Feng Boyi (fl. c. 2000; Chinese name 馮博一) is an eminent independent art curator and critic in China. He is normally in charge of museums or art collections for primarily contemporary Chinese art. He has worked several times with artist Ai Weiwei with publishing his journals illegally or working with him in exhibitions and has organized many controversial art exhibitions in China. He has been assistant editor of the China Artists' Association newsletter Artist's Communication since 1988. He has also edited and published numerous catalogues and papers on art and established the Artists' Alliance, a major online forum for contemporary art in China. Feng Boyi has been known to be an instigator to the up-and-coming contemporary art movement in Beijing, starting with publishing articles and journals from artists Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing.
He was born in 1960 in Beijing, China, where he is still living today. During 1980 to 1984, he attended and graduated from Capital Normal University Department of History in Beijing. He took an interest in art and learning at the Central Academy of Fine Arts Department in Art History in 1991. "Since the 1990s, Chinese contemporary art started to review, editing work and plans." 
After his graduation in 1984, he was assigned to work as an editor of The Artists' Bulletin, which was part of the Chinese Artists' Association. He also began working with Ai Weiwei and chose to be the editor of The Black Book (1994) and The White Book (1995), published by Ai Weiwei about contemporary art in China, and this publication was not only private, but illegal. It was kept secretive because it had Ai Weiwei's ideas and opinions about the government, which is why it was difficult to publish. These novels not only dealt with the topic of modern, contemporary art but also reflected the political ideas of Ai Weiwei.
Feng Boyi worked in Japan, where he played a large role in a couple exhibitions organized by the Fukuoka Art Museum, one of the exhibitions being the 4th Asian Art Show. Feng Boyi was also part of a contemporary art exhibition in the Saitama Modern Art Museum.
Feng Boyi's Early Career in the Arts
Feng Boyi joined art visionaries in the early 1990s in Beijing as an independent art curator. This was also around the time he was learning at the Central Academy for Fine Arts. Even though he is a curator, he admits the difficulty of his job : "'Nobody wants to curate shows, it's grueling work,' he mumbles, tossing his ever-ringing cell phone from hand to hand." However he still enjoys finding new art that challenges the mind and often the government and the society.
Feng Boyi saw a pattern with new artists that were born in the 1980s, and he explained the possible reason why many of the contemporary Chinese artists today were born around the 1980s: "The fact that many artists born in the 1980s grew up as the center of attention and without brothers and sisters is one of the reasons why much of their work focuses on their inner minds." Young artists end up focusing on themselves and their inner emotions and are in need of trying to find ways to express themselves. As an art critic, Feng Boyi sees their art as a way for their emotions to be understood by others. Part of the reason was due to the fact that families could only have one child in China. All these only-children were often lonely and needed new mediums of expressing themselves, which eventually resulted in the attempting contemporary art that challenges society.
Feng Boyi continues to be drawn to young, new contemporary Chinese artists. Another artist born in the 1980s is Chi Peng, who is growing in popularity in the art world with his photography. His art includes many images of nude people, which is very offensive in the Chinese culture and often could be viewed as pornography. Feng Boyi explains the motives of these new artists, "With changes in our society, people's taste and way of aesthetics also change. Chi is representative of young artists. He begins his works with ego-cognition, from ego-virtualization to ego-identity. He represents the youth's self-confidence and longing towards the future. It is definitely different from irony and self-mockery of recent Chinese Contemporary art." Feng Boyi has an eye for art and is constantly looking for fresh, new contemporary art whether the art can be seen as offensive or not. Anything avant-garde.
Feng Boyi has also edited and published catalogues and articles about art, and even established an online art forum called The Artists' Alliance, which discusses contemporary art, which has become very well known and popular with netizens.
In 1996, Feng Boyi was one of five organizers of one of the first contemporary art shows that was associated with the auction market. This show was called Reality: Present and Future. It attracted much attention and led the way to more and more contemporary art shows and exhibits, which were not popular or open to the public.
Feng Boyi also claims that his most successful show was in 1998, titled Traces of Existence: A Private Show of Contemporary Chinese Art. He claims that most will agree with his opinion, and that it helped him become more well known in the art world. He is an art critic and a chief curator in the most well-known art district in China, known as District 798, at the Exhibition Convergence.
"In 2000 during the Second Shanghai Biennial, Feng Boyi co-organized the controversial show 'Fuck Off', which was ordered to close the day after its opening because of the presence of the photographic works of real baby corpses by Zhu Yu, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu."
