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2012.02.21 Tue, by Translated by: Song Jing
Dead Rabbit Awards
randian 燃点's Pick of the Best of the Year of the Rabbit

Best Artist

China’s answer to Lucien Freud — only much more interesting — Zeng Fanzhi became the first Chinese artist to be taken on by gallery behemoth, Gagosian. It’s a moment worth noting. Both Liu Wei and MadeIn had important shows, MadeIn as usual with more than a little controversy. Yang Fudong was cited for the impressive way he keeps on evolving. Song Dong was consistently very strong. Also cited (note, dear reader, for the purpose of hindsight) was Ma Qiusha. There could only be one winner though and so in our inaugural awards, “Best Artist” goes to Ai Weiwei for succeeding in turning the function of the mass media into artistic media and strategy, and vice versa, and for the cruel intersection of art and politics. Finally everyone realized that his art has much less to do with what he makes than what he does.

Winner: Ai Weiwei

Nominees: Chen Chieh-jen, Liu Wei, MadeIn, Qiu Zhijie, Song Dong, Sun Xun, Yang Fudong, Zeng Fanzhi

Best Exhibition

For its intellectual subtlety, creativity and expression, Zhao Yao’s “I am Your Night” was the single most important exhibition. Also cited was Song Dong’s “Wisdom of the Poor” for his re-appropriation and reconfiguration of artifacts of the poor in a circuitous course in the museum, evoking both private memory and spatial refashioning of the urban fabric.

Winner: Zhao Yao, “I am Your Night” at Beijing Commune

Runner-up: Song Dong, “Wisdom of the Poor” at UCCA (Beijing)

Other nominations: 
“30 Years of the Moving Image in China” at Minsheng Art Museum (Shanghai)
Ai Weiwei, “Sunflower Seeds” at Tate Modern (London)
Chen Chieh-jen, “Empire’s Borders” at Long March Space (Beijing)
Ji Wenyu and Zhu Weibing, “Follow! Follow! Follow!” at ShanghART (Shanghai)
Liu Wei, “Trilogy” at Minsheng Art Museum (Shanghai)
Liu Xiaodong, “Hometown Boy” retrospective at UCCA (Beijing)
Zhang Peili, “Certain Pleasure” at Minsheng Art Museum (Shanghai)

Most Important Artist to Emerge

“Emerge” is a strange word — after all, what does it mean? And even when we think we know what we mean, we can’t say when it actually happens. Often artists suddenly “emerge” after years of hard work to become overnight sensations. We liked Double Fly’s “Take No Prisoners!” approach very much but right now Gao Weigang seemed to be more broadly present. Also cited were Lu Yang (though she “emerged” earlier than 2011), Wang Guangle and Zhang Lehua.

Winner: Gao Weigang

Runner-up: Double Fly Group
Other nominees: Cheng Ran, Lu Yang, Ma Liuming, Wang Guangle, Zhang Lehua

Best Painter

As expected, the nominations were numerous and highly competitive. Despite a strong call for stalwarts Zhang Enli and Ding Yi to win, it was Xie Molin’s paintings that really captured our attention. Also cited was Chambers’ inspired show pairing of Qiu Shihua and Shi Jing, proving there is very much a dialogue to be had between the generations. Meanwhile Guo Hongwei, Shi Zhiying and Wang Suling are all on our watch list.

Winner: Xie Molin

Nominees: Ding Yi, Guo Hongwei, Liu Xiaodong, Liang Yuanwei, Ma Qiuhua, Shi Jing, Shi Zhiying, Song Yuanyuan, Wang Guangle, Xie Molin, Zhang Enli

Best Sculptor

2011 felt like one of consolidation for artists like Shi Jinsong and Li Hui, even as they expanded their international exhibitions. Ji Wenyu and Zhu Weibing’s exhibition was very strong. Zhang Huan’s Confucius at RAM was good but the terrified animals, um, problematic. We are looking forward to a bigger year for sculpture, including a major show by Shen Shaomin. Prospects are also good for young artists, such as Li Hongbo.

Winners: Ji Wenyu and Zhu Weibing for “Follow! Follow! Follow!”

Nominees: Shi Jinsong, Li Hui, Zhang Huan

Best Installation Artist

There was one clear choice. Liu Wei’s complex conceptual jungle “Trilogy” at the Minsheng Art Museum, blended painting, sculpture and electronics, the museal space itself to meditate on modernism, China, Beijing, the road to his studio and his own practice.

Winner: Liu Wei

Nominees: Gao Lei, Li Hui, Liu Jianhua, MadeIn

Best Performance

MadeIn is always most seductive when most ethereal and playful. So it was again with “Physique of Consciousness” – the combination of gestures from religions (cults?) everywhere into sincere (ahem) meditation exercises. Never was the meaningless so meaningful.

