Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • >> WELCOME TO FREDERIK MEIJER GARDENS AND SCULPTURE PARK.

  • MY NAME IS JOE BECHERER AND I AM THE CHIEF CURATOR

  • AND VICE PRESIDENT FOR COLLECTIONS AND EXHIBITIONS,

  • AND WE ARE HERE TO CELEBRATE THE MEMBERS OPENING

  • OF THIS VERY IMPORTANT EXHIBITION,

  • "LOOKING EAST, FACING WEST-- THE WORLD OF ZHANG HUAN."

  • AND PROBABLY THIS IS AN EXHIBITION

  • THAT IS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT

  • THAN MANY OF THE OTHER EXHIBITIONS

  • THAT YOU HAVE ATTENDED HERE OR MAYBE AT OTHER INSTITUTIONS,

  • OR MAYBE IT RINGS FAMILIAR,

  • AND WHAT I'D LIKE TO DO TONIGHT

  • IS TO WALK YOU THROUGH ZHANG HUAN'S DEVELOPMENT

  • AND HIT SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS EXHIBITION.

  • AND THEN, OF COURSE, WE'LL SAVE A FEW MINUTES

  • FOR OURSELVES AT THE VERY END FOR QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.

  • BEFORE I ACTUALLY START WITH MY PREPARED MATERIALS,

  • FIRST OF ALL, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE DANIEL AND PAMELLA DEVOS FOUNDATION,

  • WHO ARE THE UNDERWRITERS FOR THIS EXHIBITION.

  • IN ADDITION, THE MEIJER FOUNDATION,

  • THE BOTANIC AND SCULPTURE SOCIETIES

  • OF FREDERIK MEIJER GARDENS AND SCULPTURE PARK,

  • GRAND RAPIDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE, AND AQUINAS COLLEGE.

  • SO THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH.

  • (applause)

  • I ALSO WANT TO CALL YOUR ATTENTION TO THE GALLERY GUIDE.

  • TAKE THIS WITH YOU, TAKE THIS HOME, FOR A COUPLE OF REASONS.

  • NUMBER ONE, THERE IS GREAT INFORMATION IN TERMS

  • OF HOW THE EXHIBITION IS LAID OUT

  • AND SOME OF THE ICONIC PIECES FOR THE EXHIBITION.

  • AS YOU OPEN IT UP,

  • YOU WILL SEE THAT THERE ARE SEVERAL

  • VERY SIGNIFICANT OPPORTUNITIES THIS SUMMER TO EXPERIENCE

  • THE EXHIBITION AND THE PERMANENT COLLECTION

  • THAT THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT HAS OFFERED.

  • THE PERSPECTIVES SERIES IS SET FOR JUNE 7th...

  • THE GALLERY WALK WITH PROFESSOR CRAIG HANSON AT CALVIN COLLEGE--

  • IF YOU'VE NEVER HEARD CRAIG SPEAK-- DO ENJOY IT.

  • IT'S A TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY.

  • ANOTHER GALLERY WALK WITH JOHN STELLA.

  • AND THEN, FINALLY, AT THE END OF SUMMER, CURATOR'S CHOICE.

  • I ALSO WANT TO CALL YOUR ATTENTION TO THE LARGE MAP,

  • AND MOST OF THE WORKS OUTSIDE IN THE SCULPTURE PARK

  • ARE MARKED BY A BLACK DOT.

  • THERE ARE TWO WHICH ARE MARKED BY A TAN DOT--

  • THESE ARE TWO MAJOR ACQUISITIONS

  • THAT ARE NOW PART OF THE PERMANENT COLLECTION.

  • SOME OF YOU HAVE ALREADY HEARD ABOUT

  • AND SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY SEEN

  • THE NEW SITE-SPECIFIC PIECE BY RICHARD SERRA,

  • AND WE ARE JUST IN THE PROCESS WITH THE HORTICULTURE DEPARTMENT

  • FINISHING UP THE GEORGE SEGAL,

  • WHICH IS AN ADDITION TO THE GALLERY SECTION

  • OF THE SCULPTURE PARK.

