Pieces of China is an online series that tells the story of China, one object at a time.
A single black and white photograph, a cluster of Mao-suited Beijingers crowding around a fence outside China’s National Gallery, encapsulates one of the most electric moments in contemporary Chinese history. Curator Philip Tinari, Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, is uniquely qualified to talk about how that moment in time – a crowd viewing the avant garde Stars exhibit of 1979 – signaled a dramatic break with the Cultural Revolution’s Maoist ideology and launched an equally revolutionary new movement in Chinese art. Tinari will share his thoughts on the moment – and the photograph, taken by artist Li Xiaobin and given to him by Stars member Huang Rui.
Background: The Stars made headlines in 1979 when—in defiance of being excluded from a national art exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of the PRC—the avant-garde artists mounted their work in a nearby park. The exhibition was shut down, but the incident marked a milestone in China’s burgeoning contemporary art movement, which would take the international art world by storm.
Li Xiaobin is an artist and photographer who founded the April Photo Society, China’s first unofficial photography organization following the Cultural Revolution. Huang Rui is an artist known for his social and cultural criticism, who was one of the founding members of the Stars group.
Philip Tinari is the Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. During his tenure, UCCA has mounted more than seventy exhibitions and thousands of public programs, bringing artistic voices established and emerging, Chinese and international, to an audience of over a million visitors each year. He was co-curator of the 2017 exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.