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‘Two Stations’ highlights Aotou’s flourishing arts scene

Exhibit featuring works by 16 artists from five Scandinavian countries a sign of the times

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 11:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 11:45am

Aotou, a traditional ferry port and tranquil fishing village in Xiamen’s Xiang’an district, is fast becoming a neighbourhood with a vibrant arts scene.

The area gained prominence when the Aotou-based Nordic Contemporary Art Centre Xiamen (NCAC) opened an exhibition in April entitled “Two Stations – Copenhagen Station and Aotou Station”. The exhibition featured more than 200 works by 16 artists from five Scandinavian countries.

Else Marie Bukdahl, the former president of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, attended the opening ceremony with the featured artists, while Danish state television sent a crew to record the event.

Aotou was an old ferry port 100 years ago where locals embarked for their voyage to Southeast Asia
Wang Tong, artist and NCAC co-founder

Wang Tong, a Chinese-Danish artist and NCAC co-founder, organised the exhibition with curator and co-founder Lan Lan. The two have been active in the launch of Xiamen-related international art exchange activities, organising more than 100 art events in Xiamen and around the world over the past 12 years.

They have been pivotal in helping Aotou become an arts hub since 2016, when the city started working with local and international artists, architects, designers and scholars to redevelop Aotou. The NCAC opened its 2,300-square-metre facility in the village last year.

“Aotou was an old ferry port 100 years ago where locals embarked for their voyage to Southeast Asia,” says Tong. “Today, Aotou is an art harbour where artists come and stay. I hope in the future it will be an art ferryboat that displays Chinese culture and spirit globally.”

A significant number of traditional south Fujian architecture buildings are a major calling card for the area. Inspired by a visit to Aotou, Croatian artist Joseph Ahel decided to establish his own studio in the area. Ahel said: “I was taken by the landscape and people here and I want them to experience the diversity of art.”

The changes are backed by the local government’s generosity and promotion. Plans call for 800 million yuan (HK$981 million) to be invested in the area until 2021. The Aotou Cultural Industry Park, which opened last December and is home to the NCAC, will also incorporate the Aotou Literature Museum, the Aotou Village History Museum and the Xuanxiang Design Centre.

“Aotou has been encompassed into the future Xiamen urban developing zone,” says Ye Xiaodong, the deputy head of the city district of Xiang’an District.

Local residents are also participating in the changes. Jiang Yongtai, an amateur historian focusing on the overseas Chinese experience, renovated his old house into the Culture and History of Fujian Overseas Chinese Museum. “I wish for the stories of overseas Chinese to be carried down by generations,” says Jiang in explaining his inspiration for the museum. The museum, which opened in January, has attracted tens of thousands of visitors to its exhibition of antique letters and photos.

Chen Qingming is a 53-year-old chef and self-taught painter. Using seafood and daily necessities as subjects, he created over 100 art works within four months, hosting his first solo exhibition in Aotou in 2016. “Art is not far away, all you need to do is pick up a paintbrush,” Chen says.