In 2002 he was also one of the organizers for The 1st Guangzhou Triennial in Guangzhou.
In 2006 there was an interactive exhibition called The Art Game that was geared toward the younger generation. It featured sixteen avant-garde artists from China, South Korea, and Japan. One of the goals was to attract the younger generation and have them open their eyes to new, different styles of art. Feng Boyi commented. "Through this game-like exhibition, we hope to bring a new sense of the interactivity of art to the juvenile viewers and enable them to gain a new way of looking at art." Female artist Xiong Wenyun created a workshop for kindergartners titled Rainbow-Colored Pens: An Experimental Painting Class for Children. The drawing is supposed to be used as a way to tell a story and show expression. Viewers were even allowed to trade their old toys with the artists' childhood toys on display. Feng Boyi was attracted to this interesting concept of trying to open the minds of children to appreciate art starting at a young age.
The Emergence of District 798
District 798 was once a factory, but was then turned into housing for artists in China. Artists were seeking more space and a cheaper rent. "[District] 798 became home to the offices of graphic and interior designers, publicists and small ad agencies; to designer cafés, nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques and fashion-show venues; and to the studio/homes of dozens of artists..."
What added to the success of 798 was some of the early domestic and international art exhibitions, with the curation help of Feng Boyi. It began with the exhibition Beijing Afloat which was curated by Feng Boyi. In September 2003, fourteen different exhibitions were organized. The Left Hand-Right Hand exhibition was curated by Feng Boyi, and it included both Chinese and East German Artists in the 798 Space Gallery.
However, District 798 does not have the same feel to it as it once did. It has become extremely commercialized and a lot of the original artists who once lived there have left. It is now a popular place for tourists to go to, but many artists criticize District 798 for what it has become, because it is different now for what it was originally. The rents are much higher and it is now more under control of the government, which is what artists wanted to avoid.
Feng Boyi's Current Career
Currently Feng Boyi is the art director and curator of the He-Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen, and is both a writer and an editor for an artists' newsletter that is published by the China Artists' Association. He also works with the association when they organize contemporary art exhibitions. "He is one of the most up-and-coming art critics in the Chinese art world which embraces many talents."
"[Feng Boyi] tends to showcase what he believes to be natural and truthful in the artist's presentation of issues related to existence, cultural power, fashion, postmodernism within the context of contemporary Chinese culture."
Fuck Off, or Uncooperative Attitude, Exhibition
An exhibition that was going on during the time of the Third Shanghai Biennale in 2000 was curated by Feng Boyi, working alongside the controversial contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. It was held in an Eastlink Gallery warehouse and included 46 avant-garde contemporary Chinese artists. Even though there were many influential artists present at this exhibition, it was closed down by the Shanghai police before its original closing date.
There are also new, figurative paintings coming from China that also break away from the old traditional Chinese art. Artists including Wu Jianjun and Zhao Nengzhi are painting with sensational figuration. This new attitude is separate from metaphors and symbolism.
Feng Boyi explains that modern, experimental art does not have a place currently in Chinese art exhibitions. One cannot freely show this style of art. This led to the creation, popularity, and success of District 798 among contemporary artists.
Over 60 Exhibitions that Feng Boyi has either Organized or Curated
Notable curated exhibits include:
- 2003, "Left Hand - Right Hand" showcased Chinese and East German sculptors at 798 Space and Daoyaolu Workshop A. Among the works was Sui Jianguo's enormous concrete sculpture "Mao's Right Hand", which is just what the name suggests, and an example of modern Chinese art's ironic reflections on history.
- 2002, "Beijing Afloat" was the opening exhibition of the Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (BTAP, 北京东京艺术工程) inside a 400 m² division of Factory 798's main area. This was the first renovated space featuring the high arched ceilings that would become synonymous with Beijing's 798 Art Zone. The show drew a crowd of over 1,000 people and marked the beginning of the popular infatuation with the area.
- 2000, "Fuck Off," jointly organized with artist Ai Weiwei, was a notorious art exhibition which ran in opposition to the Shanghai Biennial. Its name was a loose and questionable translation of the exhibition's corresponding Chinese title: The Uncooperative Attitude. It included many controversial artists and performance artists that were to make the audience question morality and human limits. It was shut down by the Shanghai police early, before that closing date.
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