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For art’s sake: Xiamen is serious player in China’s blossoming arts and culture field

A number of galleries and museums have opened in Xiamenin the past decade, including the 798 Times Space Xiamen, the Kulangsu Gallery of Foreign Artifacts from the Palace Museum and the Xinhe Gallery

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2017, 11:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2017, 11:45am

Long known for its tourism, Xiamen is becoming a serious player in China’s blossoming arts and culture field. The city recognises that a lively arts scene can play an important role in urban development and subsidises efforts to help it evolve into an international centre for creativity.

A number of galleries and museums have opened in the past decade, including the 798 Times Space Xiamen, the Kulangsu Gallery of Foreign Artefacts from the Palace Museum, the Xinhe Gallery, the Qianji Gallery, Three Shadows Xiamen Photography Art Centre and the Zhangting Art Museum. New venues for live shows include the Cangjiang Theatre and the Jiageng Theatre.

Xiamen is also home to a series of influential international art events, including the Arles Jimei Photo Festival and the Strawberry Music Festival.

One of the biggest art events on the calendar is the Art Amoy Art Fair held in May. Covering an exhibition area of 21,000 square metres, the four-day fair includes contemporary art, classic art and an auction display pavilion. This year’s edition featured 10,000 artworks by 1,000 Chinese and international artists, such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and Murakami Takashi.

“Chinese artists treasure their traditions and yet are not being afraid to go beyond [them],” says Victor Orly, whose work has featured at the fair for the past two years. Orly suggests that China’s efforts to tie China more closely to Asia and points west through the “Belt and Road Initiative” have internationalised the country’s art scene.

Chinese artists treasure their traditions and yet are not being afraid to go beyond [them]
Victor Orly, artist

Another major art exhibition is “Rolling Snowball/8 – Homecoming”, which continues at the Three Shadows Xiamen Photography Art Centre until June 18. Organised by the Xiamen-based Chinese European Art Centre (CEAC), the show features paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations of 46 Chinese and Dutch artists.

At the exhibition’s opening, Ineke Gudmundsson, founder of CEAC, said various editions of the Rolling Snowball have gone on public display since its 2010 debut at the Shanghai Expo. It has travelled within China to places such as Quanzhou and Guangzhou, and outside the country to cities such as Djupivogur in Iceland. “The Rolling Snowball project allows us to share and promote the fruits of artistic and cultural exchange with audiences, artists and colleagues far and wide, home and abroad,” Gudmundsson added.

Established in 1999, CEAC hosts one of the longest running artist-in-residence programmes in China. It has hosted more than 300 visual artists, architects, designers and curators from around the world, including regular exhibitions and supplementary programmes such as lectures, workshops, concerts and outdoor film showings.

Xiamen’s art scene has flourished in tandem with CEAC, says Marc Boom, an art lover from Holland and a frequenter of CEAC exhibitions. “There were few art places to visit when I moved to Xiamen seven years ago. But local artists have grown more international and contemporary through the years.”

Nick Renshaw, a Snowball exhibition artist who has lived in Xiamen for eight years, has also witnessed the rapid progress the city has made in the art field. “New and elite galleries are popping up and more art events are taking place in the city,” he says. “Although there is still a gap in art infrastructure compared with first-tier cities like Bejing and Shanghai, Xiamen is definitely catching up.”