On Curbstone Jewels and Cobblestones

Second part of an exhibition series with new acquisitions of contemporary Chinese and international art

November 7th 2015 — April 10th 2016
Mercedes-Benz Contemporary
Online documentation of the supporting programm on Chinese contemporary art

Since 2013, the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection has strengthened its international profile by adding to it a significant new aspect of global contemporary art – through the acquisition of more than 40 artworks by approximately 20 Chinese artists. In the course of 2015 and 2016 these newly acquired artworks will be shown in a number of exhibitions held in Berlin and Stuttgart.

The Chinese artworks relate to a number of areas of special interest of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, among others especially in terms of abstract and conceptual art tendencies as well as in new media forms. At the same time, these artworks represent an entirely new and distinctive complex within the collection – both culturally and aesthetically. The selected acquisitions of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection are centered around artists from the key regions of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. A forward-looking acquisition policy was developed that focuses mainly on the youngest generation of artists (those born circa 1980). Additionally, thanks to our collaborations with some major galleries, we were able to acquire significant artworks by artists who have already achieved an international reputation, plus a number of historically significant works. Taken together, these acquisitions provide an insight into a nation that is the subject of fascinating and heated discussion, and a nation that will be of critical and global importance in the 21st century – not only because of its thousands of years of tradition, but also because of its rapid economic and cultural development.

At first the new Chinese acquisitions will be presented in an exhibition series at Mercedes-Benz Contemporary in Berlin. Both shows will showcase the Chinese artists’ work in the context of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection. The exhibition will juxtapose and put the Chinese artists in dialogues with international artists, the show will expand through time and different cultures, and it aims to bring out peculiarities and parallels in the diverse artistic strategies. The first part of the exhibition From a Poem to the Sunset is devoted to conceptual approaches concerned both with the significance of artistic traditions and with the collision of divergent cultural, media and material worlds. Whereas the first part of the exhibition consists primarily of installations, conceptual artworks and videos, sculptural works and photography will be in the foreground of the second part of the exhibition On Curbstone Jewels and Cobblestones. This exhibition with artworks by fifteen artists from seven nations outlines aspects of human living together in densely populated urban areas, and in the rapidly growing great cities of China in particular. As fictions, but also as concrete experiments in influencing the society of which they are a product, these artworks discuss the social and political consequences of urbanization. Once more, these works also remind us, just how much views of China have shifted over the past two decades.

Curated by Renate Wiehager and Christian Ganzenberg
Curatorial advisor: Andreas Schmid




