Thirty years ago, China embarked on a reform program that transformed not only the economy but also the arts. Since then the growth and production of contemporary art have been dramatic, and so has the production of documentary materials bearing evidence to the critical debates that surrounded its development. However to this day many of the most important art publications and critical writing, especially from the late 1970s and 1980s, have been difficult to locate, due primarily to the lack of systematic collecting and archiving infrastructure.
In 2006, Asia Art Archive began a focused archiving project called 'Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990'. This project aimed at developing a comprehensive collection of primary research materials including books, periodicals, newspapers, exhibition brochures, invitations, video recordings, correspondence and other relevant documents. As part of this project AAA has also digitized the personal archives of renowned artists and curators.
As part of this project, more than 70,000 digital files of reference material related to select Chinese art practitioners, including Fei Dawei, Lu Peng, Mao Xuhui, Wu Shanzhuan, and Zheng Shengtian and the archives of Tokyo Art Gallery, as well as 75 interviews with key artists, curators, and critics. From a portion of these interviews, AAA has created a documentary film about experimental art in South China (Guangzhou) in the 1980s entitled From Jean-Paul Sartre to Teresa Teng: Contemporary Cantonese Art in the 1980s.
AAA’s 1980s archiving project culminated with the launch of a comprehensive website portal called www.china1980s.org in September 2010. To celebrate this launch, AAA collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in organizing a series of events this fall in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and New York. These events included panel discussions with key artists and critics, as well as a presentation of MoMA’s important publication titled Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents, edited by Professor Wu Hung.
With the launch of the Collection Online, AAA is able to offer online access to the digital material in its collection. In addition to scanned images, correspondences, artists’ personal documents, and streaming audio and video of performance art, artist talks, lectures, and other art events, three Special Collections are currently available online: Zhang Xiaogang Archive, Mao Xuhui Archive and Zhang Peili Archive.
Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990 is made possible by the generous support of:
The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation
The W.L.S. Spencer Foundation
Ilyas and Mara Khan
Foundation of the Arts Initiatives