An Interview with Ting Liu, The Leading New Generation Art Curator From China

Tang Contemporary Art Center's "Everlasting" Exhibition View, curated by Ting Liu.

Tang Contemporary Art Center's "Everlasting" Exhibition View, curated by Ting Liu.

China’s contemporary art scene has been embarking on a meteoric rise in the past few years, despite the occasional hiccup caused by the global financial market setbacks, the Chinese contemporary art is constantly within the top three largest markets globally. With such a vast art market comes not just wealthy collectors and abundant artists, but also western-educated art curators who are very active in the global contemporary art scene. Today we were very fortunate to interview one of these curators, Ting Liu.

Ting Liu Lives and works in New York and Beijing. She is the Founder and Director of T+H Gallery, a critically-acclaimed contemporary gallery in Boston, and has curated numerous shows for renowned museums and galleries in China and U.S. Ting has been serving on the advisory board for public art organizations and private art investment. She served on the committee for Boston Creates and Brand Dubai and was the chief advisor for Boya Art Fund.

Anna Windsor: Since two years ago, many foreign artists have entered China's exhibitions on a large scale, and we have also found that you are the main planner or participant in several of these particularly important exhibitions. As a new generation of curators with experience in international large-scale exhibitions, you have unique opinions and experience in the international trend of contemporary art.  How do you view this cultural opportunity and phenomenon?

T + H Gallery Exhibition View, Phora by Anne Hamilton.

T + H Gallery Exhibition View, Phora by Anne Hamilton.

Ting Liu: We can understand it as an opportunity, more of which are inevitable phenomena under the background of the times.  I am also fortunate to be one of the few Chinese curators active in the United States, and my valuable work and learning experience and cross-cultural background have enabled me to participate more intuitively in the planning of these exhibitions. According to my own experience in cross-border exhibitions in the past, I can have the opportunity to learn from my overseas experience and bring it back to China in the form of exhibitions. At the same time, it is also because excellent Chinese young people are studying art, exhibitions, art history and museum studies abroad and are willing to bring back good artists and works and exhibition plans that I have come across overseas. In terms of market, prospective art sponsors and senior collectors have been committed to opening up new prospects and new directions for contemporary art and cultural production in the current historical and geopolitical environment.

Although there are contextual barriers, there are still many possibilities for foreign artists to develop Chinese art in the context of globalization. Foreign artists are attracted by the Chinese art market and more and more exhibitions are being held in China. They are invited to participate in resident projects or directly participate in domestic art fairs. Shanghai, Hong Kong and other international metropolises are well positioned, providing a good environment for foreign artists to promote and publicize. From the number of visitors, it can be seen that young people generally have greater enthusiasm for foreign art. As "outsiders" of foreign culture, some foreign artists will also discuss their situation and identity through their creation, gaining wide attention and recognition. China's cultural and social resources provide conditions for foreign artists to develop their art.  In addition to the artistic concept of cross-cultural circles, they have made some attempts in the design and cultural industries.

Anna Windsor: A few years ago, you founded the T+H Gallery in Boston, which is the first contemporary art gallery founded by Chinese in Boston. It enables more outstanding Chinese artists to develop in North America and brings a lot of vitality to the art market.  What kind of exhibition and project development does the gallery have?

T + H Gallery Exhibition Site

T + H Gallery Exhibition Site

Ting Liu: Before graduating from college, I was looking for a suitable gallery space. Due to Boston's good educational and cultural conditions, the art industry here is booming because there are many good opportunities, so I chose this place and started preparing for the first exhibition. At the first exhibition, 21 artists expressed their views on various social problems and the internal state of human psychological and spiritual level with dynamic images, high-tech software, models and materials in different and diverse personal styles. Exhibition artists include not only Chinese artists such as Xu Bing, Xiang Jing, Yao Lu and Huang Yan, but also such important artists as Ann Hamilton, a female artist famous for her large installation art according to local conditions, DianaCooper, who brought prints into the installation and environment, the gallery space dialogue, Oliver Herring, who combined comprehensive media materials to carry out artistic experiments, and Kiki Smith. The gallery also represents a group of outstanding young artists from the United States, the United Arab Emirates, China and other places. The gallery has always supported their creation and carried out publicity and promotion at home and abroad.  The gallery also held a series of art salons and attracted a large number of art lovers in Boston.  The discussion included interesting topics in art ecology such as public art and art media. The gallery's exhibition received good feedback from art critics in Boston and across the United States. It was reported by Boston Globe, New American Paintings, Artsy and other art media, as well as by domestic art media Artnet, Boston Globe, Burning Point, Sohu, Phoenix Art and other special reports.

