Ai Weiwei Conspicuously Absent From Power Station’s Survey of Contemporary Chinese Art


The retrospective of Chinese contemporary art currently on view at Shanghai’s Power Station of Art has been met with mixed reviews, partly due to the exclusion of China’s most famous artist, Ai Weiwei. With works from the 1970s to today, the show has a strong representation of photography with images by Cang Xin and RongRong & inri, and includes international powerhouses like Ma Desheng, Zhang Huan, and Liu Qinghe. However, even with respect to the exhibition’s layout, Bloomberg’s Frederik Balfour writes, “the show does a poor job explaining the progression of Chinese art.”

As Power Station — a Tate Modern-sized institution likewise housed in a converted power plant — has no collection of its own, the retrospective was pulled together from private collections and other art institutions, all with a budget of less than $1 million, leaving the show with an auction house feel showcasing top-selling artists, with the exception of Ai’s politically charged work, that is. Last year Power Station presented Asia’s largest retrospective of Andy Warhol’s work last April, but the Pop artist’s portraits of Mao Zedong were excluded.

With a lack of international language support or supplemental print material, Power Station’s first self curated show seems to have missed the mark in a few places: “I’d rather see them charging admission and putting some of that money into organizing better curatorial expertise.”

— Meredith Caraher

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons.)