The first of a series of displays of recent art from Asia with a focus on contemporary Chinese art. The survey explores issues of culture, identity and resistance through work from well-known artists such as Zhang Huan, Ai Weiwei, Zhang Xiaogang, Ah Xian and Lian Tianmiao. Also on display is an impressive installation from Xu Zhen, who is part of a younger generation of Chinese artists making an impact on the global contemporary art scene.
Zhang Huan's practice is celebrated through large photographs that document a series of performances created between 1997 and 2002. Concerned with questions about individual power, society and censorship, the artist uses his own body to powerful effect. In contrast, An archive is a quiet act of resistance by Ai Weiwei, an artist who is internationally-renowned for his controversial works of art, activism and his arrest and detainment by Chinese authorities in 2011. Following the design of Chinese textbooks, the work presents 9000 pages of text written between 2005 and 2013 for the artist's online blog and the social media platform Twitter. Set within a traditional Huali box, they combine history with technology, and pit the cultural against the individual.
Also shown is a selection of photographs from the series Here? or There? by Lin Tianmiao, one of the leading female voices in contemporary Chinese art, and her long-time collaborator Wang Gongxin. Seen through a telescopic portal, the images of futuristic feminine forms set within a bleak and ruinous landscape have a surrealistic, eerie drama. Xu Zhen's Play 201301 is overtly provocative. An enormous Gothic cathedral-inspired sculpture, it is suspended above the ground and adorned with leather, metal studs and spikes, whips, handcuffs, gags and other toys associated with the BDSM (bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism) subculture.
The NGA display is presented in partnership with two of Australia's most significant collections of contemporary art from China: The Gene & Brian Sherman Collection , Sydney and the White Rabbit Collection , Sydney.