With relations between China and the United States growing strained, the art scenes of both countries have been directly impacted. This week, the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing—which is widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary art museums in China—was forced to call off a planned exhibition of work by Hung Liu, who had been due to have a solo show opening in December. The cause, according to the museum’s director, Philip Tinari, was “an increase in tension” between the two countries.
“Topics that were once relatively open for discussion are now increasingly scrutinized,” Tinari wrote in a letter addressed to “colleagues, lenders and admirers of Hung Liu” that was obtained by the Art Newspaper. “An exhibition that might have been greenlighted a few years ago—such as this one—must now be canceled.”
In his letter, Tinari said that loans to the show were denied import permits. To stage an exhibition of foreign artwork in Beijing, Tinari explained in his letter, the institution must present images of the work for formal approval from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture. The Bureau reviews the proposal, then issues documentation that must be submitted to Beijing Customs, who issue an import permit. According to Tinari, UCCA filed the necessary paperwork with the Bureau months before the scheduled opening before reciting news that their request had been denied.
Liu was born in Changchun City in China’s Jilin Province and emigrated to the U.S. in 1984; she is now based in San Francisco. Her paintings often incorporate images or themes from Chinese historical photographs, particularly those of women, children, and refugees, and address notions about power and authoritarianism. Some works in the UCCA show had previously been shown in Beijing and Shanghai.
“I’m disappointed my show was cancelled by the Beijing Bureau of Culture, especially at the last minute,” Liu told the Art Newspaper. “I was looking forward to exhibiting at the Ullens Center because they had planned a more comprehensive look at my work, involving both Chinese and American subjects.”