Saturday, December 13, 2008

Unedited version of the Artforum Diary pages, which were so glossed
up. This text is tad more critical than the final version.

Over the past two months Shanghai has experienced a flurry of
international art visitors. It started when Christian Marclay and
Eliot Sharp flaunted their NY downtown grandeur at the second
incarnation of the city government run eArts Festival; then there was
Shanghart's "Involved" exhibition, in which Bern Kunshalle curator,
Philippe Pirotte was accompanied by the likes of Luc Tuymans, Knut
Åsdam and many others for the opening festivities; just last week
James Cohan Gallery presented its third exhibition in Shanghai giving
the space over to Folkert de Jong and his jolly, Styrofoam sculpted
simians, who along with his entourage from the Office for
Contemporary Art in Amsterdam, met everyone that was anyone in the
local scene during their extended stay. But nobody was more
anticipated than the crowned queen of conceptualism, Yoko Ono whose
China debut took the form of FLY, a retrospective of her
instructional works dating back to the early sixties at the, barely
two year old, Ke Center for the Contemporary Arts.

"I feel like Marco Polo must've felt when he first came to China,"
exclaimed Yoko Ono during an anecdote of her arrival at Shanghai's
hypermodern Pudong Airport last Thursday. Besides being Ono's first
exhibition in China it also Ono's first time visiting mainland China.
Ono who, like most Japanese, was raised on classic Chinese culture,
admitted that she learned her strategies for life from Sun Tze's Art
of War at the lively press conference which ended with the artist
painting her Chinese name, not on the paper prepared for it, but on
the window curtain instead.

The next day's opening was even more comic when a twenty person per
viewing rule left hundreds stampeding the artists' Ex It, 1997 wood
casket pieces, which had been installed in front of the museum's
entrance, while overhead an Ono world peace promotional video blasted
John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance through a steadily building
drizzle. In the rear of the crowd Shanghart gallery's Lorenz Hebling
and artist Zhou Tiehai shook their heads at the potentially hopeless,
rain soaked wait and opted to head off early to the dinner instead.
As the evening's drizzle developed into a downpour the museum's doors
swung open and the wet masses funneled into an already overcrowded
exhibition. "A typical Shanghai scene" joked one local standing above
the crowds on a platform built into the gallery space.

While hundreds participated in Ono's instructional pieces including
the Blue Room Event, 1966 and Wish Tree, 1996, Ono herself was
upstairs in the museum's lounge area dancing "like a chicken on acid"
as artist, Rutherford Chang observed. Her short-lived dance
performance for the masses changed to a more serious tune at the
exclusive dinner attended by a select few at the recently opened Kee
Club. This Hong Kong nightlife classic had recently been transported
to Shanghai's Dunhill mansions complex, a spectacular courtyard in
the center of the city, which besides being blessed by the presence
of Jude Law just a few weeks earlier also sports a very handsome,
very Zen, Shanghart Gallery outpost.

After dessert Ono descended to the post-dinner cocktail for one last
photo op with the locals before heading back to her hotel to sleep
off the jetlag, leaving the dwindling crowd to soak up her blessings
of universal love—and also the pouring rain.

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