Contemporary art Museums China

Pompidou show in Shanghai Power Station causes a stir

Work by Andy Warhol and Malcolm Morley generate mixed reaction

Yan Pei-Ming, International Landscape by Night, 2011. Photo: © Bertrand Prévost—Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI (diffusion RMN) © Adagp, Paris

A large-scale painting by Yan Pei-Ming, International Landscape by Night, 2011, is on show in an exhibition organised by the Centre Pompidou at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, located on the banks of the Huangpu River. The museum, which opened last October, is China’s first state-run contemporary art institution on the mainland. The Pompidou will receive substantial loan fees for 119 works included in the exhibition “Electric Fields: Surrealism and Beyond” (until 15 March).

The show, displayed across the top floor of the seven-storey building, examines the influence of Surrealism on contemporary art through six sections, including ones on collage and automatism. Some of the works on display, such as an explicit painting by Malcolm Morley Cradle of Civilisation with American Woman, 1982, and Andy Warhol’s silkscreen Big Electric Chair, 1967-68, raised eyebrows at the exhibition launch last month. (Warhol’s portraits of Mao Zedong will not be included in a touring retrospective, organised by the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, which is due to open at the Power Station of Art later this year.)

The city’s governing body, the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee, took just nine months to convert the Nanshi Power Plant site into the Power Station of Art, at a cost of RMB400m ($64m). The Art Newspaper understands that an exhibition of Chinese contemporary art may be in the pipeline for the Power Station. There is also the question of whether the new museum plans to build a collection; curators at the institution have acquired a sculpture by the Japanese artist Nishino Kozo, on view in the Shanghai Biennale running concurrently with the Centre Pompidou show (until 31 March). The artist Yan Pei-Ming says that the project is a “good development but everything depends on the future programming”.

Meanwhile, Yan has made portraits of Syria’s President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma that “represent death despite the certain serenity that appears on their faces”, Yan’s spokeswoman says. The watercolours, made in August 2011, are on loan from the artist to the exhibition “Oriental Mirages, Pomegranates and Prickly Pears” at the Collection Lambert in the southern French town of Avignon (until 28 April). “The treatment is deliberately blurred between reality and nightmare. It is a portrait of people condemned,” the spokeswoman says. The diptych is on public view for the first time. The exhibition also includes an image by the artist of another controversial Arab leader: The Last Gasp—October 20th 2011, depicts the battered body of Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed Libyan leader.


Martial Raysse, Made in Japan—La grande odalisque, 1964. Photo: © Philippe Migeat-Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI (diffusion RMN) © Adagp, Paris
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