The Collectors' Exhibition | Telling Tales
Each collection, like each photograph or video, tells a story. Curated by Erin Barnett (Director of Collections and Exhibitions, International Centre of Photography, New York) this selection of works from some of China’s most influential collectors - Adrian Cheng (K11 Art Foundation), David Chau (Cc Foundation), Jenny Wang (Fosun Foundation) and Thomas Shao (Shao Foundation & Modern Media Group) - examines the different ways in which artists have used image making to make us think about the world around us in new ways.
While some photographers use the perceived truth-telling nature of the medium to blur the boundaries between the real and imagined or constructed (Bernard Faucon, JR, Chen Wei, Shi Yong), others highlight photography’s ability to make reality look surreal (Nobuyoshi Araki). Using a seemingly disinterested and clinical approach, some works highlight the marvelous in the everyday: people drinking tea in the ruins by a river (Zhang Kechun), animals living in painted replicas of their natural habitats (Eric Pillot), artists - bedecked in flowers - sitting atop a gate in demolished hutong (RONG RONG & inri), or a model dressed in seventeenth-century Dutch attire and a contemporary knit hat (Erwin Olaf).
In addition to photography, many contemporary artists and collectors are drawn to the dynamism of the moving image to tell stories. A documentary impulse is evident in some of these video works - a man shouts in a crowded subway station (Xu Zhen) and a pair of cars gracefully maneuvers through urban traffic (Liu Chuang); these social interventions are marvelous insertions into the banality of everyday life. Others are more baroque - luxury goods and mass-produced knick knacks explode (Cheng Ran and Item Idem) and a man carefully balances on rocks in a river, crying plastic tears (Cheng Ran). Many of the photographers also utilize a sense of cinematic performativity: Yang Fudong’s modern bathing beauties in Republic era make-up and clothing frolic by the hotel pool, Eikoh Hosoe’s Yayoi Kusama lounges amid her stuffed sculptures, and Chen Xiaoyun’s Mr. Chen buries his head in an onslaught of mud. This exhibition also highlights an underlying strain of surrealism, which exists more as a sensibility than a style, in these works by some of China, Japan, and Europe’s leading photographers and multidisciplinary artists.