Anna Windsor: How did you start planning large exhibitions in art galleries and art institutions in China?  From the National Gallery to the Art Center Gallery and public art projects, how do you understand the different exhibition environments based on your experience?  What kind of creative state do young western artists present today?

Ting Liu: In my curatorial notes, I recorded that "our behavior has become a kind of network behavior in the era of information explosion. All the information, including photos, bank transfer records, communication with people, all aspects of life are gathered into a virtual network space, and our life begins to become two-dimensional and the network becomes a colorful three-dimensional space. "These views are reflected in the exhibition planned by Boston, and it is precisely because these selected works of art can present my views, the audience can better understand them, and get wide attention and discussion on the Internet, and more and more art galleries, art institutions and public art projects are inviting me to act as a curator.

Just as Zheng Lin, head of the Contemporary Tang People Art Center, when he saw the exhibition I planned, hoped I would introduce these American artists to Chinese audiences. In 2017, "Everlasting" opened in the second space of the Contemporary Tang People Art Center, displaying the works of seven artists who live and work in the United States.  The whole exhibition is full of poetry and wonder created by artists with paintings, sculptures and installations of different styles. They have completed their exploration of order through the brevity, delicacy and fragility of the details. The works of participating artists are more relaxed and diversified, presenting a view of contemporary western young artists.

In my opinion, the cultural and creative environment of the post - 70s and 80s generation artists in the United States is similar to that of their parents: neither their prices of commodities nor their economic environment have changed much. The convenience stores and gas stations downstairs in the community have remained the same for so many years. However, our economic and cultural environment has changed greatly. For artists, China's creative soil is much richer than that of the West. The purpose of a good exhibition is not to show the current preference for the so-called " international" popular language, or to highlight some ideology, or a simple " communication" across the country, but rather to recognize some permanent creative methods. We can analyze and interpret works from multiple perspectives, including sensory involvement, or rational exploration through experience and knowledge.

 The exhibition I planned, whether in a gallery or an art gallery, has a complete publication, which also lays the foundation for the research and publication plan. The exhibition is limited by time, venue and so on, and cannot effectively deliver information to the audience present. As an important supplement to the art exhibition, publications can present the story behind the art works more completely and make the audience understand them better.

Anna Windsor: In 2017, you participated in the planning of a large-scale international art exhibition with biennial volume, "The Model of The World- Zhangzhou International Contemporary Art Exhibition", which brought together 70 domestic and foreign artists from more than 10 countries and regions, spanning the period from the 50s to the 90s, and presented more than 100 works.  It takes great courage and patience for the exhibition team to land on such a large scale.  How do you see the orientation of this exhibition theme?  And the exhibition with the characteristics of globalization that people are now often concerned about?

The Model of The World- Zhangzhou International Contemporary Art Exhibition

The Model of The World- Zhangzhou International Contemporary Art Exhibition

Ting Liu: First of all, I was honored to be invited to join the curatorial team of "The Model of The World - Zhangzhou International Contemporary Art Exhibition ". In collaboration with the planning team, it took five months from the exhibition's conception to its final landing to present the works of more than 70 artists from home and abroad, among which the exhibition list includes well-known artists with international influence and a group of newly emerged artists with their own characteristics.  As far as the orientation of the exhibition theme is concerned, I think we are in an era of increasing globalization, so we regard highlighting globalization as the exhibition theme. During the exhibition, the exhibition planning team will invite the youth art appraisers to observe and discuss the exhibition in depth.  At the same time, a series of round tables and public art lectures involving artists, art history scholars, curators and critics were organized.

Anna Windsor: How can you increase your understanding and mobilize more resources to further promote cultural exchanges, given your efforts in international cultural exchanges, such as planning exhibitions, planning projects and academic seminars?  How to contact western art?

