Women Artists The Focus At Shanghai’s Long Museum After 20 years
West Bund location of Long Museum Shanghai played host to the opening of a momentous event last Friday – She: International Women Artists Exhibition. This exhibition showcases 108 artworks from 100 female artists who belong to 13 different countries and will continue till the 30th of October. The exhibition is curated by the director of the museum Wang Wei who has been working on the exhibition for the span of 4 years and includes works spanning ten centuries. Incidentally Wang Wei along with her husband Liu Yiqian is one of the top art collectors in China. Among the earliest of the works that are showcased in the exhibition are calligraphy works by Yang Meizi – an artist from the Southern Song – era. The pre modern times are well represented by the Dowager Empress Cixi’s painting, which is followed then by a section that almost entirely consists of Chinese Modernism and Maoist work.
The collection draws largely from the rich collections of Wang and Liu and mostly features contemporary works of art featuring international artists like Yoko Ono, Tracy Emin and Louise Bourgeois who then are accompanied by works from the trailblazers of China like Xiao Lu, Lin Tianmiao and Duan Jianyu. The humungous Crouching Spider (2003) by Bourgeois enjoys visitors’ adulation in the atrium at Long’s and is given apt company by the wobbly staircase that is ‘To See the Sky’ (2013) from Yoko Ono. Flamboyantly unfurling over the basement level is showcased the very whimsical carpet ‘Protruding Patterns’ (2014) by Lin which also features sobriquets about women in both Chinese and in English. The fabled Dialogue by Xiao, where the artist fired a gun at a mirrored telephone booth led to the closure of China Avant/Garde exhibition in February 1989. This controversial artwork today stands quite awkwardly between caricaturized renditions of cockatoos and kids. Though there are many a works that are stereotypically feminine but as they are juxtaposed with powerful conceptual work, the inevitable stars emerge.
The opening ceremony at the museum included a fashion show that showcased cheongsams, the highly popular tight fitting Chinese dresses of the 1920s and 30s. The show was preceded by a press conference where Wang Wei expressed her immense respect for the female artists due to the difficulties that they face. She further added that the women create art with an intent to influence the society. Wang expresses her hopes of reaching out to men and women likewise so that they rethink the position of women in the contemporary society. The exhibition showcases the works of many young women artists including the emerging talents of China Guan Xiao and Cui Xiuwen.
Since its opening in 2012, Long Museum has hosted 20 solo shows, but none of them have been focused on women artists. The future however seems quite promising as the Chinese sculptor Xiang Jing would be showcasing her work in 2017 and the works of the painter Yu Hong are scheduled to be on display in 2020. When asked about the skewed numbers, Wang confessed though that the number hasn’t really been big, but women artists have always been featured in group exhibitions and there is hope for more in the future.