To celebrate Asia Week in New York, from 14 to 22 March, the city of the skyscrapers invites the public to get immersed in the rich traditions of the Asian continent. In celebration of this occasion, Gagosian Gallery Madison Avenue presents Matter and Memory: Early Chinese Art Treasures, an exhibition of spectacular Chinese antiques shown next to a large-scale landscape painting by the Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi. More Chinese art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Matter and Memory: Early Chinese Art Treasures displays more than 40 artworks that reflect the technical perfection and artistic creativity from different regions of China during various periods of its history, beginning at the end of the Shang era (1600-1050 BC) until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).
Among other treasures, the exhibition includes a monumental sculpture of a guardian, made in bronze and partially gilded, purchased in 1918 by the art dealer Yamanaka Sadajiro; a jade, bronze and turquoise Shang dagger; a Buddha head carved in white marble; clay sculptures from the Han dynasty and the Tang period; and a series of rare bronze vessels from the last Shang dynasty, which played an essential role in ceremonies whose purpose was to unite, spiritually, human beings with their ancestors.
ZENG FANZHI. Untitled, 2014. / Photo: Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Another standout piece is an impressive real-size bronze sculpture of a horse from the Oriental Han period, discovered in the Fergana Basin of Central Asia, the territory known today as Afghanistan.
The monumental oil landscape by Fanzhi is both a compliment and a counterpoint to all the art treasures displayed in the show. The most internationally renowned Chinese artist shows a predilection for large-format canvases. In this case, his landscape depicts the night with an explosion of color.
In Untitled (2014), the artist blends the classic model with figurative and abstract styles— idealized landscapes of the Song dynasty, knotty branches, twilight and the whiteness of snowflakes in contrast to a sky that darkens— make up this visual allegory.
Fanzhi was born in Wuhan, China, in 1964. His works have been exhibited all over the world. He has shown at the Singapore Art Museum (2007), the Musée d’Art Moderne of Saint-Étienne de Metropole in France (2007), Barcelona’s Godia Foundation (2009), the National Gallery of Foreign Art in Bulgaria (2010) and the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai (2010), among other important venues. He has also participated in numerous group exhibitions such as the first Guangzhou Triennial in 2002 and the 2009 Venice Biennale. Currently Fanzhi lives and works in Beijing.
This exhibition is possible thanks to the work of Gisele Croes, a Belgian gallery manager who for years has promoted the understanding and appreciation of the art of the Orient. Since 1980, Croes has participated in the European Fine Arts Fair in Maastricht, the International Asian Art Fair in New York and the Biennale of Antique Dealers in Paris.
An exhibition that transmits history inspired by the allegory of a present as vivid as Zeng Fanzhi´s is without a doubt, a beautiful way of getting to know a country as vast and full of contrasts as China. ■