New publication: A History of Exhibitions: Shanghai 1979−2006

New publication: A History of Exhibitions: Shanghai 1979−2006

esea contemporary

November 28, 2014

A History of Exhibitions: Shanghai 19792006
Edited by Biljana Ciric

A History of Exhibitions: Shanghai 1979–2006 is a comprehensive archive of artist-organized exhibitions between 1979 and 2006 in the city of Shanghai. This selection of exhibitions is focused primarily on group exhibitions with a select number of solo exhibitions, in which the artists had specific interests in rethinking the way the artwork was presented to the public. Specific works of art that take the form of exhibitions are also included.

Through their exhibition-making endeavors, Shanghai-based artists explored how exhibitions work to determine the reception and understanding of art by reconsidering the very exhibition rituals that shape such. In this way, it is not only the content but also the method and form of the exhibition that is important, and explored through this research and the many interviews contained in the publication.

This archive takes a chronological approach, beginning with the 1979 exhibition: Twelve-Men Painting Exhibition, which for the first time displayed different works together by artists after the Cultural Revolution who were not a part of any artists’ association. Such early exhibitions presented in the archive are significant for introducing new art and new practices—early experimentations that at that time didn’t have a clear status within the arts in China, and which were considered to be more underground movements and interests. Many of the exhibitions before 1989 were also marked by the important negotiation processes between artists and the State, which was subsequently dissolved after the tumultuous year of 1989. Interestingly, most of the exhibitions presented in the archive did not take place in institutional spaces, like museums or galleries, with the exception of The Last Supper in 1988, which was presented at the Shanghai Art Museum—which is also historically significant as it was the first performance piece presented in a public museum in Shanghai.

Not surprisingly then, it was these exhibitions rather than the museums that acted as sites for the production of knowledge and experimentation throughout this period of art history in China, which illuminates the very different role that the museums occupied in relation to the Western art historical context in which the development of museums, modern art, and the study of art history were very much interconnected.

During the mid-1990s, the period identified as fostering professionalization in the arts in China, as well as its emergence internationally—which was characterized by the more frequent communication with contexts outside of China and the greater opportunities for artists to exhibit abroad—also greatly influenced the understanding of exhibition-related practices within the local context as seen through artist-organized exhibitions during this period. One such example of this is Let’s Talk About Money: The First International Fax Art Exhibition (1996).

The Fax Art Exhibition marks the beginning of a period wherein new initiatives were focused on providing alternatives to the established rituals of exhibiting and exhibition-making. This approach would later be inherited by the younger generation of artists through a number of key exhibitions, beginning with the Art for Sale exhibition in 1999, which was half traditional exhibition display and half supermarket setting in which artists could sell their works at “wholesale” prices. This activity continues all the way up to 38 Solo Exhibitions (2006)—the last exhibition in the archive and one that tested the group exhibition format versus through the presentation of solo shows within a group context.

38 Solo Exhibitions is the symbolic ending point (or pause) of the archive, not least of which for the fact that the exhibition lasted only half an hour since authorities shut the electricity off and jailed two of the artists in the process. At the same time, in the years that have followed, a number of museums appeared together with the emergence of a commercial sector, influencing the way artists worked and organized themselves as well, in effect drawing attention away from the long held interest in exhibition-making and artist-led initiatives.

This book is made possible by the generous support of the following institutions: ShanghART Gallery, 1933 Contemporary, Look Art Space, and the Asia Art Archive.

Editor: Biljana Ciric
Assistant Editor: Steven L. Bridges
Translation: Wu Chenyun
Design: Toby Tam

Published by CFCCA
Distributed by Cornerhouse Publishing
publications [​at​]
Printed in China by Jin You Printing

ISBN Number: 978-0-9576332-2-3



CFCCA presents new publication: A History of Exhibitions: Shanghai 1979−2006
RSVP for New publication: A History of Exhibitions: Shanghai…
esea contemporary
November 28, 2014

Thank you for your RSVP.

esea contemporary will be in touch.


e-flux announcements are emailed press releases for art exhibitions from all over the world.

Agenda delivers news from galleries, art spaces, and publications, while Criticism publishes reviews of exhibitions and books.

Architecture announcements cover current architecture and design projects, symposia, exhibitions, and publications from all over the world.

Film announcements are newsletters about screenings, film festivals, and exhibitions of moving image.

Education announces academic employment opportunities, calls for applications, symposia, publications, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Sign up to receive information about events organized by e-flux at e-flux Screening Room, Bar Laika, or elsewhere.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.