Jewish Museum & Tolerance Center
2014.10.29 Wed - 2015.01.11 Sun
Opening Exhibitions
10/28/2014 07:00
Moscow, Obraztsova st., 11, building 1А
+7 495 645-05-50
Opening Hours
SUNDAZ–THURSDAY, 12:00 – 22:00 FRIDAY, 10:00 – 15:00
Maria Nasimova

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DSL Collection in Moscow

Estranged Paradise. Chinese Contemporary Art from the DSL Collection

Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center (Building 1А, Obraztsova st.11,  Moscow) Oct 29, 2014–Jan 11, 2015

Ai Weiwei, Cao Fei, Chen Fei, Chen Shaoxiong, Chen Tong, Gao Weigang, Gu Dexin, Hu Wenlong, Huang Yong Ping, Jia Aili, Lee Kit, Liu Chuang, Liu Jianhua, Liu Wei, MadeIn, Peng Hongchi, Qiu Anxiong, Shen Yuan, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Yan Lei, Yang Fudong, Yang Jiechang, Xu Zhen, Zhang Huan, Zhang Peili, Zhao Xuebing

The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow is currently showing “Estranged Paradise”, a large selection of works from the DSL Collection of Chinese contemporary art. It is the first major public survey exhibition of this relatively new but highly influential collection.

Peng Hungchi, “God Pound”, Installation, 2006, Courtesy of artist and DSLCollection

Chen Tong, “Bicycle”, installation, 2007 (Courtesy of artist and DSL Collection)

Established by Dominque and Sylvain Lévy in 2005, the DSL Collection is one of the most experimental collections of Chinese contemporary art. Consistently DSL has supported both established artists, as well as relatively younger, often provocative, artists early in their careers, including Liu Chuang, Xu Zhen and artist duo Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Frequently it is a bellwether of future success. It has also offered financial support to art publications including this one. The Lévys want to limit their collection to 200 works—though they concede that they may not be succeeding—and this necessitates a process of constant renewal of their collection, which though dynamic and in flux, does not have a formal home,

Over 150 artists are represented in the collection but usually their works are not on view together in a permanent brick-walled, white plastered space. Instead DSL has taken a pioneering approach in adopting digital media channels to promote itself, including virtual exhibitions, traditional and digital books, and social media. In addition, at any one time 10 to 15 works are always on loan to exhibitions. Yet seldom are there opportunities to see a number of works in the collection all in the same place. For this reason alone the current exhibition in Moscow is important. While DSL is regularly approached with proposals to exhibit the collection, this is the first time one was accepted. As Sylvain Levy explained, “The curator, Ami Barak, came with an interesting exhibition proposal, Moscow has a strong cultural heritage and there are many links between Russia and China.”

Liu Chuang, “Buying Everything on You”, Mixed media, 2006-07, Courtesy of artist and DSLCollection

Chen Shaoxiong, “Collectivity memory—Shanghai, the Bund”, painting, 2006 (Courtesy of artist and DSL Collection)

The vast Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow opened in 2012. Like the Jewish Museum in Berlin, it aspires to do more than simply document Jewish history and the Holocaust. Both emphasize a living history and culture. As far as contemporary culture is concerned—the multitudes of experimental movements in all areas of the arts that emerged with the rise of modernism, beginning in the late 19th century—the contribution by a great many Jewish philanthropists, academics, critics, writers, philosophers, gallerists and collectors to the nurturing of these movements has been vast and unique (curiously the one area of culture with relatively few Jewish artists is the traditional visual arts—painting, sculpture—but one needs to look no further than the world of film to see another field of immense contributions). The museum boasts a formidable space (if not by Chinese standards, at least by European standards), with 8,500 square meters in a renovated former 1920s avant-garde Soviet-era building. It also receives strong political support from key figures in politics, business and art collecting in Russia, including the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Viktor Vekselberg and Roman Abramovich.