The Opening Scene of the First Chinese Printmaking Art Festival of the Chinese Printmaking Museum

The Opening Scene of the First Chinese Printmaking Art Festival of the Chinese Printmaking Museum

Ting Liu: I have served as an advisor or judge to some international cultural committees, art funds and art awards, including Boston Creates,  the Boston City Art and Culture Development Plan, Dubai government's urban public art project Brand Dubai, Boya Art Awards and funds, and Sino - US Cultural and Art Exchange Center, and I have personally participated in the design and implementation of various links. Such diverse experiences have enabled me to gain a lot of valuable experience and have the ability to connect various roles in the art circle, see the close relationship between them, and let all parties complement each other. Recently, I was honored to be invited by The Museum of Modern Art ( MOMA ) of new York to join the Council as the only Chinese curator, and to contribute development policy and strategic resources together with people with voice and influence in the field of contemporary art in the world, well-known collectors, art curators and heads of institutions.  This will promote the future development and linking of Chinese and western art exchange projects.

At present, the information we receive has no time and geographical restrictions, and all media of music, performance and film have exchanges and integration.  I think contemporary art needs to be brought in and brought out more. We can have a thorough understanding of the international art ecology and mechanism through various forms of communication such as lectures, lectures, exhibitions and inspections. Combined with the development status of domestic art institutions, cultural differences and obstacles are presented in the marketing of culture and art, and art institutions in different regions are involved in international contexts and other topics to make a comprehensive analysis and judgment at the beginning.

After many practical exchanges such as workshops and lectures at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the evaluation of graduates' works at Rhode Island Design Institute in the United States, I firmly believe that building a bridge between Chinese and Western culture and art can promote the involvement and cooperation of artistic ecology, realize wider sharing and exchange of artistic resources, strengthen understanding and consensus in cross-cultural art fields, and promote more pragmatic and matching regional vitality and projects of culture and art.

In 2016, I was invited to plan and hold the first China Printmaking Art Festival for the China Printmaking Museum.  The Chinese Printmaking Museum is the largest and most complete professional printmaking art museum in the world. The first Chinese Printmaking Art Festival not only creates a good international exchange environment for Chinese Printmaking Museum, but also provides a professional platform for artists from all over the world to exchange academic information and promote the academic exchange and development of international printmaking today.  The planning of the whole festival includes exhibition of works, exchange of academic research, cultural and artistic education, etc.

Anna Windsor. As a curator, you also have your own unique views on the art environment in China and the United States, whether from an academic or market point of view, we know that you are also a collection consultant for many important art galleries, such as Guggenheim's Contemporary Art Collection Committee, etc. What do you think of setting up an institution or private collection under the current artistic environment?  How does the gallery face such a cross-cultural market shock?

Liu Ting's New Media Audio and Video Interactive Device Works ”Dance Room” Indoor Exhibition Site

Liu Ting's New Media Audio and Video Interactive Device Works ”Dance Room” Indoor Exhibition Site

Ting Liu: The American Art Exhibition emphasizes the diversity and diversity of cultures from different ethnic groups, and advocates artists to speak out in their own identities, perspectives and cultures. I joined the Tibetan Council of Guggenheim Art Museum and participated in the voting process of the museum's purchase of the collection, which made me understand more that the world's top art museums respect cultural diversity. The collection of large art galleries is also a weathervane for future large-scale exhibitions.

I have my own art collection, and hundreds of collections are my favorite, but such a professional vision requires years of knowledge and experience. I have been exploring how to make the public understand the collection value of a piece of art concisely and clearly. Most of the Tibetans I am familiar with expressed great interest in potential emerging artists, but the lack of a discourse system to explain the artistic value of an artist's work makes it difficult to expand the market in this field. From the gallery's point of view, local galleries understand the Chinese market and the Tibetan system, know what works are scarce in the domestic market, and look for foreign artists. This is a new model, and I think it will have a good development. It is worth mentioning that contemporary art needs to be brought in and brought out, and it is particularly important to construct a reasonable dialogue mechanism with overseas artists.

Anna Windsor: There are many discussions about the combination of art and technology in your professional background and planned exhibition. How do you understand the relationship between art and technology?

Ting Liu: From studying Fine Arts School Affiliated to China Central Academy of Fine Arts to Alfred University, I have been studying fine art and art history, doing artistic creation, focusing on the material characteristics of digital media and how it resonates with people's cognition.

My personal artistic creation mainly focuses on digital media, photography, image and installation art, and focuses on the frontier of science and technology.  In my exhibition practice, I focus on the exploration potential of art technology and the power of art in shaping technology in the future. I hope to do my best to practice and explore, bring the experience of combining art with technology into galleries and museums around the world, and make more urban cultural planning projects that have a profound impact on the urban landscape.