The First Beijing International Art Biennale—Originality: Contemporaneity and Locality
When the First Beijing International Art Biennale is inaugurated in fall 2003, with artists from around the world gathering in Beijing, it seems that a grand art festival has been presented to the world. We believe that the exhibition will not only add a unique cultural vitality to the ancient city, but will also serve as a bridge for international art exchanges. It will undoubtedly open a window to help promote reciprocal understanding between China and the rest of the world. With these in prospect, we feel extraordinarily excited. Just because this is the first time China holds such an exhibition, we are aware of the difficulty and the heavy responsibility on our shoulders to make a striking start. Therefore, all of the sponsor institutions, including the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles (CFLAC), the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality, and the China Artists Association, as well as the Organizing Committee and the Curatorial Committee, have been committed to the preparatory work. The Biennale has also received great support from the central government, various departments concerned, and artists both at home and abroad. All of this has greatly encouraged us.
"Originality: Contemporaneity and Locality," theme of the Biennale, conveys a new idea of presenting the multiple, fresh faces of visual art of different countries and regions as colorfully as possible. This theme has been clearly stated in the Biennale's Constitution. According to the Constitution, originality, as a general requirement, is a "topic that is the common concern of contemporary artists across the world. We advocate the expansion of artistic concepts, which should be adapted to the times, and the originality that meets the demands of changes on the basis of inheriting national cultural traditions. Contemporaneity means that we should conform to the spirit of peace and development of the times and reflect mankind's pursuit for what is truth, good and beauty." In addition, "we are also concerned about regionalism and the ethnic features of artistic originalities of different countries." The concept of integrating the spirit of artistic creation with the spirit of the times and national and regional characteristics have come close to the artistic ideal Confucius puts forward in his Analects: "being perfect beauty and perfect goodness at the same time."
As is widely known, the Biennale on the one hand raises aloft the banner of originality, and on the other hand, confines the exhibited works to the categories of painting and sculpture, for we believe that though new art forms, such as multi-media, have extended the realm of contemporary art, painting and sculpture have not yet lost their room of getting rid of the obsolete and bringing forth the new. In China and Japan, in particular, painting styles named after their nations are very alive, just as new flowers blooming on old trees. It is a wise approach to analyze, study, and selectively recognize avant-garde art and to study, inherit, and actively expand traditional art. Undoubtedly, this theme encapsulates the conception, mentality, and characteristics of the Biennale. And of course, the difficulty lies in how to turn the conception into reality.
At first, it was not an easy job to select the artistic works to be displayed at the Biennale. At present, few art exhibitions adopt the selective process followed by the Biennale this time. A group of curators drew upon all the constructive opinions gathered through discussion and finally decided on candidate works, thus showcasing the collective wisdom of the Curatorial Committee in maintaining and representing the theme of the Biennale. What is more, Mr. Vincenzo Sanfo, an international curator invited by the Biennale, and other sponsors have showed their full understanding of the position of the Biennale and made a concerted effort, and many Chinese embassies abroad and foreign embassies in China have offered valuable assistance, thus guaranteeing the academic level and worldwide influence of the Biennale.
Secondly, how to honestly reflect the concept of the Biennale through the arrangement of the exhibits and the compilation of an album were no easy job either. For such an important international event, it is of positive meaning to display all of the works together, regardless of their differences, without being in favor of any particular artists. The current world is composed of multiple cultures. On the one hand, because of their cultural pursuit, the arts of different ethnic groups and different regions, whether it be the extension of tradition or unique innovations, show irreplaceable aesthetic value. On the other hand, the confluence and exchanges of different cultures and arts across the world are of a much profounder significance than ever before.Showing equal respect for the arts of different cultures represents China's broad mind of "having all united, yet still keeping them distinguishable," and is also a manner shared by all international art exhibitions. This album contains all of the exhibited works, more than 400 pieces altogether, from over 40 countries, including 4 special exhibitions. We arrange the artists in alphabetical order by their surnames. Our intention is to present the exhibition in an objective manner to readers, no matter by which page they open the book. In this way, we have found ourselves in the position of realizing the artbased conception of the Biennale. From another perspective, this album reminds readers of the atmosphere of the Han and Tang Dynasties, during which exotic cultures and art were not repelled, but widely appreciated. Such an attitude is what we admire and want to reveal in the spirit of the Biennale.
The gathering of artists from around the world in Beijing will definitely make the First Beijing International Art Biennale an extraordinarily significant event. We hope that this album will be a sweet memory of the exchanges of artists of different nations, and that the exhibition and relevant activities will offer various platforms for current and future interactions between domestic and foreign artists. Meanwhile, we also hope that the Beijing International Art Biennale in future will become more attractive and Beijing will become a new and reliable art center for artists across the world. As an ancient civilization, China has greatly benefited from its reform and opening-up, and is duty-bound to make new contributions to the construction of the spiritual civilization of mankind.