  • SO IT IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO GET OUT THERE IN THE SUMMER

  • WHEN IT'S NOT RAINING OR HAILING OR...

  • (audience laughing)

  • PERFORMING SOME OTHER VERY INTERESTING TASK.

  • OR MAYBE YOU LIKE THE RAIN AND HAIL.

  • BUT TWO WONDERFUL ADDITIONS TO THE PERMANENT COLLECTION.

  • SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, TAKE THIS HOME,

  • AND LET'S GO AHEAD AND TALK ABOUT ZHANG HUAN.

  • BRING THE LIGHTS DOWN, PLEASE.

  • I WANT TO SPEND JUST A COUPLE OF MINUTES REFLECTING ON THE TITLE,

  • AND I KNOW SOMETIMES THE TITLES OF EXHIBITIONS

  • CAN BE SUPERFLUOUS,

  • BUT I TEND TO TAKE THEM PRETTY SERIOUSLY

  • BECAUSE I HOPE THAT THEY OFFER SOME FOUNDATIONAL INFORMATION

  • TO WHAT THE EXHIBITION IS ABOUT.

  • IT'S ALSO A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO USE A COLON.

  • (audience laughing)

  • AND THIS EXHIBITION, "LOOKING EAST AND FACING WEST"

  • REALLY SETS THE TONE FOR WHAT YOU'D EXPERIENCED

  • AND WHAT AFTER, I HOPE, IS AN INSIGHTFUL LECTURE TONIGHT FOR YOU

  • IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO GO BACK IN

  • AND ENJOY THE EXHIBITION ONCE AGAIN.

  • BECAUSE WE HAVE AN ARTIST THAT REALLY HELPS US TO SEE

  • INTO TWO WORLDS-- TWO WORLDS THAT,

  • AT TIMES, SEEM AS IF THEY ARE BECOMING ONE WORLD,

  • AND THEN AT OTHER TIMES, SEEM TO REMAIN SET

  • IN THEIR WAYS OF OTHERWORLDLY EXPERIENCES.

  • "LOOKING EAST"-- THIS IS AN ARTIST THAT I THINK

  • YOU HAVE PROBABLY FIGURED OUT BY NOW IS CHINESE...

  • VERY MUCH TIED TO HIS HISTORY, HIS HERITAGE,

  • HIS CULTURAL TRADITIONS,

  • BUT THIS IS ALSO AN ARTIST THAT SPENT SOME SIGNIFICANT TIME

  • IN THE WEST, SPECIFICALLY IN THE UNITED STATES,

  • AND OFFERS MANY OF US, AS WESTERNERS,

  • SOME KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING HIS CULTURE

  • AND HIS HOPES AND VISIONS,

  • AND I THINK YOU WOULD PROBABLY ALSO SAY PRAYERS

  • FOR HIS CULTURE AS WELL.

  • ZHANG HUAN IS EXTREMELY WELL KNOWN ON BOTH COASTS,

  • HAVING HAD MAJOR EXHIBITIONS IN NEW YORK AND IN LOS ANGELES

  • AND IN SAN FRANCISCO.

  • THIS IS HIS FIRST MAJOR PRESENTATION IN THE MIDWEST,

  • AND SO WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL TO HIM AND TO PACE GALLERY

  • FOR ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN.

  • SO IF YOU HAVE PEEKED INTO THE GALLERY ALREADY,

  • YOU MIGHT RECOGNIZE THIS AS ONE OF 20 STILLS

  • THAT IS PART OF HIS PERFORMANCE PIECE CALLED "SKIN..."

  • BUT SO IS THIS.

  • AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT REALLY INTRIGUED ME

  • YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS FIRST INTRODUCED TO HIS WORK

  • IS THAT THE ARTIST IS VERY HONEST,

  • VERY FORTHRIGHT WITH HIMSELF,

  • BECAUSE HE STUDIES HIMSELF REALLY AS A KIND OF KEY

  • TO UNDERSTANDING HIS CULTURE,

  • AND MAYBE INTRODUCING HIS CULTURE TO WESTERN AUDIENCES.

  • HE IS NOT AN ARTIST THAT FITS VERY NEATLY

  • INTO ANY ONE SPECIFIC CATEGORY.

  • THIS IS AN ARTIST THAT IS, YES, A SCULPTOR,

  • BUT YOU PROBABLY ALREADY SAW HE'S ALSO A PAINTER

  • AND HE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER AND HE IS A VIDEOGRAPHER

  • AND HE IS A PERFORMANCE ARTIST.

  • AND ONE OF THE DELIGHTFUL THINGS ABOUT DEALING WITH

  • SO MANY CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS

  • IS THAT IT'S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE

  • TO PUT THEM IN ANY ONE SPECIFIC CATEGORY.

  • THEY SEEM TO SQUIRM AND MOVE ABOUT INTO OTHER CATEGORIES,

  • AND CERTAINLY ZHANG HUAN IS SOMEBODY

  • THAT FEELS VERY COMFORTABLE IN HIS OWN SKIN-- PUN INTENDED--

  • BUT ALSO AN ARTIST THAT FEELS VERY COMFORTABLE

  • UTILIZING A VARIETY OF MEDIA,

  • ALTHOUGH HE REALLY DOESN'T DO PERFORMANCE ART ANY LONGER.

  • THE NAME MIGHT NOT BE FAMILIAR TO YOU,

  • BUT THIS IS CERTAINLY ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT

  • CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS WORKING TODAY,

  • A LEADER NOT ONLY WITHIN CHINA BUT AN AMBASSADOR,

  • SO TO SPEAK, TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.

  • PERHAPS YOU'VE HEARD OR YOU'VE READ OR MAYBE YOU HAVE EVEN SEEN

  • SOME OF THE WORKS OF AI WEIWEI-- A MUCH MORE VERBAL,

  • A MUCH MORE SORT OF MEDIA-ORIENTED,

  • MUCH MORE CONTROVERSIAL LIGHTNING ROD KIND OF FIGURE.

  • YES, THEY ARE CONTEMPORARIES, BUT ZHANG HUAN'S WORK

  • HAS OTHER PERHAPS EVEN DEEPER DIMENSIONS TO IT THAN,

  • FOR EXAMPLE, AI WEIWEI'S.

  • A FEW THINGS THAT I WANT TO LAY OUT AS A FOUNDATION

  • TO UNDERSTAND THIS EXHIBITION.

  • AND AGAIN, YOU MAY BE ENCOUNTERING SOME IDEAS

  • AND SOME WORKS THAT ARE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT

  • THAN WE USUALLY PRESENT,

  • OR MAYBE THAT YOU'VE USUALLY SEEN IN A MUSEUM

  • OR GALLERY SINCE.

  • FIRST OF ALL, THIS IS AN ARTIST THAT USES HIMSELF

  • AS A VEHICLE FOR EXPRESSING MANY OF HIS IDEAS.

  • AND BY USING HIMSELF, IT'S NOT JUST MAKING IT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL,

  • BUT OFTEN TIMES IT'S AN ARTIST THAT ACTUALLY USES HIS OWN BODY

  • AND WE'LL EXPLORE THIS THEME IN JUST A LITTLE BIT.

  • THIS IS AN ARTIST THAT LOOKS VERY DEEPLY, VERY INTENSELY,

  • VERY PASSIONATELY AT CHINA, AND CHINA IN NUMEROUS LAYERS,

  • CHINA IN NUMEROUS LEVELS.

  • HISTORICAL CHINA, CHINA OF THE 20th CENTURY,

  • AND THE EVER-EXPANDING, EVER-REINVENTING CHINA OF TODAY.

