International Center of Photography Presents Wang Qingsong When Worlds Collide

The International Center of Photography presents Wang Qingsong: When Worlds Collide on view JANUARY 21–MAY 8, 2011.


Wang Qingsong, Competition, 2004. © Wang Qingsong. Courtesy the artist

This exhibition will mark the first U.S. solo show of Beijing artist Wang Qingsong, one of China’s most highly regarded contemporary artists. Trained as a painter at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Art, Wang Qingsong turned to photography in the late 1990s in order to convey a distinctive and often acerbic vision of Chinese society during the country’s current economic boom. Working in the manner of a film director, he stages elaborate scenes involving dozens of models on enormous stages. His large-scale color photographs combine references to classic Chinese art with ironic nods to China’s new material wealth and rapidly growing consumer culture. Organized by ICP curator Christopher Phillips, the exhibition will include approximately 15 of Wang Qingsong’s photo works, as well as a screening room featuring a selection of his recent videos. In addition, a series of documentary videos will allow visitors to follow step-by-step the artist’s production of several of the major works that will be on view.

Born in 1964, Wang Qingsong grew up in the Daqing oilfields in Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China, where his parents were employed. From a young age he set his sights on becoming an artist, although the path that he followed was hardly an easy one. When his father died in an oilfield accident and left his family without financial support, the 15-year-old boy immediately took his father’s old place on a drilling platform and worked there for the next eight years, while continuing to take art classes and to seek admission to China’s top art academies. Following his acceptance by the prestigious Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Wang Qingsong trained as an oil painter, graduating in 1992. Determined to make his way as an independent artist, he arrived in Beijing in 1993, just as Chinese contemporary art was beginning to attract international attention.

Wang Qingsong first won recognition as a painter in the mid-1990s through his membership in the Gaudy Art group, a movement influenced by the work of Jeff Koons and championed by China’s most influential art critic, Li Xianting. In 1997 he abandoned painting and took up photography, a medium that enabled him to quickly register and comment upon the economic and social changes that were sweeping China. His work has now appeared in more than 20 solo exhibitions and over 80 group exhibitions. He has exhibited internationally at such venues as the Sydney Biennale, the Gwangju Biennale, the Havana Biennial, the Getty Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Mori Art Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, ZKM Karlsruhe, the Moscow House of Photography, and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center. His work was prominently featured in the 2004 ICP exhibition Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China.

In 2001, ICP was the first museum to acquire the work of Wang Qingsong for its permanent collection. Since that time his works are now in the collections of such institutions such as the Getty Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Mori Art Museum, the National Art Museum of Brazil, the Hammer Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the San Diego Art Museum.

This exhibition was made possible with support from the ICP Exhibitions Committee, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Mark McCain and Caro Macdonald/Eye and I, Michelle and Mark Edmunds, Larry Warsh, Richard Born, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council

Lower Image: Wang Qingsong, Requesting Buddha Series No. 1, 1999. Chromogenic color print. © Wang Qingsong. Courtesy the artist.

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