Shanghai Exhibition Histories Distributed

Taking the publication of A History of Exhibitions: Shanghai: 1979-2006 edited by Biljana Ciric, the exhibitions’s curator as a conceptual starting point, the project explores an ongoing interest in relationships between exhibition making, public space and ownership in contemporary urban experience. The narrative presented by the published archive is disrupted by introduction of parallel photographic documents. Through research and visits to the exhibition sites across Shanghai, another trajectory emphasising the changes, which have taken place since the 1980s in the Chinese art practices and in the fabric of the city have been explored. Financial speculation connects them both. Many of the historical exhibitions and performances, which the publication assembles, were held in non-gallery sites of public buildings, some in commercial enterprises and informal settings. Most of them relied on generosity of friends and acquaintances for securing access (very rare today) and supporting the artists. The belief in the art’s transformative power as a social process was the engine of these self-organised initiatives. The project activates a connection with that earlier spirit by revisiting the original buildings, many of which no longer exist, as the city has since embraced predominantly corporate enterprises and their new owners. What has been left out in the formation of Chinese contemporary art can be seen in its genius loci. Employing a conceptual approach, the artist constructs a utopian vision for the Shanghai art scene of 2044, by drafting the development of its possible future onto the new institutional templates. Recalling the energy residing in the past the project restores the agency of the artist as a visionary public figure set against the landscape dominated by private interests.