The 7th Shanghai Biennale
opened at the Shanghai Art Museum on September 8 through November 16. The biennale realizes its expected academic and social goals, receiving high acclaim from both the domestic and foreign art community. The biennale has a profound influence on the world contemporary art arena. It also contributes greatly to the building of the image of Shanghai as a cosmopolitan with vitality, creativity and the openness. The success of this year's Shanghai Biennale not only levels up its fame at the international art stage, but also promotes the contemporary art in Eastern Asia via a certain cultural strategy. Today Shanghai Biennale has become the most influential international contemporary art exhibition in Asia. It turns out to be a cultural icon for Shanghai, China and even Asia.
The Shanghai Art Museum, the main venue of this year's biennale, showcases around 110 artworks created by 58 artists and artist groups from 21 countries and regions. The biennale attracted a total number of 270,000 visitors. The average number of visitors during each weekend was estimated around 5,000 to 6,000. During the National Chinese Holidays in October, the biennale received a total number of 41,409 visitors. In the past two months, the biennale also received nearly 200 government officials, consul generals, cultural officers and industrial insiders from 20 countries and regions. They either came for visit or for future collaboration, such as Okwui Enwezor, the world renowned curator, Daniel Birnbaum, the curator for the 53rd Venice Biennale, Sarat Maharaj, co-curator Guangzhou Triennial, and Fan Dian, the director of the China National Museum of Fine Arts. All of them give positive comments on this year's Shanghai Biennale and recognized its organizing work and academic contributions.
Daniel Birnbaum thinks that the 7th Shanghai Biennale is fused with a unique curatorial theme, veteran arrangement and with no competitor in its academic concept in Asia. He is particularly moved to see the long line queuing outside the museum's entrance gate. 'Many kindergarten kids, primary-school and middle-school students are sitting in a circle in the exhibition hall to have lessons. They experience the spirit and energy radiated from the art pieces.' At the same time, he surprisingly finds that curating mode to some extent coincides with his, such as the documentary study and a re-inspection of the relationship between tradition and modernity. A similar remark was made by Sarat Maharaj. He said he was very pleased to see that the 7th Shanghai Biennale showed a lot of interesting research-based contributions.
Fan Di'an, the director at the China National Museum of Fine Arts comments that the biennale conjures up a visual wonder and amazement in the angle of planning and exhibiting. 'This year, many participating Chinese artists created new pieces, such as Jin Shijian, Yue Mingjun and Yin Xiuzhen. These people are the best artists in China. The works created by the Chinese artists are quite outstanding. But it still leaves some space for the Shanghai Biennale to find the top artists outside China. True, the Shanghai Biennale explores a pioneering theme, but it doesn't mean that the biennale pursues the extremeness and the cutting-edge among every piece. The academic selection promises the artworks with certain artistic quality. These artworks also explore at its uttermost the communication and dialogue between the visitors. In regard with its theme, the biennale gradually shows its humanistic concern on the condition of the people living in the urban environments. The Shanghai Biennale has become a cultural icon of the city'
It costs about two years to prepare for the 7th Shanghai Biennale. When reviewing about the whole process, these were the goals acheived:
1. A UNIQUE THEME WITH TIME SPIRIT AND CULTURAL PROFUNDITY
Based on our previous experience, the 7th Shanghai Biennale insists on its base of local experience with an international open attitude. Currently the most distinctive social phenomenon of China is the rapid economic development, the fast expanding of cities and the subsequent movement of a large population. The theme of the World Expo 2010 is 'Better City, Better Life' Naturally the theme of Translocalmotion grasps tightly the modernity of our epoch. The theme involves the rapidly changing and progressing environment that the city and its people need to face. The theme also approaches the current issues of the society, re-inspects about the history of migration through a humanistic concern.
It has a clear and fresh link of the whole biennale via different layers. The actual arrangement strictly echoes with its academic framework. The first part invites 25 artists to come to Shanghai and do their survey or historical research. Their artworks are based on the background of the vicissitudes of the People's Square. The second part deals with solo-exhibitions that closely connect with the theme. The third part displays the art pieces created by 30 artists to reveal the relation between the cultures of migrants in different cities around the world.
2. ENHANCEMENT ON THE MEDIA COVERAGE
About 360 media from both home and abroad covered the 7th Shanghai Biennale through 500 reports with different focus. The Shanghai Television Station even had a live broadcast of the opening ceremony of the 7th Shanghai Biennale for an hour and half, which is a breakthrough in the history of the activities of fine arts in China.
3. COLOURFUL PROMOTION ACTIVITIES THAT INSPIRED THE FEVER OF THE PUBLIC
These interactive activities received highly by the public. For example, One Century of People's Square: An Historic Retrospect deepens our theme and My People's Square collected photos from the capturing of ordinary people. The biennale published a bilingual catalogue of the biennale in line with the Shanghai Papers in English. We also have a series of other publications, such as Friends of Shanghai Art Museum, Supplement of Biennale and free hand-over of a five-page brochure to the visitors. This year, we have four side-products of the biennale, varying from badges, tea sets, inflatable toys and gym caps. About 100 pod cast in both Chinese and English are equipped for visitors this year.
4. THE ADVANCING OF TECHNOLOGY
Compared to the previous biennales, there are more video and interactive artworks. These art pieces demand new equipments, and some of them are firstly used at the museum.
Starting from this year, the Shanghai Biennale receives a five edition of sponsorship from Sarasin Rabo Investment Management Ltd. We also received financial support from the Goethe-Institut, the Mondriaan Stichting (Mondriaan Foundation), the Fonds Voor Beeldende Kunsten Vormgeving En Bouwkunst Fonds BKVB, and the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai.
The passion shown from the 270,000 visitors enhances our confidence. Perhaps the participating artists of the biennale are making art for the art sake, but as a non-profit, academic exhibition, the Shanghai Biennale always insists on the notion that art is for life, on the concern of the realistic society, on the humanistic care to people, on the contribution to the prosperity of the city's cultural scene, on the attracting of more Chinese visitors to museum, on the nurturing of young Chinese people to focus on contemporary art. With no doubt, the Shanghai Biennale has made its endeavours to reach these goals. It is foreseeable that how these young visitors would influence their next generation. We hope that Chinese people will be accustomed to visiting art museums frequently and such trend will sweep the whole country in the future.