Winner: MadeIn for “Physique of Consciousness

Nominees: Hu Xiangqian, Jin Shan, Yan Xing

Best Photography Artist

A close-run field but also a surprisingly short list. But it is also a category in flux. Whilst theatrical set-pieces have been one of the major themes of photographic practice in China, the casual and ephemeral — led by such diverse talents as Ai Weiwei and “non-artists” Birdhead and also Zhang Jungang & Li Jie — is opening up new territory.

Winner: Chen Wei

Runner-up: Jiang Zhi Nominees: Jiang Pengyi, Huang Liang

Best Animation Artist

Another very close race among three extremely talented artists but in the end Sun Xun, who had an incredibly busy year and does not appear to be slowing down, was the clear choice.

Winner: Sun Xun

Runner-up: Zhou Xiaohu. Other nominee: Qiu Anxiong

Best Video Artist

One of the strongest categories of the last year but ultimately we were bewitched by Cheng Ran’s “Chewing Gum Papers”, a simultaneously hypnotic and sinister rendering of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. Ma Qiusha and Zhou Xiaohu were also favorites.

Winner: Cheng Ran

Runner-up: Ma Qiusha. 
Other nominees: Sun Xun, Huang Ran, Hu Xiaoyuan, Zhou Xiaohu

Best Illustration 

With only Zhang Lehua and Sun Xun, really there were too few nominations, but oh well! Zhang Lehua for his quirky and funny poster-style drawings.

Winner: Zhang Lehua

Best Critic / Art Writer

This category really should be bigger but we suspect that too many would-be critics get lost in the Art-Ba-Ba vortex. Maybe light can escape a black hole. We liked Zhu Qi for his outspokenness and Lee Ambrozy’s work at artforum.cn was commendable.

Winner: Zhu Qi

Other Nominees: Lee Ambrozy, Colin Chinnery, Sun Dongdong, Robin Peckham, Karen Smith, Philip Tinari, Pauline J. Yao

Best Curator

It was not a standout year for curating. Nonetheless, Zhou Tiehai did an amazing job at Minsheng Art Museum and Lu Peng got a lot of people excited about the Chengdu Biennale. Hou Hanru and his team were cited for “By Day by Night” at RAM, Shanghai. In commercial galleries, the names that emerged most often were Leng Lin and Mathieu Borysevicz.

Winner: Zhou Tiehai

Runner-up: Mathieu Borysevic Other nominees: Hou Hanru, Leng Lin, Lu Peng.

Best Commercial Gallery in China

This is a category inevitably driven by big, well-resourced galleries. Boers-Li was cited for their serious academic work and Shanghai Gallery of Art was cited for their greatly improved curatorial programming. Gallerists are crucial to their success but ultimately what makes a successful contemporary art gallery is not just the gallerist but the entire team of people and its program, from encouraging new artists and continuing to curate important exhibitions of established artists, to helping to develop and refine the wider appreciation of contemporary art. With White Cube just opened in Hong Kong, the list will only grow.

Winner: Beijing Commune

Runner-up: ShanghART. Other nominees: Boers-Li Gallery, James Cohan Gallery, Galleria Continua, Galerie Urs Meile, Long March Space, Tang Contemporary Art, The Pace Gallery

Best Gallerist

The same names keep appearing. Ultimately Leng Lin and Lorenz Helbling were the standouts.

Winner: Leng Lin

NomineesWaling Boers, Nataline Colonnello, Lorenz Helbling, Meg Maggio, Pi Li

Best Small or Emerging Gallery

A very closely fought category, with all nominees exemplifying the rising professionalism of galleries in China but also a commitment to experimental, intellectual and provocative outlooks. Magician Space and Platform China emerged as the most commonly mentioned names. Two promising galleries are Leo Xu Projects and Saamlung.

Winner: Platform China

Nominees: Hadrien de Montferrand, Li Space, Magician Space, Pekin Fine Art, Space Station, Vanguard, White Space Beijing

Best Museum or Non-profit Organization in China

Minsheng had a very strong year — not only “30 Years of the Moving Image” but also Liu Wei and Zhang Peili, and with the year book-ended by two small but excellent exhibitions by Zhang Enli and Ding Yi. Rockbund Art Museum was cited for its extra-curricular programming. We hope that Himalayas/Zendai finally make their comeback and we look forward to a stronger year for Today Art Museum.

Winner: Minsheng Art Museum

Runner-up: Taikang Space. Other nominees: Asia Art Archive (Hong Kong), CAFA art museum (Beijing), MoCA (Shanghai), Parasite (Hong Kong), Taikang Space (Beijing), UCCA (Beijing)

Most Constructive Collector

This category recognizes someone who is doing more than merely being a collector, someone who is really working to promote the understanding of art and build strong institutions. The editors felt that both Cheng Dongsheng with Taikang Space and Sylvain Levy with various collaborations (including with this magazine) have both made strong contributions. Budi Tek, Zheng How, Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian, all of whom have already or will soon open museums in Shanghai, will be collectors to watch in the coming year. But where is the new blood?

Winner: Chen Dongsheng

Nominees: Budi Tek, Chen Dongsheng, Sylvain Levy, Uli Sigg, Wang Wei & Liu Yiqian, Zheng How.