28–30 Mar 2004
Claire and I landed at Kunming Airport early afternoon on March 28th and were met by Mao Xuhui. After checking into the hotel, Mao drove us straight to his home and studio located on the top floor of an apartment building.
For the next two hours, I interviewed him on his twenty-five year art career since the late 1970s. For the past two decades Mao Xuhui can be regarded as the ‘spiritual leader’ of the avant-garde art community in southwest China, especially in Yunnan province. During the 1980s he was the initiator and organiser of the Southwest Artists Group (Xinan Yishujia Qunti), and curator of New Realism Painting (Xin Juxiang Huihua), a traveling show which went to Shanghai, Nanjing and Kunming. He was involved in the major national avant-garde events during that period, including the Zhuhai Conference, Huangshan Conference, and China Avant-Garde 1989. During the 1990s he devoted most of his time to painting and enthusiastically promoting local avant-garde artists.
After a delicious dinner with Mao and his wife, Liu Xiaojin, a film maker and actress, we were driven to the Loft Artist Community; a Soho-like art compound located in a commercial and industrial area in downtown Kunming. The art community includes art-spaces, galleries, studios, bars restaurants, and a design studio. After introductions and a brief chat, we set about visiting the exhibitions spaces and artist studios. Exhibition spaces include Red Banana Club, founded and directed by artist Ye Yongqing, and Nordica, a café and gallery combined complex. Other galleries include, Well Gallery, and Old Villa, which are multi-functional as restaurant, bar and exhibition space. Comfortable areas with couches and chairs decorated with art works throughout are perfect for meeting with friends to exchange ideas. Most of the artist’s studios are located on the second or top floors of the buildings and we were shown the studios (mainly shared among a few artists) of more than 20 artists including Ye Yongqing, Liu Jianhua, Pan Dehai, Li Ji, Chen Changwei, Lou Fei, He Libing, He Jia, and Sun Guojuan.
Young artist Cheng Changwei is working on a documentary project, for which he has interviewed more than 30 Yunnan-based artists, both established and from the younger generation. It will be important first hand material for the local art scene. While the Kunming accent can at times be hard to understand of both interviewer and artist, the video interviews touch on interesting and important topics.
Our short trip to Kunming made a distinct impression, and we realized how a city outside the centre (Beijing, Shanghai) can play an important role in fostering an art climate and awareness, just as Mao Xuhui’s long term devotion to the exploration of art in the region goes to show.
The two hour video interview with Mao Xuhui is available at the Asia Art Archive for viewing. A set of the video interviews conducted by Cheng Changwei will be available at the AAA once their documentary project has been completed towards the end of the year (with Chinese subtitles).
- Mon, 1 Mar 2004