographs of Ma Liuming, who is a male artist but has slender body and delicate visage of a charming lady. In one photo, Ma Liuming was making his face using lipstick and eye shadow, which made him even more stunning and elegant.  Another two photos featured Ma preparing a fish in his dwelling—Beijing East Village. After putting fish in a steam pot, he took out a laundry pipe, inserted his penis in the one end, his mouth sucking the other. According to Ma, he was balancing and circulating Yin and Yang, which were represented by his body and his phallus respectively. This can also be considered as an intercourse, as in Chinese tradition, sex can be symbolized by fish as well as a coalesce of Yin and Yang. Ma Liuming was sent into prison because of his subversive performance and his “display of obscene scenes in the name of art”.

Xiao Lu, Dialogue, photo credit to Tate,

Xiao Lu, Dialogue, photo credit to Tate,

Just next to it, you can find a remade piece of Xiao Lu’s Dialogue, which is a pair of telephone stands that have a couple standing and dialing inside. This installation art was exhibited in 1989 Avant-garde exhibition in National Gallery Beijing. During the exhibition, Xiao Lu used a handgun and shot her artwork into pieces. She was arrested shortly after the gunshot, but her shocking act was still considered as highlight of the whole exhibition as well as a first fire for the 1989 Tiananmen demonstration. Though later in an interview with Tate, Xiao Lu explained that the gunshot was completely an accidental action, it is still endowed with political implications and treated as a corner stone of Chinese contemporary art history. Furthermore, it was also a moment that female artist stood out in a male-dominated art world in China.

The exhibitions are free. Take your chance to see it in Tate modern and I hope you enjoy it!


Engagement and Inequality–using Guerilla Girls’ exhibition in DMA as an example

Our group used Guerilla Girls’ exhibition in Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) as a case study to analyze gender inequality in art world. Guerilla Girls is an anonymous group of feminist artists who protest against inequality and racism in art world. They use posters, books and performance art to reveal the uneven treatment received by women artists around the world. In the summer of 2018, Guerilla Girls exhibited their posters in DMA. These included the most famous “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met” and statistics of “how many women had one-person exhibitions at NYC museums last year.”

June 2018 photo credit to DMagazine

Their posters are effective and strong in fighting against gender discrimination. One thing I really like about their posters is that they are humorous and ironic and thought provoking. This may help to attract public attention. If the contents are obscure and serious, many people will soon get bored and go away (including women). And I also noticed that the contents on the posters are direct, the language they use is simple. This will benefit non-English native speakers and those not highly educated. I see this as an effort to welcome more diversified tourists to art institutions.


Week 7 Demodern

After this week’s reading and lecture by Professor Charles Esche, I am happy to find that European curators start to excavate art work in other places of the world–Africa, Asia, Australia etc. and people gradually realize that only using European standards to comment art works can be subjective and arbitrary.

For art museum and gallery, one way of decolonializing is to exhibit art works from places other than Europe, showing that western art is not the only mainstream, and African and Asian art also make up an essential part of the history of art. However, I find that it may not be an easy task as at present, art in these once colonized places is not pure enough to represent its history and culture.

Taking China as an example, although China has been an independent country for a long time, European art theories and techniques are still regarded mainstream by many Chinese people. As a result, many prominent Chinese artists, Qi Baishi, Zhao Wuji, had abroad experience in Europe. Their painting styles were influenced by the education they received and their oil paintings skill was almost as good as their Chinese ink painting skill. Today we comment their art as a mixture of west and east. If we choose their art work to organize a demodern exhibition, I wonder will it just be another western art exhibition covered under the form of Chinese painting?

In 21st century we have globalization, I wonder if it is correct to call globalization a continuation of colonialization, because at least in china, people are still actively being transformed by western culture. Aesthetically, Chinese people prefer appearance of Caucasian race, such as double-fold eyelids and Roman nose. Western culture is so welcomed in China that Chinese government even banned people from over-celebrating western festivals. Chinese students also spend much time on English study that the Education Department starts to reduce the difficulty of English test. I am not saying that globalization or studying aboard are bad things, but think it is paradoxical that western countries are trying to decolonize while once colonized countries are being assimilated by the western culture.



Week4 NGS exhibition proposal

Group exhibition featuring the works of Francesca Woodman, Hans Bellmer, Rene Magritte, and Max Ernst in Gallery 2 (Modern 2).

The exhibitions pairs Surrealist representations of the female nude with the nude self-portraits of American photographer Francesca Woodman. Together, the works create a dialogue of embodiment and subjectivity, offering a psychoanalytic component to the tradition of the nude in art.

Francesca Woodman was an American photographer best known for her black and white pictures featuring herself or other female models. In our exhibition, we selected three of her works. They are all from NGS collection.





