M Woods (D-06, 798 Art Zone, No.2 Jiuxianqiao, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China), Oct 10, 2014–Jan 10, 2015
Founded by a young art collector, Lin Han, a new art museum—M Woods—officially established itself in the 798 Art District following a sensationally grand opening ceremony. The opening exhibition is entitled “Pale Fire—Revising Boundaries” and assembles pieces from the collections of seven art collectors active in Chinese contemporary art, including Qiao Zhibing, David Chau, Liu Wenchao, Zhao Lingjia, Lu Xun, Zhao Youhou, and Lin Han. In a way, this exhibition is a collective debut for this new generation of Chinese collectors.
Traffic was redirected on the day of the opening, making way for a red carpet spread along Road 797 towards the front entrance to M Woods. A large projection screen showed letters of congratulations from the former US President George W. Bush and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as a short recorded message of congratulations from the former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. The presence of ambassadors from many different countries and luxury brand sponsorship brought the opening ceremony to a fever pitch, fully demonstrating the prowess these young collectors were so eager to exhibit. Such ostentation could be interpreted as a strategic move on Lin Han’s part, similar to the way he declared his presence to the art world by purchasing one of Zeng Fanzhi’s paintings for five million US dollars at an auction in November 2011. In a past interview, Han Lin has said, “I bought a famous painting from a famous artist at a high price so people would know who I was.”
Rather than concentrating on artists or art works, “Pale Fire” finds a unifying thread in in the private collections of different collectors. With collectors as the subject of this exhibition, the young collectors present their values and cultural aspirations. This younger generation of collectors share the benefit of an excellent education, and have grown up in a multinational environment. Beyond their business education backgrounds, some have even minored in art history. Their interests are multinational, and on the whole, they are more open to new forms of art and new materials. Over thirty contemporary art works from China and abroad are on show at this exhibition, and cover a wide range of media including installation, painting, multi-media, video and other art forms. Inhabiting the same exhibition space are works including Ouyang Chun’s painting “Throne Room”, Tracey Emin’s neon light installation “My Heart with You Always”, Chiu Ya-Tsai’s oil paintings “Lady” and “Portrait of a Lost Intellectual”, Olafur Eliasson’s installation “Lava Kaleidoscope”, Chen Fei’s painting “Mustache”, and Xu Zhen/MadeIn’s installation “Play – Missile of Love”, serving to demonstrate the diverse and international preferences of these young collectors.
Though young collectors have yet to dominate the entire art market, the events and organizations the young collectors standing in front of M Woods have already directed are compelling evidence of what may be in store. For example, when Nanjing’s Sifang Art Museum (directed by the young collector Lu Xun) held its first exhibition at the end of 2013, “The Garden of Diversion”, it attracted a considerable attention from the art world, with many making the special effort to attend. Another instance is Aether Space founder Ying Qinglan and the young collector Bao Yifeng’s ART021 art fair which was held last year at The Rockbund—NIB Building in Shanghai. The well-managed fair and its “small but exquisite” branding positioned it perfectly within Shanghai art market. These young collectors have rapidly made the transition from curating their private collections into the more complex ecology of the art circle.
In contrast with their predecessors, the young collectors have a much closer relationship with each other, and they know how best to direct these relationships towards magnifying their own influence. In addition to their collective debut at the M Woods opening, there have been traces of the mutual support they give each other at similar events. If the founders of ART021 art fair had not had access to other young collectors as a resource, the fair’s influence would have weakened considerably. Auction houses are also enthusiastic about building a communication platform for budding collectors—Beijing Council has always been active in hosting forums for young collectors, including a club, invitational exhibitions, and other related activities. These events have brought this circle of young artists ever closer, so it’s not hard to predict the growth of influence we will see from this “tightly knit” group as its voice continues to grow stronger.
“Pale Fire” seems a quiet and subdued phrase, but the exhibition text makes a direct reference to the fiery ambitions of the young collectors, “In an adept use of irony, Nabokov borrowed Shakespeare’s metaphor for the title of his novel as a satirical reference to his waning protagonist. However, from a historical context, what ‘pale fire’ signifies is anything but.”