Chinese artists create stunning exhibits across Liverpool’s waterfront

A mini Stonehenge at Mann Island is just one of the works created by 10 artists living and working in Liverpool’s twin city Shanghai and will be on display until September. Tony McDonough reports

Mann Island
Mann Island will be home to a mini Stonehenge created by Shanghai artist Xu Zhen. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

Ten acclaimed Chinese artists, living and working in Liverpool’s twin city Shanghai, will showcase their work in a free exhibition taking over the waterfront.

This is Shanghai will bring together the work of the leading contemporary artists from China. The exhibition has been produced by Culture Liverpool, in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, and is open to the public from Saturday, July 14, to Friday, September 7.

The work will be displayed in the basement of Cunard Building, in Mann Island, the Museum of Liverpool, Tate Exchange and the Pier Head. Exhibits include:

  • Optimising by Xu Zhen: Miniature Stonehenge comes to Liverpool, located in Mann Island’s atrium, outside Open Eye Gallery. Martial arts experts will perform on top of the stones, bringing together two traditions of ritual separated by thousands of miles
  • Sharing the Losing by Yu Ji: Hire a special bike from the This is Shanghai gallery in Cunard’s basement, pop on the headphones provided, hit play on an MP3, cycle along Liverpool’s World Heritage waterfront and hear the sounds of the Bund (Shanghai’s waterfront). The soundscape will be accompanied by a story, in English, about Yu Ji’s home city
  • Liverpool 2018 by Liang Yue: A series of beautifully shot photographs highlight the similarities between Liverpool’s waterfront and the Bund and how the River Mersey and the Huangpu River make Chinese visitors feel like Liverpool is a home from home
  • Time Differences by Yuan Gong: A tower of beautifully decorated biscuit tins will be crushed every hour, representing the tune, East is Red, which is played from the clock tower on the Bund’s Custom House.
  • The Only Access by Zhang Peili: Visitors to the Cunard Building will enter a symbolic gateway allowing them to feel as though they are leaving Liverpool behind and stepping into Shanghai. 
  • The Same Warmth and Cold Throughout the Globe by Zhou Xiaohu: Toy birds, plastic flowers, branches and tools will all hang from a ceiling and the shadow they cast will form Chinese calligraphy, recreating poems and famous Chinese sayings.

In addition to the work on display, 2,018 lucky residents are going to be chosen at random and will receive a limited edition piece of art by Lu Pingyuan.

To Wilson will see vintage-looking envelopes hand delivered, containing a letter and vintage photographs of two buildings which look incredibly similar – the Port of Liverpool building and the HSBC Building on the Bund. Each will be delivered by a postman dressed in 1930s uniform.

Shanghai
The Bund in Liverpool’s twin city, Shanghai

 

All the work has been curated by Jiang Jiehong – one of the leading figures in the UK for Contemporary Chinese Art.

Jiang said: “This feels like a really personal exhibition. I first left my hometown of Shanghai for Britain 20 years ago and his had changed dramatically since I left. Despite my regular visits back, it is no longer mine.

“Liverpool arouses my memories and experiences of Shanghai, especially its waterfront. The shared characteristics between the two is reassuring.”

The exhibition is part of the city’s China Dream season which is a key element of the 2018 programme. All the artists are Liang Yue, Lu Pingyuan, Shi Yong, Xu Zhen, Yang Fudong, Yang Zhenzhong, Yu Ji, Yuan Gong, Zhang Peili and Zhou Xiaohu.

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