  • THIS IS ALSO AN ARTIST THAT IS KEENLY AWARE OF THE WEST,

  • IN PARTICULAR THE UNITED STATES AND AMERICAN AUDIENCES

  • AND WHAT THEIR THOUGHTS AND NEEDS AND DESIRES ARE.

  • BUT FOR MY PERSONAL PURPOSES,

  • BOTH AS A CURATOR BUT REALLY ALSO AS A HUMAN BEING,

  • THE THING THAT REALLY STRIKES ME

  • ABOUT SO MUCH OF HIS WORK IS HIS HUMANISM,

  • AND THAT IF YOU MOVE BEYOND THE IMAGERY,

  • WHETHER IT'S USING HIS BODY

  • OR IT'S CONDUCTING A PERFORMANCE WORK

  • OR IT'S USING THINGS THAT ARE ASSOCIATED WITH HISTORICAL CHINA

  • OR THINGS THAT ARE ASSOCIATED WITH BUDDHISM,

  • YOU BEGIN TO REALIZE THAT THIS IS AN ARTIST THAT IS DEEPLY,

  • DEEPLY MOVED AND CONCERNED ABOUT HUMANITY TODAY

  • AND HUMANITY MOVING INTO THE FUTURE.

  • AND AGAIN, ONE OF THE KEY FIGURES

  • OF CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART.

  • NOW, A MOMENT OF SELF-REVELATION HERE.

  • ZHANG HUAN AND I ARE THE SAME AGE.

  • WE WERE BORN IN 1965-- I'LL LET YOU DO THE MATH.

  • AND WHEN WE WERE TOGETHER THIS DECEMBER

  • PLANNING THIS EXHIBITION--

  • WHAT WE WOULD LIKE TO SHOW,

  • WHAT WE THOUGHT SOME OF THE KEY THEMES WERE,

  • AND SO ON AND SO FORTH-- YOU KNOW, MY COMMENT TO HIM WAS,

  • "YOU KNOW, WHEN I WAS IN GRADUATE SCHOOL,

  • "WHEN I WAS STUDYING ART HISTORY IN THE LATE 1980s

  • "AND EARLY 1990s, YOU KNOW,

  • "I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART.

  • "THERE WASN'T SUCH A THING AS A MARKET THAT STEMMED FROM BEIJING

  • "OR FROM SHANGHAI," AND VERY WRYLY AND VERY WISELY,

  • ZHANG HUAN TURNED TO ME AND HE SAID,

  • "WELL, OF COURSE YOU WEREN'T STUDYING IT

  • "BECAUSE I HADN'T DONE ANYTHING YET."

  • (audience laughing)

  • AND ALTHOUGH HE USES HUMOR AND HE USES HUMOR VERY WISELY,

  • I THINK THAT IT POINTS TO A VERY SIGNIFICANT THING--

  • THAT THE ART WORLD HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY

  • IN THE COURSE OF THE LAST 20, 25 YEARS.

  • THE SIMPLE FACT THAT ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MARKETS

  • FOR CONTEMPORARY ART IS NOW FOUND IN CHINA,

  • AND THAT BEIJING AND SHANGHAI ARE COUNTED ALONGSIDE NEW YORK

  • AND LONDON AND BERLIN AS MAJOR ARTISTIC CENTERPIECES

  • IS REALLY QUITE SIGNIFICANT.

  • AND TO ILLUSTRATE THAT,

  • I THOUGHT I WOULD START WITH A COUPLE OF ICONIC IMAGES

  • THAT YOU MIGHT RECOGNIZE.

  • THOSE OF YOU THAT ARE REGULARS TO THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO

  • PROBABLY RECOGNIZE THIS WONDERFUL, ENORMOUS--

  • I THINK IT'S ALMOST 15 FEET IN HEIGHT--

  • PAINTINGS BY ANDY WARHOL... UH, "MAO."

