Yesterday, First Mate and I visited the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale, Sydney – a new gallery devoted to 21st Century Chinese Art.
The sculpture above completely blew me away. Made from blue wire and fine filigree, it is a full scale model – or perhaps a three dimensional blueprint – an astonishingly accurate rendition of a Chinese copy of a Russian copy (Dnepr) of a German copy (Zundapp) of a WWII BMW motorcycle with side car. For those of us interested in motorcycles I (as an owner of a 1954 BMW motorcycle) can tell you that this piece was accurate right down to the old fashioned side valves inside the engine.
You can check out the bikeology here.
We were astounded and completely in awe of the collection. And let me apologise right now because a few clips from the web site don’t in any way do the exhibition justice, but if it provides you with a taste, that’s a fair start.
Walking through the gallery’s four levels we were greeted with the most amazing art works we have seen in a very long time – and hosted by incredibly well-informed minders on each of the four floors. Whereas the NSW Gallery tends to have surly guard-types minding the treasures, the predominantly young minders at White Rabbit were deeply knowledgeable, enthusiastic – and without being intrusive – were very available for a discussion or to answer questions about art works that are most likely to be unfamiliar amongst westerners and Chinese people who are more used to traditional forms.
The pieces showed a sensational array of colour, materials, subjects and different motifs – sculptural, photographic, paintings – on very large (two storeys) and very tiny (use the magnifying glass) scales and everywhere showing a wonderful commitment to excellent execution that speaks of months and years of work in individual pieces.
Some pieces were riotously funny.
This one by Chi Lei (Chilli – a fan of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) was a part of a disturbing cinematic still montage. Others in the series set in a “celebs” hotel were softly pornographic, debauched, bizarre and even forensic.
Some of the works by activist artists reflected profound anger with political disenfranchisement. Others are eerily disturbing and still others sad and reflective.
We were deeply moved by the 10 metre panoramic photographic work of Jin Feng (Appeals without Words) depicting a large group of golden-skinned peasants protesting the state theft of their land, holding paper signs without words (because no official would read the signs).
And the large scale photographs of parts of Chairman Mao’s limousine (with two discreet bullet holes in the window) speak softly but with great power of the irony of a communist owning a limousine.
The White Rabbit Gallery shows parts of an extensive collection and reflects the superb curation of the Director, Judith Neilson. This, the second exhibition (The Tao of Now) finishes at the end of July and the gallery will be closed during August when the third Exhibition (opening in September) is being prepared.
Do yourself a huge favour and go if you can. It’s worth every minute. If you can’t go, do visit the website and take your time to see a wonderful collection of works by contemporary Chinese artists.