Guggenheim ramps up its Chinese art collecting with new commissions

Seven artists and collectives on tight deadline for New York show in November

New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is building up its collection of Chinese contemporary art. Richard Armstrong, the director of the Guggenheim, is due to announce in Hong Kong this week that the institution will commission new works by seven artists and collectives from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as the latest part of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. The artists have less than a year to create the new works, which will become part of the museum’s collection and are due to go on show in New York from 4 November.

The artists chosen by the Guggenheim do not shy away from politics or history. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s controversial installation Old Persons Home (2007), which was shown at the Saatchi Gallery in London in 2009, presented 13 life-sized sculptures of aging world leaders in electric wheelchairs. Kan Xuan’s video installation Millet Mounds (2012) surveyed more than 100 imperial tombs across mainland China. The other artists sel ected are Chia-En Jao, Sun Xun, Tsang Kin-Wah, the Yangjiang Group and Zhou Tao. The commissions are expected to span a variety of media, from installation to video.

"These artists are at an interesting moment in their careers—not quite established, but not very emerging or very young,” says the curator Xiaoyu Weng, who is organising the exhibition with Hou Hanru. Both are in Hong Kong this week, along with Alexandra Munroe, the museum’s senior curator of Asian art, who is one of the speakers in Art Central’s talks programme.

We understand that the Guggenheim is also in the early stages of planning a major exhibition of Chinese experimental art from the 1980s and 1990s. The show, which is being organised by Munroe, is expected to be the largest exhibition of art from the period ever presented in a US museum. A spokeswoman for the Guggenheim said that details were not yet available.

Wang Jianwei’s Time Temple was the first work made possible by the foundation created by the Hong Kong-born philanthropist Robert H. N. Ho. The Guggenheim commissioned the piece and presented it in New York from October 2014 to February 2015. The Beijing-based artist also created a performance piece entitled Spiral Ramp Library, which took place in the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda.