【评论】田霏宇:让西方更多了解中国当代艺术系统本身

田霏宇:让西方更多了解中国当代艺术系统本身
Philip Tinari: Let the West Know More about the System of Chinese Contemporary Art

Q:胡震 James Hu A:田霏宇 Philip Tinari

Q:与往届相比,今年的军械库艺博会在规模和组织上有什么不同?
A:我对整个博览会的状况不是特别有发言权。实际上我只是负责“聚焦:中国”单元。我们汇集了国内17家画廊和机构,去美国呈现中国当代艺术的一些状况,中国项目在整个博览会上所占比重大概有10%左右,而且大量的宣传也集中在这一块。可以说是本届艺博会的一个亮点。

Q:作为项目策展人,您的工作如何展开?
A:其实就是把自己对中国当代艺术的判断,通过画廊和机构的聚集,在纽约进行一次中国当代艺术的呈现。毕竟军械库是一个商业博览会,所以组织上是通过画廊和机构去联络的,和参加其他艺术博览会一样,画廊需要支付展位租金、运输等费用。只是我个人比较主动,看到一些不错的艺术家,然后直接联系他们的画廊,看看能否带他们出去。又因为我是美国人,对美国的情况相对比较熟悉,所以希望通过大家的努力,能够让更多的中国当代艺术家在纽约亮相,呈现一个与以往不同的中国当代艺术的呈现。老实讲,美国人熟悉的只是几个著名的中国艺术家,对正在发生的,中国当代艺术的进行时并不是特别了解。

Q:所以参展艺术家名单中更多的是那些目前在国内比较活跃,但西方艺术圈并不怎么熟悉的年轻艺术家?
A:是的,包括参展的画廊和机构,17家当中有9家是没有参加过任何亚洲之外的艺术博览会的,算是带给它们一个登上国际舞台的机会吧。

Q:在与艺博会和参展画廊的沟通中,有哪些问题值得一提?
A:总的来说都很顺利。美国方面非常靠谱。他们是完全委托给一个策展人去独立操作。在挑选画廊和艺术家方面,我在这边十几年的经历让我可以看到一些新的趋势。组织这样的一场展览跟平常不一样的是,它有一点像是双向选择。因为我们要获得画廊的同意。虽然大多数画廊还是很愿意做这件事情,但毕竟涉及很多经费问题。最后参展的这些画廊都是我选择出来的,当然也是他们选择了参加这次展览。

Q:相信您对去年威尼斯双年展的平行展也有很深刻的印象。中国有十几家机构在威双期间做了大大小小各种不同的展览。对于此次“中国军团”在威尼斯的表现,圈内圈外颇有微词。这次多家机构联手进军军械库,大家的评价也是褒贬不一。对此,您的看法是什么?
A:我觉得这次展览跟威尼斯的情况不一样。中国军团这次是在主展区,它是整个博览会中比较核心的一个元素。至于大家对艺术家名单的评论,大家关于一个展览发出不同的声音是应该的。但从展览的结构来看,这次机会对参展的艺术家和中国当代艺术本身的影响还是很不错的。因为我们其实是在用博览会的官方资源来推动的,而不是在陪跑。

Q:从场地的安排上,我们不难看出组织方对中国项目的重视。联系到美国大都会艺术博物馆做的水墨展,以及由此引发的国内“水墨热”现象,你是如何理解西方对中国的这种重视和关注?
A:这并不是第一次关注。实际上,这样的关注已持续了十几年。90年代末是西方对中国的初步认可,随后2008年的市场就出现了比较火热的现象。不过说实话,西方近几年对中国的关注就只有一个艾未未。所以这次展览也算是一个对中国当代艺术生态多元化的展现。这一点对于美国的观众群而言并不是特别熟悉的。大家可能知道这件作品在拍卖中出现过,或是中国的艺术市场在增长,可是大家对于中国当代艺术系统的本身、其内在逻辑以及其中的一些新的参与者并不十分了解。所以这次画廊也给艺术家们做了比较全面的展示。

Q:中国艺术家的作品展示是您在做统一的规划,还是像往常那样,把自主权交给每个画廊?
A:我觉得这是一个讨论的过程。当然跟每个画廊讨论的具体过程有不一样。对于有些画廊,我会比较直接,问能不能带某位艺术家过来参展;而另一些画廊或许有自己的想法,我们就会通过讨论找出双赢的方案。但是我们都会尽早确定好哪些画廊带哪些艺术家,来避免重复,也为了能够做到各种不同的呈现。有些是年轻艺术家的小个展类型的呈现,有些是类似摊位上小群展的呈现。这样可以保持在博览会大框架下面的节奏感。

Q:我们知道,画廊和机构参加艺博会,一方面是获取艺术上的认同,另一方面是商业上的成功。我想了解一下,艺博会组织方在作品销售方面有没有一些考虑和安排?
A:没有。这采用的是一种最传统的博览会组织方式。不像在新加坡那样,采用创新的模式,让博览会直接参与到交易里面。只是参加这个单元区的画廊有些小优惠,比方说,在宣传上力度比较大。但这只是其中的一种语境。在大体的组织上,跟传统博览会是一样的。

Q:任何一个博览会如果在销售工作上做得不够好,那对下一次吸引机构前来参加会造成一定影响。据你所知,参展的中国军团对其在博览会上的销售有信心吗?
A:我觉得应该是有信心的。博览会作为组织方,当然有责任去做推动,但落实到具体的销售层面后,是无法参与的。所以主要还是看画廊,看画廊整合资源的能力。虽然它们当中有些也是第一次过去,但也并不是完全不懂,也还是有一些潜在客户的。所以最终的销售情况还是要看画廊的表现。

Q:作为策展人,您希望最终取得什么样的反响和成绩?
A:博览会的展览特点不同于艺术馆,并不是一件作品仅仅只是挂在那里给观众看。而是有一个解说的团队,或是说,一个销售的团队。与这些团队的交流可能构成一些新的可能性,产生一些新的机会。并不一定只是销售而已,也会包括未来的参展机会、对艺术家的更大认可等等。比方说,我上次去看军械库是在2006年。之后我都在北京,再没有去了。当时有个现在很著名的画廊,带着中国艺术家做展览。那个画家叫张恩利。虽然那时我已经在中国待了两三年了,我还是没有听说过这个人。我相信当时美国的很多艺术机构和藏家都和我一样,是通过那次展览认识了他的作品。这次展览也为他带来了非常大的发展空间。

Q:对,张恩利这两年在欧美挺热的。
A:2006年的时候博览会为他铺了一个底子。他的影响是经过这么多年的发展,慢慢建立起来的。这样的影响并不是明天或后天就能立刻看到的,是建立国际语境的一个过程,成果慢慢就能看到。

Q: What’s the difference between the Armory Show this year and the previous versions in terms of scale and organization?
A: I am not the best person to comment on the overall organization of the fair, because actually I just cover the Armory Focus: China section. The show has got together 17 galleries and institutions from China to present some aspects of Chinese contemporary art in America. The Chinese section takes up around 10% of the whole fair, receiving much promotional effort, so it’s a highlight of this year.

Q: As the curator of the project, how do you go about your work?
A: What I did was actually to start with my own understanding of Chinese contemporary art and gather those galleries and art institutions to present Chinese contemporary art in New York. After all, the Armory Show is a commercial fair, so the organizational work is done through the liaison effort of the galleries and institutions. Just like any other art fair, they need to pay for booth rent and transport. Just that I am a very active person, so when I learn of some good artists, I will contact their galleries directly to see if I can bring them to the fair. Moreover, I am American and I know very well the American perception of Chinese art, so I hope to leverage our concerted efforts to bring more Chinese contemporary artists to make an appearance in New York and to present Chinese contemporary art in a way different from past approaches. Honestly, people in the U.S. are only familiar with those few famous Chinese artists. They don’t know much about the current Chinese contemporary art landscape.

Q: So a majority of the artists on the participant list are actually those active at home but not so well-known in the West?
A: Yes, and so are the galleries and institutions. Out of the 17 exhibited here, 9 have never taken part in any art fair outside Asia. So the Show is kind of a gateway to the international stage.

Q: With regard to the communication between the organizer and the gallery exhibitors, is there any particular problem worth mentioning?
A: On the whole, the communication is very smooth. The American organizer has done very well. They commissioned curators to run the whole show on their own. When selecting the galleries and artists, I took into consideration some of the new trends that I’ve observed over my more than a decade’s experiences in China. The organization of an exhibition like this is different from the usual kind. It’s sort of a two-way choice, because we had to get the galleries’ consent as well. Most of them would love to go, but there were many problems of costs involved. Those on the final shortlist were chosen by me. But at the same time, it’s also their choice.
Q: I’m sure you still remember the Parallel Exhibition of the Venice Biennale last year very well. There were about a dozen Chinese art institutions who curated exhibitions of different scales. The performance of the “Chinese exhibitor corps” drew criticism from both in and out of the circle. As for the joint participation of many Chinese art institutions in the Armory Show this year, people also have mixed feelings. So what do you think of that?
A: I think the circumstances of this exhibition are different from the Venice Biennale. The Chinese exhibitors are put in the Focus section, which is a very essential component to the whole art fair. As for the comments on the artist list, it’s only natural to hear different voices. But if we look at the structure of the exhibition, it’s an opportunity that will have very positive impacts on the participating artists and Chinese contemporary art itself, because we are actually using the official resources of the fair to promote ourselves. We are not running on the sideline.

Q: Judging from the site arrangement, it’s not difficult to see the organizer has taken the Chinese project very seriously. Putting that into the perspective of the ink art exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the “ink fever” thusly resulted at home, how do you interpret the importance and attention that the West attaches to the Chinese art circle?
A: This is not the first time they show much interest. In fact, it has been on for more than a decade. The end of the 1990s saw the first recognition of Chinese art by the West. And then later in 2008 there was quite a market boom for Chinese art. But to tell the truth, the Western attention has been focused solely on Ai Weiwei in recent years. So the exhibition this year can be considered as a presentation of the diversity of the Chinese contemporary art ecosystem, with which the American viewers are not particularly familiar. People might recognize a Chinese artwork that they once saw in an auction, or hear the Chinese art market is on the rise, but they don’t know much about the system of Chinese contemporary art, its internal logic, or some of its new players. So this time, the galleries have made a quite comprehensive presentation of the artists.

Q: Did you do the entire exhibit planning for the Chinese section? Or did you delegate the autonomy to each gallery as usual?
A: It’s the result of many discussions. Of course the actual discussion processes vary with every gallery. With some galleries, I would be more straightforward and ask if I could bring a certain artist to the fair. But other galleries might have their own proposals, so we tried to reach a win-win solution through discussion. But on the whole, we all tried to confirm the lists of galleries and artists as soon as possible to avoid repetition, as well as to make a diversified presentation. Some subsections are like a solo of a certain young artist, while others exhibit the works of a group of artists. That way we can maintain a sense of rhythm within the frame of the fair.

Q: It’s given to understand that galleries and art institutions take part in art fairs for artistic recognition and commercial success. I would like to know if the organizer of the art fair has any specific consideration and arrangement with regard to the sales of artworks.
A: Not actually. The Armory Show adopts the most traditional mode of organization. It’s not like the innovative method in Singapore which involves the fair directly in the sales. For this Armory Show, there are only some modest preferential treatments for galleries in the Focus section. For example, they enjoy greater promotional support. But it’s just for this particular situation. The overall organization is pretty much the same with traditional fairs.

Q: If a fair fails to achieve a satisfactory sales number, it will dampen its attraction for prospective exhibitors next time. According to what you know, are the Chinese exhibitors confident about their sales in the art fair?
A: I think they are. Of course, the Show as an organizer will bear the responsibility of promotion, but they don’t take part in the actual sales. So eventually it comes down to the galleries and their ability to make the best of the resources. It’s true that some of them are first-timers of the Armory Show, but that doesn’t mean they know nothing about the business. Besides, they do have some potential customers. So the final sales result will still depend on the performance of the galleries themselves.

Q: As a curator, what kind of reaction and result would you like to achieve at the end?
A: The characteristic of exhibition in an art fair is different from that in an art museum in that an art fair doesn’t just hang a piece up for the public to see. Instead, it has a commentary team, or should I say, a sales team. Communications with these teams would probably lead to some new possibilities and opportunities. And I am not just talking about sales. They may also include potential exhibition opportunities or more recognition for the artists. For example, the last time I went to an Armory Show was in 2006. Afterwards I worked in Beijing and never went again until now. At that fair, there was a gallery, which is now very famous, that brought a Chinese artist there to curate an exhibition for him. And that’s Zhang Enli. Although by then I had lived in China for two or three years, I had never heard of him. I believe it was actually through that exhibition that many art institutions and collectors in America knew about his works for the first time, just like me. And that exhibition brought for him a huge potential for further growth.

Q: Indeed, Zhang Enli is quite a hit in Europe and North America in recent years.
A: The Show in 2006 has paved the way for him. His influence is a gradual build-up over years of evolvement. But this kind of influence does show itself overnight. It’s a progression of establishing an international context. We will see its result in the future.

徐震 天下-2802CF1312(局部)

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