1989 China Avant-Garde exhibition
The 1989 China Avant-Garde exhibition was the first and only time avantgarde artists appeared as a large group at the National Art Museum of China, the country’s most important arts venue. After the exhibition, helped by art critic Gao Minglu, an individual businessman in Beijing who had contributed part of the fund for the exhibition, bought the works of over a dozen artists including Wang Guangyi, Zhang Xiaogang, Ye Yongqing, Ding Fang, Mao Xuhui and Zhang Peili, at a price of 10,000 renminbi, or about $1,200 a piece. Song Wei, who later set up one of the country’s first private art galleries, has since disappeared and it is unclear whether the works he acquired survived.
The 1989 Avant-Garde exhibition is widely regarded as a seminal moment in the history of contemporary Chinese art. With ongoing performance art and unprecedented installations, the environment was more chaotic than the museum's usual offerings. Zhang Peili recalls: "More than your typical art show, it really looked more like a farmer's market....What mattered that day wasn't the art, or the show itself. Everybody knew that we were making history. We were totally investing in our roles as actors on a stage where anybody could suddenly become a star."
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