Huang Yong-Ping, “Un immigrant sans papiers”, Installation, 2005, Courtesy of artist and DSLCollection

Chen Fei, “Xiao Wu Ji”, Painting, 2012 (Courtesy of artist and DSL Collection)

So far the Museum has welcomed over 500 visitors a day to “Estranged Paradise”. The title of the show is taken from Yang Fudong’s 2002 video work that plays on the desires and confusions of a country that has gone from a Cultural Revolution to an economic revolution within the space of a generation. It also reflects the personal wonder of the two Western collectors for Chinese contemporary art. It is an enthusiasm they very much want to communicate and indeed communication is a key element in the ethos of the collection.

The themes of the collection are diverse. One branch has a tendency towards hyperrealism, including anthropomorphic sculptures (Hu Wenlong’s self-portrait, but also Sun Yuan & Peng Yu’s comic and elegiac dead angel). Another branch is the conceptual and anachronistic paintings which emerged in the wake of China’s Cynical Realists (Yan Lei, Jia Aili). There is experimental video by the two leading practitioners in China (Zhang Peili and Yang Fudong), animation informed by the work of William Kentridge (Qiu Anxiong and Sun Xun), performance photography (Cao Fei and Zhang Huan), and of course China’s master of social interaction and design, Ai Weiwei. There are also major historical works, such as Gu Dexin’s “2005.03.05” installation and Huang Yong Ping’s “Un immigrant sans papiers” (2005).

Liu Wei, “Untitled”, Mixed media, 2011, Courtesy of artist and DSLCollection

Ai Weiwei, “Grapes (Chair Installation)”, installation, 2008 (©The Tiroche DeLeon Collection)

“Contemporary art in China came out in the open 20 years ago thanks to a change in the political regime. Since then, the artistic avant-garde has had the opportunity to express ideas and to think and act freely. There are similarities and interesting parallels with the situation in the Russian Federation but also valuable cultural differences. That is why this exhibition in such context will be a major event symbolically speaking” – Ami Barak, curator

As a schoolboy in Paris, Sylvain Lévy began learning Russian because he wanted to be a cosmonaut. Not American English because he wanted to be an astronaut. In a world beset with numerous waxing crises, in Africa, in the Middle East, on the border of Russia and Europe and more generally with “the West”, and with the inevitable frictions between a rising power, China, and the still dominant world power, America, an exhibition about sharing cultures between the West, Russia and China at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, provides context for contemplation. 

Installation View, Courtesy of artist and DSLCollection

Zhao Xuebing, “Central Park No. 10”, painting, 2013 (Courtesy of artist and DSLCollection)

Ami Barak

Ami Barak is an independent curator and art critic based in Paris.  Former Director of the FRAC (Regional collection of contemporary art) Languedoc-Roussillon from 1993 to 2002. Former President of the IKT (International Association of Contemporary Art Curators) from 2002 to 2005. Former Head of the Visual Art Department at the City Council of Paris from 2003 to 2008. In 2003 and 2004, hе was the Artistic Director and Coordinator of “Nuit Blanche” (“White Nights” Contemporary Art Festival) in Paris. Over the past twenty years, he has curated numerous international exhibitions. In 2011, he was the co-curator of the Romanian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. He is currently a Lecturer at the Paris Sorbonne I University and works as an art adviser.

Shen Yuan, “The Dinosaur’s Egg: A Kinder Surprise”, Installation, 2001, Courtesy of artist and DSLCollection

LEE Kit, “Story 13: I want to be things”, installation, 2011 (Courtesy of artist and DSL Collection)

Yan Lei, “Super Lights—Dog Year New York”, painting, 2006 (Courtesy of artist and DSL Collection)

Zhang Peili, “Just for you”, installation, 1998 (Courtesy of artist and DSL Collection)

Liu Jianhua, “Transformation of Memories”, installation, 2003 (Courtesy of artist and DSL Collection)