August 25, 2007 - U-TURN - 30 Years of Contemporary Art in China
August 25, 2007

30 Years of Contemporary Art in China


Taliesin Thomas | Director AW ASIA
545 West 25th Street, 7th floor
New York, NY 10001

Office for Discourse Engineering
207 Parkview Center
5 Fang Yuan Xi Lu
Chaoyang, Beijing 100016
+86 10 6438 8582

U-TURN is a new periodical that presents a direct and in-depth history of Chinese contemporary art. Edited by writer and curator Philip Tinari, produced by Office for Discourse Engineering in Beijing, and published by AW ASIA in New York, U-TURN seeks to return to the moments and movements that have shaped contemporary art in China since 1978, covering them in stand-alone foldout treatments that are released in sets of five, each issue focusing on a particular five-year period. The title “U-TURN” draws on the “No U-Turn” logo adopted by Chinese artists in the lead-up to the China/Avant-Garde exhibition that took place at the National Art Museum of China in February 1989.

U-TURN 1, covering the period between 1978 and 1982, was launched at the recent Art Basel. It includes segments on the Stars Group, No Name Painting Society, April Photographic Society, and Scar Art, which together comprise the first stirrings of a contemporary art scene in post-Cultural Revolution China. The No Name painting society prefigured a return to non-political art through its resolute commitment to seemingly “harmless” post-Impressionist landscape painting. The Stars Group declared the importance of individual creativity and gave rise to a group of individual artists still active today, including Ai Weiwei, Wang Keping, and Huang Rui. The April Photographic Society staged a series of widely attended photographic exhibitions in 1979 through which the medium began to transcend its journalistic roots. The Scar Art movement turned the techniques of social realism onto the baggage of the Cultural Revolution.

U-TURN 2, to be released at the ShContemporary fair in Shanghai next month, will focus on the critical period between 1983 and 1987 known as the “’85 Art New Wave,” with analysis of the Northern Art Group, Southwest Painting Research Society, Xiamen Dada, and the ’85 Art New Space exhibition in Hangzhou. Coming editions of U-TURN will profile additional groups and movements including the 1989 China/Avant-Garde exhibition, Gu Dexin’s early-1990s New Analysts group, artist villages including Yuanmingyuan and the East Village, Guangzhou’s first contemporary collective of the Big Tail Elephant group, the body art of Post-Sense Sensibility in the late 1990s, and the official “legitimization” of the contemporary art scene in the early 2000s.

U-TURN moves forward chronologically toward the present in five-year intervals, for a total of six issues covering the three decades between 1978 and 2008. Each eight-to-twelve page U-TURN pamphlet presents a specific group or movement, publishing previously uncirculated photographs, and re-creating key exhibitions through diagrams and documentary materials. Each issue features four overviews of significant groups and movements, bundled with a separate chronology to tie these movements to each other and to the broader social circumstances of the era. The project aims to educate and enlighten art professionals, institutions, and collectors on the history and importance of Chinese contemporary art.

U-TURN is published by AW ASIA and will be released three times a year for a total of six issues. AW ASIA is a private office and exhibition space in New York initiated by collector, publisher, and Museums Magazine founder Larry Warsh. Located in the heart of the NYC Chelsea art district, AW ASIA is promoting contemporary art from China and Asia by means of exhibitions, publishing, and public programs.

U-TURN is edited and produced by Office for Discourse Engineering, a Beijing-based editorial studio dedicated to research and publishing on contemporary Chinese art. It is designed by Imagine Wong. Contributing writers include Kris Ercums, Michael Hatch, and Stephanie Tung.

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