“The first time I saw Matthew Barney’s work, I didn’t ask if it was made by an American. I didn’t ask how it reflected the social conditions in the United States under democracy,” says Wang Jianwei. Knowing full well that that is precisely how Americans often evaluate Chinese contemporary artists, he adds, “Likewise, you don’t need to ask me about being a Chinese artist or if my work reflects something about China.”
It is this refusal to be categorized that has earned Wang a prized show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York—the first to be commissioned by the museum’s Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. Entitled “Time Temple,” the exhibition features a series of sculptures, paintings, a new film, and a sound installation, and will conclude with a theatrical performance, Spiral Ramp Library, on February 12 and 13.
Wang’s statement might seem provocative, but it represents the viewpoint of an artist with a career that spans more than three decades, in China and elsewhere. “I wanted to present an artist who offers a broader perspective,” says Guggenheim curator Thomas J. Berghuis. Instead of offering a primer on Chinese contemporary art, he explains, this exhibition profiles “an artist at the forefront of innovation.”