Hans Bellmer, The Doll, 1935 (hand-colored gelatin silver print on original stretcher, 66×66 cm, Ubu Gallery, New York, and Galerie Berinson, Berlin).


  • Untitle,d 1975-80.The photo was shot from above, showing the artist crouching on a rectangular mirror, turning her head to look at the camera. [upper left]
  • Providence, Rhode Island, 1976 photograph shows the artist sitting upright in an empty room, with only a necklace and shoes on her body. On her right, we can find a black shadow-like female figure on the shimmering ground. [upper right]
  • Eel series, Roma, May 1977- August 1978 this photo shows the naked back of the artist, twisting on the ground. On the left side, there is a white bowl with an eel in it. [lower right]

The imagery present in the Eel Series allows us to bridge Woodman’s work with that of Hans Bellmer, as the pose and the oversight view are both strikingly similar to one of his photographs of his Doll.

Visually, the pose and the angle of the photographer are not the only elements that recall this surrealist work; the large hoop can be seen as replaced by the bowl, while the eel can both stand for the inhuman contortions that the doll undergoes and hint at the erotic charge of Bellmer’s photograph.

In order to open this juxtaposition with the public, photographs of Francesca Woodman will be juxtaposed with art works of well-known surrealist artist such as Hans Bellmer, Rene Magritte and Max Ernest.

Our exhibition offers a different way to see Surrealism as NGS had henceforth presented to the public. By bringing in Francesca Woodman’s works in dialogue with Surrealist artworks, it reframes surrealist artworks by creating a distance between the actual movement itself and politicizes some of contents of surrealist works.

The exhibition will be followed by a Panel discussion given by Edinburgh Dada and Surrealism Research Group.


Week2 Commentary on mission statement of M WOODS

The picture above is the “About” page of WOODS Museum located in 798 art district in Beijing. M WOODS always become a controversial topic because its founder, Mrs Lei, came into public’s sight initially as a social media influencer. People doubt if Lei is capable of organizing an art museum. However, according to my own experience, M WOODS, under Lei’s leading and curation, is an innovative and inspiring art museum in terms of its art objects, exhibition theme, curation, exhibition documentary as well as designed souvenirs.

The “About” page is clear and minimalist. The column in the left contains a museum logo, a series of tabs indicating the contents of each web page and social media links. The major part of the web page is a picture of the exhibition room (conform to the overall minimalist style) and a brief introduction of the museum founders, its guiding principles and educational program. It is followed by a long list of working staff.

What I found confusing is the second paragraph,

“To be ‘new’ is of no intrinsic value for M WOODS; an alternative set of guiding principles organizes the collection, which stretches beyond narrow notions of art history to enfold positions as diverse as…”

here it would be better to indicate which “notion of art history” they consider narrow, or they can specify the aspects of art history that they find restricted.

Also, in the paragraph that followed, it says that for M WOODS, art should be “Free, Alchemical, and Timeless”. These void and obscure terminologies made me feel overwhelmed. Interestingly enough, these terms are well explained when I switched to the Chinese version. Maybe they are too abstract to be translated, or maybe M WOODS needs to think of a more accessible intro.

In choosing an art institution to write about, I also browse the web page of many other Chinese museums. The question that popped into my mind is that–is there an ideal length for mission statements, especially for large art institutions like Palace Museum in Beijing, National Palace Museum in Taipei. Theses museums have a huge collection of art work and the architecture itself bears a long history. As a result, the introductory articles are as long as  dissertations and contain a thoroughly prestation of its history, collection, international influence etc. Personally, I felt lost in such long essays and am impatient to finish all of it. Maybe long articles should be cut short and divided into different sections according to the function of each paragraph.

Welcome to my blog

Hi, this is Hui, from Beijing, China. I studied French in Peking University and now I am taking Modern and Contemporary art history program here. In the second year of my undergrad, after following Western Art History course, I soon realized my interest in art and joined School of Art as a double degree. In School of Art, I had the chance to take Western and Chinese art history course, as well as some interesting workshops including Chinese calligraphy and ink painting (still a beginner). Modern and contemporary art is completely new for me, but it is exciting to absorb fresh knowledge.

For me, Art is fascinating because it always has close relationship with various subjects—literature, politic, philosophy etc. Its interdisciplinary characteristic enables people to study and criticize it from different perspectives. Moreover, it is also an inspiring process discussing various interpretations of a certain art work with people of different background, since modern and contemporary artists usually have more freedom to merge their personal feelings and thoughts into their art work, making the art objects abstract.

In this semester, I will urge myself to visit more galleries and museums and gain curatorial knowledge through reading and communicating with curators.  ( anyone would like to join me?) I wish one day I can work as a curator and help artists from the world organize exhibitions in Beijing, which is a fast-developing city in art and culture industry.


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