Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names

2014-05-24 (All day) - 2014-08-10 (All day)

Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names

When: 24 May - 10 August 2014
Where: Ullens Center For Contemporary Art

 5000 Names


A historical exhibition in two parts, co-commissioned by Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing) and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam), comprising documentary materials and artworks that examine the life and work of a defining figure in contemporary Chinese art.

Dutch-born, Beijing-based curator, scholar, and dealer Hans van Dijk (1946 – 2002) was a foundational influence on contemporary art in China. His myriad contributions include the seminal 1993 exhibition "China Avant-garde," the first major show of Chinese contemporary art in Europe; the New Amsterdam Art Consultancy (NAAC), which connected Chinese artists with collectors and curators abroad; and the China Art Archives and Warehouse (CAAW), an experimental gallery and exhibition space.

scene picture - photo by Eric Powell

scene picture - photo by Eric Powell

Based on extensive interviews and archival research, "Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names" considers his legacy as it looks at the major artists he championed and the scene they inhabited during the 1990s. The exhibition comprises three main elements grouped chronologically within significant periods in the scholar's life. A collection of documentary material from Holland, Germany, and the NAAC/CAAW archive, Beijing, includes catalogues, personal correspondence, and photographs, recording in depth van Dijk's life and work within an emergent art scene. Complementing these documents are works by Chinese artists with whom van Dijk worked closely. Van Dijk's contribution to the introduction of photography as contemporary art into the Chinese and international art world will be looked at closely, and several historical works by figures including Li Yongbin and the New Analysts (Xin Kedu), originally included in van Dijk's exhibitions, will be recreated. Together, these documents and works offer an immersive look into the world of a critical figure whose legacy has only just begun to be unpacked, reopening not only the conversation surrounding van Dijk and his manifold contributions to Chinese contemporary art, but the history of the 1990s in Chinese art and culture more broadly.

The final element of the exhibition is van Dijk's life's work: a meticulously organized, staggeringly comprehensive lexicon of over 5,000 Chinese artists born between 1880 and 1980, documenting the history of the country's modern and contemporary art. The lexicon, discovered on van Dijk's computer, is a groundbreaking document compiled over decades that details the exhibition and publication history of virtually every important Chinese artist of the twentieth century. As exhibition curator Marianne Brouwer notes, "There has been a longstanding awareness of Hans' importance to the art scene in China—as a curator and a dealer, creating relations between art in China and the Western art system, particularly in the early nineties. Finding the lexicon has decisively changed the way in which we must consider his legacy. In this exhibition, we are showing a digital version that Hans created, though he also designed a book he meant to publish in print form. We are now well on our way to setting up a foundation to care for his legacy, and one of our first concerns will be to research the meaning of the lexicon and the possibilities of having it published."

scene picture - photo by Eric Powell

scene picture - photo by Eric Powell

Hans van Dijk acted as a teacher, curator, dealer, and scholar in a time when art infrastructure in China was virtually nonexistent. He taught artists how to manage themselves and the minutiae of the art world: how to curate and have their shows curated, pack artworks, fill out loan forms, and show to local and international collectors. Critically, he was one of the first to view these artists within their larger context, both as a continuation of Chinese art history and as a part of international contemporary art practice. Van Dijk worked against predominant post-colonial attitudes, encouraging Chinese artists to see themselves as equal contributors to a global cultural dialogue.

Hans van Dijk was instrumental in launching the careers of many important artists and in generating early international interest in Chinese contemporary art. After studying Mandarin in Nanjing starting in 1986, during which time he traveled around China's Jiangnan region visiting exhibitions and meeting artists, van Dijk returned to Holland in 1989. While there, he began promoting Chinese artists to a continental audience, culminating in the seminal "China Avantgarde" exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Van Dijk returned to China in 1993 to immerse himself in the Beijing art scene, and in 1994 he founded the New Amsterdam Art Consultancy as an umbrella for his exhibitions, writing, and dealership.

scene picture - photo by Eric Powell

scene picture - photo by Eric Powell

The 1990s saw the scholar undertake many curatorial and business projects to mixed success. He organized several exhibitions of Chinese art in Europe, especially in Germany. Hans van Dijk helmed the Central Academy of Fine Arts CIFA Gallery for a mere six months in 1996, managing to put on six of the greatest shows of his career at a breakneck pace. In 1998 he co-founded the profitable China Art Archive and Warehouse, van Dijk's first commercial venture, with Ai Weiwei and Belgian collector Frank Uytterhaegen. The Archive contains detailed information on more than 450 Chinese contemporary artists and thousands of documents on the history of van Dijk's exhibitions both in China and abroad.

Yet these career triumphs were marred by frustration. Van Dijk was a mediocre businessman, more focused on what was vanguard than what was sellable. Official protest sank his landmark 1997 project "Face to Face," a three-part collaboration with Siemens that would exhibit Chinese and German artists together. During the late 1990s, several of van Dijk's closest artist friends left his stewardship for more commercially successful dealers, while an influx of foreign curators diminished his role in Beijing. Yet despite this, Hans remained a beloved mentor and leading academic for a generation of Chinese artists up until his death in 2002. As Wang Guangyi posited, "If Hans were alive today, his space still running, I think he would be the most important figure in contemporary Chinese art. Not as a dealer, no, but as a scholar, able to influence the entire discourse of art."


Participating Artists
"Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names" includes artworks by Ai Weiwei, Big Tail Elephant, Cang Xin, Chen Shaoxiong, Ding Yi, Duan Jianyu, Feng Mengbo, Thomas Fuesser, Geng Jianyi, Gu Dexin, Hai Bo, Han Lei, Hong Hao, Hong Lei, Li Yongbin, Lin Yilin, Liu Anping, Liu Ding, Luo Yongjin, Mai Zhixiong, Meng Huang, New Analysts, Qiu Zhijie, Shi Yong, Sun Kai, Hans van Dijk, Wang Shilong, Wang Xingwei, Wang Yin, Wu Shanzhuan, Xu Hongmin, Xu Tan, Xu Zhiwei, Yan Lei, Yu Youhan, Zhang Enli, Zhang Hai'er, Zhang Peili, Zhao Bandi, Zhao Shaoruo, Zheng Guogu, Zhou Tiehai, Zhu Fadong, and Zhuang Hui."


About the Curator: Marianne Brouwer
She is an art historian, curator, and writer, with a speciality in contemporary art. She was born in the Netherlands and has lived in Japan and France, where she obtained her MA in art history at the Sorbonne University, Paris. In the seventies she worked as an art critic and journalist. During the eighties and nineties she was the curator of sculpture at the Kröller-Müller Museum. She has published and lectured widely, participated in international juries, and taught at various art institutions.

In 1994 she curated the exhibition "Heart of Darkness," dedicated to issues of exile and the Other with site-specific installations by Huang Yong Ping, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Gu Wenda (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands). In 1997 she was the guest curator of the exhibition "Another Long March: Chinese Conceptual and Installation Art in the Nineties," the first comprehensive exhibition of Chinese conceptual and video art outside China (Breda, Netherlands, 1997). In 2004 she received the Netherlands'AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d'Art) award for best exhibition and best book for "Dan Graham: Works 1965-2000."


Tel: 010-57800200
Add: 798 Art District, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing


*Information provided by Ullens Center For Contemporary Art


"Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names" Guided Tour: Andreas Schmid on Hans van Dijk and Contemporary Art in the 1990s
UCCA Exhibition Workshop: Junior Curators - in conjunction with the exhibition "Hans Van Dijk: 5000 Names"
"Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names" Academic Lecture: Owning an Image


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