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    Guided Tour - Miniature Worlds. Explorations of Urbanization, Modernization, and Mobilization
    With portable miniature towns in suitcase format (Yin Xiuzhen), miniature model railway worlds (Cao Fei), and colorful paper houses (Are You Meaning Company), artists examine the relationship between individual life and urbanization, modernization, and mobilization. More broadly speaking, in addition to addressing interpersonal relationships, these miniature worlds highlight questions regarding the construction of history and memory (Cao Fei, Yin Xiuzhen), or invite observers to reflect on the ways in which people live in standardized one-bedroom apartments and modular houses (Are You Meaning Company).
    The tour will be held in German language.
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    Guided Tour - On Role Models and Reproductions. Transformations of Art and Film History
    Many artists utilize art and film history as a toolkit, drawing on pre-existing artworks or incorporating traditional forms into their own work. In so doing, they hope to transform and interpret cultural standards. This guided tour will focus on this artistic practice, and endeavors to trace extensive interactions with the respective originals and artistic role models. Alicja Kwade’s video work Kreisel (Inception), for example, is a deeper exploration of the last shot from Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster ‘Inception’; Cao Fei’s work uses entire passages of slightly modified text from the film script ‘Hiroshima mon amour’ by Alain Resnais and Marguerite Duras.
    The tour will be held in German language.
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    Guided Tour - Beyond Perceptual Realism. Artistic Positions between Fact and Fiction
    Oscillating between fiction and documentation, what is dream state and what is reality remains indeterminate in many of the exhibited works. Rather, the transitions between ‘dreaming’ and ‘waking’ states of consciousness are fluid; different levels of reality cannot be separated out. In Alicja Kwade’s and Wu Hao’s artworks, artistic/aesthetic processes are used to dispossess everyday objects of their usual functionality. Zheng Guogu’s photographic work is characterized by a blurred, flickering dividing line between documentation and fiction, which overlap. The plastic toys (Cao Fei) and the model towns made from material and foam rubber (Yin Xiuzhen) are also directed against perceptual realism, transporting the depicted object into the realm of the imaginary.
    The tour will be held in German language.
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    Children’s workshop
    Using the artworks from the current exhibition as an inspirational starting point, we will carry out visual experiments together in the Mercedes-Benz Contemporary, working with old materials, embellishing found objects, and exploring hidden connections in miniature artworks.
    We are offering a 2-hour workshop for schoolchildren aged between 6 and 12. About 10 children may participate in each workshop. This event is free of charge, and will be held in German language. Children should wear old clothes! Please register at least one week before the respective workshop takes place at art.collection@daimler.com
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    Guided Tour - Referencing Reality through Photography. Photography in Contemporary Art
    ‘On Curbstone Jewels and Cobblestones’ unites various media forms of expression in an exchange and dialogue. As a part of this, photographic works, owing to their precarious status as a ‘reference point to reality,’ provide one area of focus for the exhibition. Staged, conceptual, and abstract shots are on display, alongside re-enactments, images of the everyday, and photographic artwork series. They open up a variety of possible ways of seeing, not only in relation to the methods, potentialities, and limitations of the medium of photography itself, but also in relation to the immediate environment of the people and places depicted. Contrary to the view of photography as an instrument which ‘portrays reality,’ the exhibited photographs show constructed images, and individual critical statements.
    The tour will be held in German language.
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    Guided Tour - Artistic Analyses of Modern Labor and Living Conditions Labor and Living
    Rapidly changing contemporary living conditions and communal living styles – the corollaries of urbanization and globalization – form the central theme of the second part of the exhibition series on Chinese and international contemporary art. What are the consequences of urbanization in terms of society and individual identity, with regard to the current demographic and economic situation in China and elsewhere? In this context, what role do the traditional and the new concepts and values play? What is the role of local and international methods of production, of individualized and collective ways of life, of the disparities in development between urban and rural areas? And finally: how do contemporary artists reflect these existential changes?
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    Guided Tour - Material and Idea. The Question of the Concept in the Mediums of Photography and Sculpture
    Both the photographs and the sculptural pieces showcased in the exhibition are generally based on a conceptual thought, combined with a choice of material. This concept may take the form of a structural, thematic, or formal ‘planning’ decision by the artist, strictly applied. This applies especially to series (Cao Fei, Liu Zheng) and to ‘docufiction’ (Zheng Guogu), but also to precisely ‘composed’ scenes (Chen Chieh-Jen). In these, the conceptual approach is both visible and comprehensible, and also a constitutive part of the artwork. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to comprehend numerous sculptures in the exhibition in terms of classical aesthetic modes of description and valuation: instead, they unfold against a backdrop of extensive research on and references to architectural modernism in Brazil. They may, for instance, use diverse natural materials (Leonor Antunes), or be created through a process which involves numerous participants. The latter is the case for the dried-out paint residues in glass painting vessels, and the rolling gates taken from an everyday context in China, which have been repeatedly written upon and overwritten (Wu Hao).
    The tour wll be held in German language.
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    Guided Tour - Transformed realities
    In the midst of transformation processes, many artists also become chroniclers of social transformation and rapidly accelerating changes that are pandemic in Chinese metro areas. Yin Xiuzhens’ series One Sentence compress vestiges of lived daily culture into patched up personal stories. In the photographic works of Cao Fei and Zheng Guogu, the exploration of the living world of women factory workers or a mentally disabled homeless person become a critical instrument that allows the artists to expose glimpses of political, historical and human realities.
    The tour will be held in German language.




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