Cover Amber Wang, director of Gallery Weekend Beijing talks to Tatler about its fifth edition and Beijing's art scene (Photo: Gallery Weekend Beijing)

Director of Gallery Weekend Beijing, Amber Wang sits down with Tatler to talk about the highlights of this year's Gallery Weekend Beijing and putting Beijing as an art destination on the map

Gallery Weekend Beijing (GWBJ) is steadily making its presence bigger with each edition. The culturally cohesive platform bundles and shares cutting-edge contemporary art in Beijing. During the week-long event, galleries and institutions work closely alongside each other to present the most striking exhibitions of the year to a national and international audience. GWBJ is seeking to eliminate creative limits and connect Beijing's artistic potential to other global contemporary art hubs through an attractive framework programme that includes talks, panel discussions, workshops and more.

Leading the charge is GWBJ's director Amber Wang, who rolled up her sleeves in 2017 and began developing the platform into a fixture of the Chinese contemporary art world. Under Wang's leadership, GWBJ embraced innovative programming while refinings its operational model, working with the most prestigious galleries and institutions from Beijing for the first time. Ahead of the upcoming fifth edition of GWBJ from April 27, Tatler talks to Wang about this year's highlights and how they're helping to re-energise Beijing's art scene.

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What makes the upcoming 5th edition of Gallery Weekend Beijing different from the previous ones?

While Gallery Weekend Beijing (GWBJ) still adheres to its core mission of providing the top art collectors, art professionals and art enthusiasts a platform for viewing the best contemporary art, we have extended the digital and geographical scopes of this year’s edition. In addition to our renovated app, website, and online exhibition viewing program, the 2021 Visiting Sector also welcomes galleries from Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong, London, New York and Paris, who will participate in GWBJ for the first time.

What are some notable highlights that we can look forward to?

For this the fifth year of GWBJ, the Main Sector is pleased to feature first-time participants including Beijing’s Inside-Out Art Museum, Espace Louis Vuitton Beijing, Hua International and Shixiang Space, among other participants. To point out a few, UCCA is featuring Cao Fei’s first and biggest solo exhibition in Asia, Cao Fei: Staging the Era. The renowned artist Wang Jian Wei’s solo exhibition Always being, but not the whole at Long March is also a must-see, as well as Fang Li Jun’s solo exhibition at Triumph Gallery.

Wang Guang Le’s Waves presented at Beijing Commune, Yuan Yunsheng’s Regeneration at Platform China Contemporary Art Institution and Liu Huanzhang’s solo sculpture exhibition In the World at Star Gallery are all remarkable highlights that cannot be missed. The Visiting Sector, as I mentioned previously, is established to strengthen the cultural exchange between China’s art scene and those in other regions. The Up&Coming Sector is specifically presented in the form of a panel discussion that brings together a wide range of guest speakers with different perspectives to discuss the future of contemporary art. In addition to these programs, we have also expanded our digital offer through our updated mobile app that gives viewers access to view exhibitions through audiovisual services.

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Curating this year’s Public Sector is Bao Dong. Can you let us know how he got on board?

Each year, GWBJ invites an established curator to curate its Public Sector, helping to bring in more diverse voices and engage more audiences with contemporary art, especially in public settings. Bao Dong is a renowned and experienced curator whose previous curatorial practices have explicitly demonstrated his diverse and cutting-edge approach. He's a prominent member of Beijing’s contemporary art scene and his critical mindset— through not only his curatorial practice but also his research and writing—was exactly what we were looking for in this year’s edition. His experience working with important institutions in Beijing and beyond as well as leading Chinese and international artists made him an excellent choice for the role.

For this year’s Public Sector, Bao has organized it around the concept of “Infinite Public”, an idea derived from Jürgen Habermas’s theory of the Public Sphere. In proposing this concept, Bao intends to free the notion of publicity—what we mean by public spaces—and cast a long shadow into undefined spaces found within the mediums of the internet, virtual reality, and many more. It is precisely through exploring different mediums and their own spaces, not simply painting, installation, sculpture, performing art and video art but rather website, apps, texts, and user interactive systems—that Bao’s idea of “publicity” can be spatialized.

Can you tell us more about this year’s concept?

The key concepts of publicity and recovery are shown in both the exhibited content and the form in which the programs are curated, this is what we intend to present to the audiences the most. To start with, the concept of publicity refers to the extended-spectrum of both art mediums and the involvement of audiences. It's precisely by bringing more viewers into such a collective art-viewing activity that our platform achieves its goal of building a cohesive platform with a global vision.

Secondly, the idea of recovery alludes to both our public life and the art scene. For GWBJ 2021, some participating artists will feature artworks they made during the lockdown as well as new works made specifically as reflections upon such a crucial time period. To put those on view and under the examination of the public, GWBJ intends to make audiences more acutely aware of what has happened, and moreover, of what is not yet to come. We sincerely hope that everyone's daily life can recover through the act of viewing art.

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How has the art scene in Beijing developed over the past few years, particularly during the pandemic?

Beijing’s art scene has made impressive progress and a quick recovery. Last year, the fourth edition GWBJ was the first offline art event following the outbreak of the pandemic around the world. During the week-long event, the total turnover almost reached 50 million RMB. This could testify that art collectors are still committed to supporting the development of Beijing’s art scene even during the hardest times. Not only that, galleries and institutions coped well with the pandemic by experimenting with both offline and digital formats. Also, during this time artists were able to produce new works that reflected the rapid changes that occurred in our daily lives. Those driving forces are precisely what pushed not only us, the GWBJ team but also Beijing’s local art scene. After a temporal pause, the art scene has been endowed with more possibilities.

What more can we expect from GWBJ in helping to support Beijing’s art scene?

In seeking to expand both our digital and geographical range, GWBJ has been working hard to bring together more high-quality exhibitions into the week-long event, which not only enhances the academic merit of the program but also strengthens the cultural interactions between Beijing’s art scene and art scenes in different regions. As a passionate and cohesive team, GWBJ aims to continually nurture a content-driven platform and innovate the gallery weekend model to place Beijing on the international art world map.

See also: Liang Yi Museum Launches Liang Yi Arts Corridor, A New Cultural Solidarity Initiative


What do you hope audiences can take away from the fifth GWBJ?

I sincerely hope that audiences will not only have a chance to view a strong line-up of exhibitions and gain insights from art professionals at panel discussions but also, more crucially, embrace this idea of publicity, which has the potential to incorporate art into everyday life.

That being said, we hope to broaden our audience's understanding of contemporary art as much as their social connections with the art world. Their curiosity will be met at our well-curated activities as much as new passions will be ignited. As the whole world is still slowly recovering from the pandemic, I wish that our week-long event can provide the public with comfort, energy and hope.

See also: 13 Experts Weigh In On The Future Of Arts And Culture After The Pandemic

The fifth edition of Gallery Weekend Beijing opens to the public from April 27–May 2, 2021 at Beijing's 798 Art Zone. A VIP preview runs from April 23–25, 2021.

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