January 25, 2016 - UCCA, Beijing - Elmgreen & Dragset: The Well Fair
January 25, 2016

UCCA, Beijing

Elmgreen & Dragset
The Well Fair
January 24–April 17, 2016

UCCA, Beijing
798 Art District
No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
100015 Beijing
Hours: Monday–Sunday 10am–7pm

T +86 10 5780 0200

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The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) is proud to present Elmgreen & Dragset’s The Well Fair, a solo show that marks the artist duo’s first exhibition in mainland China. Running from January 24 to April 17, 2016, the exhibition turns UCCA’s Great Hall into a fictional art fair by dividing the museum’s signature space into multiple rows of rectangular booths. These temporary, repetitive wall structures, arranged in a fishbone grid in the middle of the room, mimic the generic architecture of commercial art fairs worldwide. A selection of over 80 Elmgreen & Dragset works created over the past two decades is displayed in the booths and communal areas of the fair in unorthodox ways—some of them still crated, wrapped, or half-installed—creating an ambiguous temporal setting that makes it unclear if the fair has just ended or has not yet begun. This broad presentation, drawn from collections in Europe, Asia, and North America, provides a unique opportunity to view Elmgreen & Dragset’s works arranged in new constellations, bridging topics and making evident recurring themes from throughout the artists’ oeuvre: from the examination of institutional architecture, sociocultural topics and art history, to existential subject matters linked to identity and sexuality.

Elmgreen & Dragset employ the entire installation of The Well Fair to reflexively examine the physical and conceptual makeup of contemporary art fairs. By mimicking the now commonly accepted grid layout and utilizing this as the exhibition’s display format, the artists also probe the ease with which behavioral patterns are adapted from one particular setting to the next. Visitors to the fair will navigate the space by discovering different scenarios in each booth and encountering museum personnel engaged to act as the fair’s staff. Elmgreen & Dragset displace the kinetic potential for commerce, situating the fair in a state of limbo without any clear indication of start or finish, and by filling the fair with only their own works, they eliminate the typical aspects of competitive valuation between artists. This setting seeks to break down the social hierarchy usually present at commercial art fairs, with nothing actually for sale and a VIP lounge that remains inaccessible to all.

The title The Well Fair recalls The Welfare Show, Elmgreen & Dragset’s 2006 solo exhibition at Serpentine Gallery, London (among other institutions) consisting of a labyrinth of institutional corridors, waiting rooms and administrative spaces, altogether showing a fractured image of the European welfare state. The Well Fair continues the artists’ ongoing investigation of structural displacement by merging one familiar space with another. At UCCA, the intentional disarray of finished pieces inside inherently temporary “booths” evokes the process of a rehearsal and undermines the idea of the sublime. By constructing an art fair inside a museum, Elmgreen & Dragset investigate the desires that lie beneath the global urge to consume contemporary art and the spatial settings that define the art market.

About the exhibition
Elmgreen & Dragset’s The Well Fair is organized by UCCA director Philip Tinari with assistant curator Lotus Zhang. The exhibition is supported by GALERIE PERROTIN; Victoria Miro, London; Danish Arts Foundation; and Fritt Ord. The Art Newspaper China is the official media partner. The Well Fair is available on Artsy at artsy.net/the-well-fair.

The Well Fair is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue of the same title with essays addressing the cultural, sociological, psychological, and historical forces that have shaped the development of art fairs. Contributors include Frieze Co-Founder Matthew Slotover, ARCOmadrid Director Carlos Urroz, cultural sociologist Roberta Sassatelli (University of Milan), psychology and marketing specialist George E. Newman (Yale University), Chair of Art History at the University of Chicago Christine Mehring, and award-winning art critic Stefan Kobel. With an introduction by UCCA Director Philip Tinari, the catalogue also contains an interview with the artists and a dialogue in the form of a WhatsApp conversation between Art Basel Directors Marc Spiegler, Noah Horowitz, and Adeline Ooi, moderated by Tinari.

UCCA, Beijing
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