Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shanghai Show

Liu Jianhua Can You Tell Me?

Exhibition Title:

Location: Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin Street San Francisco, CA 94102
February 5 - September 12, 2010

To further my review of the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition Shanghai, I would like to critic the organization of the exhibition. The overall mission of the exhibition is to portray the history and culture of Shanghai, however the division of the Shanghai exhibition into four sections: Beginnings (1850-1912), High Times (1912-1937), Revolution (1920-1976), and Shanghai Today (1980-present) provides a very limited view of Shanghai. The wall text for novice viewer of Chinese art provides little to no explanation of the work and therefore the viewer is left confused on the inclusion of each work in the exhibition. It requires background knowledge of the history of art in China to find the works interesting.

The placement of works within the exhibition detracts from the works themselves. In particular, the placement of Liu Jianhua’s Can You Tell Me? on the west end of North Court greatly from the work as the engravings on the books are barely legible as light streams down on the stainless steel books from the windows above. Can You Tell Me?, 2006, is an installation piece in which Liu Jianhua engraved two questions about the future of Shanghai in English, Mandarin, French, German, and Japanese onto stainless steel books suspended vertically from the wall. The questions range from humorous such as “Can Shanghai make the magic of David Copperfield come true, and move the Bund 100 meters backward to widen the Avenue?” to serious “Can Shanghai build the first welfare bank in the world to allow poor people to get money whenever they need?” The inclusion of Can You Tell Me? asks the viewer to contemplate the future of Shanghai and its global impact, however the message of the piece is lost as the placement of the piece underneath large windows hinders the viewers ability to read the engraved questions.


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