  • AND IN HIS OWN SORT OF POP-- LATE-POP FASHION,

  • WHAT HAS WARHOL DONE BUT HE'S TAKEN A PHOTOGRAPH

  • AND HE HAS MANIPULATED THE SURFACES OF THE PHOTOGRAPH,

  • HE'S INTRODUCED BRIGHT COLOR,

  • BUT HE'S REALLY TREATING MAO AS A KIND OF CELEBRITY IN THE WAY

  • THAT HE TREATED ELVIS AS A CELEBRITY OR MARILYN MONROE,

  • ELIZABETH TAYLOR, AS A CELEBRITY.

  • BUT HE HAS CERTAINLY HAD HIS FINGERS-- THAT'S WARHOL--

  • ON HIS TIME AND PLACE, AND WAS COMMENTING IN 1973

  • ON EVENTS FROM 1972,

  • WHICH IS WHEN RICHARD NIXON WENT TO CHINA,

  • A VERY SIGNIFICANT EVENT THAT MANY OF YOU WILL PROBABLY REMEMBER

  • WAS REALLY POINT OF ORIGIN FOR CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION

  • THAT CONTINUED TO DEVELOP AND TO UNFOLD TODAY.

  • BUT GOING BACK TO MY PERSONAL REVELATION TO YOU

  • IS THAT WHEN I WAS STUDYING ART AS AN UNDERGRADUATE

  • AND AS A GRADUATE STUDENT,

  • WHEN WE THOUGHT ABOUT CHINA, WE THOUGHT ABOUT "CHINA."

  • WE THOUGHT ABOUT CHINA OF DISTANT REACHES

  • AND WE THOUGHT ABOUT CHINA IN TERMS OF A DISTANT PAST.

  • WE THOUGHT ABOUT, FOR EXAMPLE, TERRA-COTTA WARRIORS,

  • WHICH GO BACK TO THE SECOND CENTURY B.C.

  • WE ALL THOUGHT ABOUT AND WE HAD SORT OF ROMANTIC VISIONS

  • OF TRAVELING AND EXPERIENCING PLACES LIKE THE GREAT WALL.

  • YOU KNOW, WE WERE THINKING ABOUT CHINA

  • WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY BEFORE THE 20th CENTURY.

  • WE CERTAINLY WEREN'T THINKING ABOUT CHINA

  • OF THE LATE 20th CENTURY OR THE EARLY 21st CENTURY.

  • BUT, AS WE ALL KNOW, OUR UNDERSTANDING

  • AND OUR APPRECIATION OF CHINA REALLY BEGAN TO CHANGE

  • IN THE LAST QUARTER OF THE 20th CENTURY,

  • AND IT REALLY BEGAN TO CHANGE NOT ONLY FOR THOSE OF US

  • ON THE OUTSIDE, BUT I THINK AS YOU'LL SEE

  • IN A FEW MINUTES WITH ZHANG HUAN,

  • IT BEGAN TO CHANGE ON THE INSIDE AS WELL.

  • AND WE CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO THINK ABOUT MOMENTS LIKE THIS

  • AT TIANANMEN SQUARE,

  • THAT BROUGHT THE CHANGES WITHIN CHINA TO THE ATTENTION

  • OF AN INCREASING WORLD, MARKETPLACE, C.N.N.,

  • INFORMATION-DRIVEN WESTERN SOCIETY.

  • SO HAVING SAID THAT, AND GIVING YOU SOME PERSPECTIVE

  • ABOUT OUR HISTORY AS WE UNDERSTOOD IT

  • AND AS WE STUDIED IT AND AS WE HUNG IT ON MUSEUM WALLS

  • AND AS WE CURATED IT INTO EXHIBITIONS,

  • THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH ZHANG HUAN AND HIS COLLEAGUES

  • AND WHAT I'M GOING TO BE SHARING WITH YOU

  • IN THE NEXT 20 MINUTES OR SO

  • REALLY SET A NEW TONE AND SET A NEW PACE

  • FOR WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD TODAY.