Thursday, November 4, 2010

White Rabbit visit - 4 November

White Rabbit is a privately owned space, named presumably for the owners affinity for South Sydney rugby league given its location in an old factory in Chippendale.

This houses the contemporary chinese art collection of the Neilsen family who made heaps of scratch in funds management. The gallery staff tell you that the founder has been collecting chinese art for over 10 years. I believe this is meant to impress. Well this visitor has kicked the bricks in moganshu lane (probably the main shanghai contemporary gallery precinct) back in 2005 and picked up a healthy scepticism of this next big thing back then. Sure there is some decent art but the branding of it is definitely 'Chinese', and China as a country is certainly rising but does that mean the art is getting more important? I think that if there were a billion Fijians and they were running a huge trade surplus with the rest of the world then spaces like White Rabbit would be full of tapa cloth and tribal carvings. Anyhoo, on to the show ...

White Rabbit is currently hosting their 3rd show, the Big Bang. One of the attendants confided to me that this one is much weaker than the first two. Despite this I liked quite a few things.

I liked the happy balloon men of He Jia but saw a little too much Koons in them, knock offs not being a big issue for the Chinese! I was pleasantly surprised to recognise a piece - Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds which is creating controversy at the Tate (originally you could walk over them but me thinks people were pocketing souvenirs hence it was closed to public due to "porcelain dust"). White Rabbit have half a ton and Ai told them he would only make 2 tons. Well he made 150 tons for the Tate (over 100 million seeds). An artist lied about editioning? Well I never.

My favourite piece was 'the correct road' by Xu Xiaoguo which references propaganda art that this right winger is particularly fond of. Wang Jiuliang's large scale photos of rubbish dumps around Beijing proved the adage that if you make a photo large enough and hang it in a gallery it will look like art. Same goes for Yang Fudong's black and white photos of a night out in Shanghai. I happened to be passing this when the guided tour was on and the explanation on this work confirmed my suspicions that the backstory was more involved than the composition.

The best photography art (also on a much smaller scale) was the identity series by the Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso. I would have happily picked up a postcard of this, if the front desk actually had any postcards from the current show (all available images are from the first 2 shows). For a gallery that wants to enforce a no photography rule they need to lift their game here.

Points: 3 - the space, hats off to the Neilsens for doing this, more Australians that have the means should. I would too if I had the cash (and I hope I'd do as good as these guys). 2 - Xu Xiaoguo, keep up the good work. 1 - the kitschy aprons the gallerinas get to wear. They are black with the red chinese peony fabric trim, just like some boxer shorts I had made for me when travelling in Asia in 2004, saved me 20 clams at the gift store. Thank you.

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