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Everyday Legend – Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, New Century Art Foundation

Artists:Hao Liang, Hu Xiaoyuan, He Xiangyu, Liang Shaoji, Liang Yuanwei, Liu Jianhua, Lu Pingyuan, Ni Youyu, Sui Jianguo, Sun Xun, Shi Jinsong, Shao Yinong, Wu Yiming, Yu Ji, Yang Mushi, Yang Xinguang, ZhengGuogu, Zhan Wang, Zhao Zhao

Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum in collaboration with New Century Art Foundation (NCAF) will present a group show of contemporary Chinese art titled “Everyday Legend” from November 8to December 7. Curated by Jiang Jiehong and NanNan, the exhibition will feature 19 artists. Varying from painting, sculpture, installation and animation, these pieces aim to cast light on the artists’ research into and reflection upon the interplay between art and traditional crafts in the form of contemporary art.


Launched by the NCAF in 2014, this research-based curatorial project aims to probe into the inheritance of Chinese culture from the perspective of contemporary art ino order to further investigate into and reflect upon the evolution and inheritance of the cultural threads, and to reveal the cultural dilemmas that are faced by China today. The project intends to cast critical light on the nation’s developmental strategy on culture, the progress of urbanization, the ever-changing social contexts and the construction of the educational systems. Under the backdrop of globalization, this project encourages artists and traditional craftsmen to deliver an effective communication and interaction to the public. What this exhibition wants to present is not merelyhow traditional handiwork can be applied and re-applied in the practice of contemporary art, but the fact how the role of these traditional practices is seriously marginalized and even endangered in people’s daily life nowadays. By doing so,it looks forward to arousing people’s awareness, in one way or another, about the issue of cultural disconnection.

During the past three years, a series of thematic seminars, field surveys, and visits to artists’ and craftsmen’s studios have been conducted. In the meantime, in-depth dialogues and explorations by contemporary artists and scholars havenot only extended the dimension of our curatorial methodology of the project but also further supported the practice of artists.“Everyday Legend”at Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum can be reckoned as the presentation and a visual summarization of the fruits fostered by all the research during the past three years. 

“Legend”does not come out of nowhere but it has to be embedded in the cultural origin of the material and the non-material.It derives from the tradition and goes back to tradition. To revisit the “legend” aims to propose critical views in the contemporary context, that are based on the respect and in-depth research of “origin”,as a way to effectively preserve, restore, extend and reinvent the tradition. “To revisit” does not mean to negate the tradition; on the contrary, it is a gesture to retrieve what has disappeared, to question the shoddy and low-quality techniques that are now almost everywhere, and to re-evaluate the creative insightslying in folk crafts as well as the cultural value it could generate today. It is the core of this project that to save the tradition, it is not simple a recovery or appropriation in the contemporary context; rather, it is in nature a progressive re-production.

Artists through their different perspectives and visual practices, probe into and respond to this overarching theme. The exhibition can be roughly divided into four threads of thinking and strategies, namely “Inheritance”, “Borrowing” the “Shape”, “Referencing” the “Materials” and Legend. All these four themes overlap and interact with each other. 

“Inheritance”, evidently,means to learn from the ancestors and the nature.“Borrowing the Shape” refers not to the simple appropriation of visual forms, but the rediscovery of its contemporary aesthetic value during the process of borrowing. “Referencing the Materials” emphasizes more on the new visual exploration into the materials and the traditional techniques deriving from them than on merely taking reference from traditional materials. “Legend”intends to cast light on the fact that traditional crafts to a large extent are passed down generations by generations by mouth rather than in writing, which inevitably leads to some missing pieces during the course of time;but in the meantime, it also raises the possibilities for people to make their own creative interpretation and innovation.

A themed symposium will be organized during the exhibition.Scholars from different disciplines will be invited to share their views upon thisprojectand the vision it represents. Public educational programmeswill also accompanythe exhibition,it will include talks and a series of workshops by artists and academics.For more information, please visit the websites of the museum and NCAF or follow us on WeChat.

In 2016, “Everyday Legend: Reinventing Traditions in Chinese Contemporary Art”, aresearch project stemming from “Everyday Legend”received the “International Network Project”award from the Leverhulme Trust, one of the most prestigious foundations that supports academic research projects in the UK.As an extension of the formerinterdisciplinary research activities, the Birmingham School of Artand NCAF, in collaboration with China Academy of Art, University of Groningen and Goldsmiths, University of London, will invite experts and scholars to work together.The research team aims tofurther investigateinto the interplay between traditional crafts and contemporary art, and will involve contemporary artists as well as the practitioners of Chinese traditional arts and crafts into the collaboration. In the next two years, the project team will organize on-site visits, workshops and seminars in Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Groningen, London and Birmingham and build a website for the updating of the research progress and results. In 2018, a final report of the research project will be published both in China and the UK.

The three-year research-based curatorial project is made possible with the great support and sponsorship by LOUIS XIII.

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