Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists

Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists

Kunstinstituut Melly

Hans van Dijk in his apartment in Beijing. Photograph courtesy of Zhang Hai’er.

September 1, 2014

Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists
4 September 2014–4 January 2015

Opening: Thursday 4 September, 5–10pm

Witte de With | Center for Contemporary Art
Witte de Withstraat 50
3012 BR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

info [​at​] wdw.nl


Artists: An Hong, Chen Shaoxiong, Ding Yi, Duan Jianyu, Thomas Fuesser, Geng Jianyi, Han Lei, Hong Hao, Hong Lei, Liu Anping, Liu Ding, Luo Yongjin, Ni Haifeng, Ielnay Oahgnoh, Shi Yong, Wang Jinsong, Wang Xingwei, Wu Shanzhuan, Xin Kedu (The New Analyst Group), Xu Tan, Yan Lei, Zhang Hai’er, Zhang Peili, Zhao Bandi, Zhao Shaoruo, Zheng Guogu, Zhuang Hui, and others

Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Hans van Dijk (the Netherlands, 1946–China, 2002). Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists outlines his seminal role in Chinese contemporary art. Van Dijk, whose Chinese name was Dai Hanzhi, was active as a curator, art historian, and gallerist in China throughout the nineties. Though hardly known in the Netherlands, Van Dijk is still revered by Chinese artists today.

Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists includes historical installations, paintings, video, and photography by more than 30 artists who were close to Van Dijk. Artists Ding Yi, Liu Ding, Ni Haifeng, Wang Xingwei, and Zhang Peili created new works or proposed a personal selection from their oeuvre. The works on view are supplemented by rare archival material from Europe and China, including letters, photographs and unique “Ming-inspired Rietveld-style” furniture made by Van Dijk as well as a special presentation of Van Dijk’s hitherto undiscovered life’s work, a lexicon of 5,000 Chinese artists born between 1880 and 1980. Two contemporary art spaces that have been profoundly influenced by Van Dijk’s model for a gallery and archive, Vitamin Creative Space (Beijing–Guangzhou, founded in 2002) and BizArt (Shanghai, 1998–2010), will also be present with their own contributions.

About Hans van Dijk
Long forgotten in the Netherlands, Hans van Dijk began his career as an artist studying at the Arnhem Arts Academy and at the Eindhoven Design Academy. He took an interest in Ming furniture and decided to study Chinese language and culture. In 1984, Van Dijk left the Netherlands for China, where he passionately devoted the rest of his life to documenting, archiving and promoting the work of Chinese contemporary artists, until his early passing in 2002.

Hans van Dijk acted as a curator, dealer, and scholar in a time when art infrastructure in China was virtually nonexistent. He taught artists how to manage themselves and the minutiae of the art world: how to curate and have their shows curated, pack artworks, fill out loan forms, and show to local and international collectors. Critically, he was one of the first to view these artists within their larger context, both as a continuation of Chinese art history and as a part of international contemporary art practice. Van Dijk despised the label “Chinese contemporary art” and similarly post-colonial attitudes, encouraging Chinese artists to see themselves as equal contributors to a global cultural dialogue.

The exhibition in two parts is co-commissioned by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing and is curated by Marianne Brouwer. The platform is developed by Defne Ayas (Director, Witte de With) and Philip Tinari (Director, UCCA), along with Samuel Saelemakers (Associate Curator, Witte de With), Ian Yang (Curatorial Fellow, Witte de With) and Venus Lau (Curator, UCCA). Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists is kindly supported by AMMODO, the Mondriaan Fund and DSM. 

Public program:
Slash: Hybrid Ecologies and Audiences Today
Saturday 6 December
Taking curator/dealer Hans van Dijk as a point of departure, this symposium will investigate what happens when cultural sector divisions—such as public/private and the commercial/non-for-profit—bleed.  Although the latest financial crisis has past, a new generation of cultural producers came of age—and were likewise forged—by this downturn. Six years on, now is the time to take stock of how these initiatives, particularly those led by artist or writer-led startups, have scaled. To this end, Witte de With hosts a convocation of critics, thinkers, and artists currently engaged in these newer platforms—spanning art, fashion, publishing, and exhibition-making to discuss how novel—and at times heterodox—modes of address, support, and management have reshaped—for better and for worse—the ways ideas spread. A closed workshop between Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and the Gallerist programme of de Appel arts centre that spies commercial ‘ambivalence’ through the lens of historic curator/dealer case studies will proceed this event.

Digitizing for the Future: Hans van Dijk’s Archive
Thursday 23 October
Although also active as a curator and gallerist, Hans van Dijk was above all a gifted archivist, whose staggering life’s work, the Lexicon and Library of 5000 artists active in China, born between 1880 and 1980, provides a unique source of information about 100 years of Chinese art. After his untimely passing in 2002, Van Dijk left behind both a digital and a physical archive, comprising of photographs, articles, catalogues, newspaper clippings and more. Anthony Yung, Senior Researcher at Asia Art Archive (Hong Kong), will present his work on digitizing Hans van Dijk’s archive and making it available online to researchers across the globe. Given the impressive amount of artists Van Dijk worked with during his time in China, his archive will play an important role in future research on the history of contemporary art in China.

Xu Tan: The Social Botany Project 
Thursday 27 November
Noted Chinese artist Xu Tan (b. 1957, Wuhan) will lead a workshop that continues his explorations into socio-botany. The Social Botany Project was initiated in 2012, as a specific part of Xu Tan’s Keywords project, which he began in 2005. Throughout multiple exhibitions and research projects, the artist aims to uncover and expose the multilayered relationships that govern our relationships between the natural and built environments in which we live. During his workshop at Witte de With, Xu Tan, whose video work Social Plants and Thought Spasm is on view in the exhibition Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists, will zoom in on the specific qualities of Rotterdam’s built environment and its rural surroundings. For more information about this workshop and how to participate, please visit our website

WdW Review
Building on Witte de With’s long history of framing and instigating debate, WdW Review is an online platform aimed at informing our ever-expanding spheres of action in an age of constant reformations, be they aesthetic, geographic, economic, communal, ecological, and even spiritual. Recent and forthcoming include a series of essays in which writers Monica de la Torre, Brian Dillon, and Ingo Niermann analyze single images, from a film still in a book to a 16th-century artwork; drawings by Dan Prejovschi and Sholem Krishtalka; and regular dispatches from Shangai (Nick Land about Bitcoin), Jerusalem (Tirdad Zolghadr on art institutions in Palestine), Delhi (Ruchir Joshi on the image of the leader Modi), as well as Cairo, Istanbul, Moscow, and Athens. The WdW Review app is now available for iPhone and iPad in the Apple store and the Google Play store.

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Witte de With presents Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists
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Kunstinstituut Melly
September 1, 2014

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