“White” or “clean” torture aims to destroy a person’s psyche without leaving any demonstrable traces. Going off images from the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Gregor Schnieder here creates interrogation-room and cell-like spaces and inserts them into existing museum architecture.

In the early 1990s, the idea of contemporary art in China simply did not compute to a foreign audience. But in 1993, ten contemporary Chinese artists debuted at the 48th Venice Biennale. They were immediately hailed as progenitors of a Chinese „avant-garde.” Their brightly colored, Pop Art-inspired paintings played with socialist motifs, parodied Mao, and gave a visual expression to the feelings of disaffected Chinese youth. They were everything western audiences expected of contemporary art from the People‘s Republic of China. But a number of critics were rather guarded in their opinions. Was this another flash-in-the-pan phenomenon just as Soviet art had been in the 1980s? Could a Chinese avant-garde maintain a distinct identity of its own and shake off its penchant for imitation? The answer is clearly „yes.” The emergence of a market for their art transformed the lives of these avant-garde pioneers from rags to riches, from outcast to hero, from social pariah to cutting-edge cool in a Chinese society adapting to a new era. They did not change but China has changed. The ideology they once had to fight now propagates a cultural climate of laissez-faire that is tantamount to encouragement. Set against China’s official program of modernization, Nine Lives paints a compelling picture of artists working beyond the pale of official culture, who started a new cultural revolution that is sweeping China today.

Nine Lives introduces nine artists (Wang Guangyi, Geng Jianyi, Fang Lijun, Gu Dexin, Li Shan, Zhang Xiaogang, Xu Bing, Zhang Peili, and Wang Jianwei), their personal histories and views on China today. Karen Smith‘s highly accessible introduction to an emerging art scene in a society unknown to most of us makes good reading not only for art-world insiders, but for anyone curious about recent history and its effect on the booming Chinese society. The book opens with a glossary for readers unfamiliar with Chinese history and culture, and a time line placing each of the nine artists within the context of the Chinese art world and political history.Karen Smith was born in Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. She graduated from Wimbledon Art School in 1987 with a BA in fine art. A year later, she moved to Asia, settling in China in 1993, curious to explore its practically unchartered art scene. She calls Beijing her home, and is one of the foremost authorities on China’s contemporary art scene, both in China and abroad.

“If art takes place in a contemporary art museum (where we expect it), what does it mean? Art should not be about filling spaces, but about necessities and urgencies.” Such are the principles conveyed by the visionary Hans Ulrich Obrist, seeking out ways to reinvent and invent museums of the 21st century. Newly edited by April Lamm, gathered together here are the seminal texts written by (what Douglas Gordon once aptly described) a “dontstop” curator. His exhibitions present, as Rem Koolhaas writes in his preface to these prefaces, “a heroic effort to preserve the traces of intelligence of the last 50 years, to make sense of the seemingly disjointed, a hedge against the systematic forgetting that is hidden at the core of the information age and which may, in fact, be its secret agenda… .” A compendium of texts written between 1990 and 2006, here are exhibition case studies – “Hotel Carlton Palace,” “Cities on the Move,” “Do It,” “Utopia Station” – involving some of the more thought-provoking artists, architects, and scientists of our time such as Paul Chan, Alexander Dorner, Olafur Eliasson, Cao Fei, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Douglas Gordon, Pierre Huyghe, Qingyung Ma, Philippe Parreno, Cedric Price, Luc Steels, Rirkrit Tiravanija, among others, from Zurich to Guangzhou and back again. Designed by M/M (Paris), the cover depicts an original Gerhard Richter over-painted picture of Obrist himself. A must-have for anyone interested in the unusual strategies of a curator-at-large.

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