In the late 1990s, Chinese contemporary art was just beginning to garner international attention. Today, China rivals the U.S. as a market for artworks by living artists, Chinese youth vie for entry to super-selective art schools and tickets to visit an exhibition by Ai Weiwei — the 56-year-old artist who co-designed the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics — on Alcatraz Island, scheduled to open this September, go on sale three months in advance.
In June, the Tampa Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, team up to present My Generation: Young Chinese Artists. The exhibition aims to shed light on 27 Chinese artists born since 1976 — the country’s second generation of contemporary artists, but the first to come of age under the economic reforms responsible for China’s market-driven boom and the controversial One Child Policy. (Hence the reputation of this generation as being composed of pampered “little emperors,” not unlike American Millennials.)
New York-based art critic Barbara Pollack, who is known for her pioneering coverage of Chinese contemporary art over more than a decade, curates. Galleries at both TMA, where the show originated, and the MFA will display the exhibition works. The diverse showcase includes photography, video, painting and sculpture, as well as a pair of commissions slated to remain part of TMA’s permanent collection after the exhibition.
“One is Light,” a 13-foot-tall translucent fiberglass sculpture in the shape of the Chinese character for “light,” will hang in TMA’s atrium. Artist Wang Yuyang authored the code to digitally transform the strokes of the character into the bubbly, ethereal design of the monumental sculpture.
My Generation: Young Chinese Artists runs June 7-Sept. 28 at the Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, 813-274-8130, tampamuseum.org, and the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive N.E., St. Petersburg, 727-896-2667, fine-arts.org.