Three’s a Crowd

Ai Weiwei makes a splash in Los Angeles’ art world – Zandie Brockett

Cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard on a sunny fall day, palm fronds flashed across my sunroof just as Kanye and Kim made a brief appearance at a stoplight. It was a fitting start to a day of star-studded art hopping across three Angeleno exhibitions – Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new shows at Jeffrey Deitch’s brand new mid-city gallery, United Talent Agency (UTA)’s Beverly Hills Artist Space, and the Marciano Art Foundation, housed in the former LA Masonic temple.

Riding on the coattails of Ai Weiwei’s first Hollywood-produced feature film, Human Flow (Participant Media, 2017), the three exhibitions continue his inquiry into the global refugee crisis. 


Art at the Edge

Renée Reynolds reviews The Phoenix Years

On a sunny early September afternoon in 2014, I arrived at the steps of a spired building on Nanjing West Road in central Shanghai. First known as The Sino-Soviet Friendship Building and since renamed the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, the grand hall was set to host a highly anticipated (and sold-out) International Photography Exhibit – and a friend who was “Almost there!” had tickets.

Waiting alone on the Stalin-era steps, I was beginning to wonder if I was in the right place. Where were the people?


National Absurdity

Harvey Thomlinson reviews David Hull’s translation of Pidgin Warrior

Zhang Tianyi’s long-interred Pidgin Warrior, now resurrected in David Hull’s translation, marches us to 1930s Shanghai, where national identity is, as ever, an anxious question. This particular stage of China’s perennial crisis of the “Western challenge,” ongoing since the humiliation of the “unequal treaties” of the Opium Wars, has acquired existential urgency thanks to the Japanese military invasion. Bristling Confucians prescribe a restoration of tradition while liberal pragmatists call for Westernization to “save China,” and Marxists are on the rampage to destroy “feudal culture.”


After the Umbrella Era, Turning Inward

Yvonne Yevan Yu watches Last Exit to Kai Tak

Edward Lau Wai-tak runs up the back stairway of a government building, followed by a team of supporters. He tries one locked door, then another. As a district council candidate, he's there to demand a meeting with officials, whom he says are evading their appointment. He curses at them, puts his weight on a door handle, and it opens. “Go through here,” he says urgently.

With elections only a few months away, Lau and his team are protesting the cutting down of four century-old banyan trees on Bonham Road in Sai Wan district, Ed Lau's would-be constituency. Growing out of stone walls, anchored by sprawling roots, the trees are a local marvel. But when earlier we see Lau, a businessman-turned-politician, standing in front of the stumps with a megaphone and a rallying cry, one can't help but feel an incongruity with his platform, that he is campaigning on an outsized sense of proportion. But it’s not just about the trees.


“You Can’t Arrest Us All!”

China’s Feminists Are Betraying Big BrotherEmily Walz

Rewind to early 2015, Beijing. Groping on the crowded subway system has the city government considering women-only cars in an effort to prevent sexual harassment (a marginal improvement over its 2013 plan to fix the problem by telling women to cover up). A month and a half later, five young feminists are planning to distribute anti-sexual harassment stickers on public transit for International Women’s Day. They never get the chance. Instead, they are swept up and brought to a detention center in Beijing. The women’s names are Li Maizi, Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, and Wang Man, but when the state locks them up, they are reborn as the Feminist Five. The sudden crackdown marks a political tipping point: feminist activism in China has now crossed from the realm of the officially tolerated to the politically dangerous.