Lim Jen Erh: Focusing on Urban Transformation in China

Hong Hao

I Usually Wait Under the Arch Roof for Sunshine

Published in Lianhe Zaobao NOW, Singapore, August 2005


No longer for the sole purpose of documentation, photography and video in art has become a popular medium in contemporary Chinese art. Zooming into Focus: Contemporary Chinese Photography and Video from the Haudenschild Collection, on view now in Singapore, offers an insight into the development of contemporary Chinese photography and video in the last 10 years, at the same time, examines the rapid urban transformations in China.

Some western critics remarked that in the last two years, photography and video works from China has quickly replaced performance and installation art to become the most popular forms of contemporary art making. You may not agree on this but if you are keen on understanding contemporary Chinese photography and video, there is now an opportunity to do so. LASALLE-SIA’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore’s current exhibition, Zooming into Focus showcases the works of Chinese artists Chen Shaoxiong, Weng Fen, Xiang Liqing, Xu Zhen, Yang Zhenzhong, Yang Fudong, Yu Youhan and Zheng Guogu.

Contemporary Chinese artists have, in recent years, received international acclaim. Increasingly, works by artists dealing with photography and video are represented in international exhibitions, next to painting and installation works. Artists like Chen Shaoxiong, Xu Zhen, Yang Zhenzhong, Yu Youhan and Zhen Guogu have all participated in the Venice Biennales and the works presented in this exhibition are emblematic of Chinese photography and video art.



The exhibition is presented through a generous loan from US-based art collector, Chris and Eloisa Haudenschild. The couple started collecting contemporary Chinese photography and video works four to five years ago. Compared to painting, this is a relatively unpopular medium for collection. Especially so in China, where collectors will spend huge amount on paintings but turned away from acquiring video works. As such, the over one hundred works collected by the Haudenschilds is undoubtedly one of most significant single collection of contemporary photography and video.

In an interview with Mrs. Eloisa Haudenschild, who was in Singapore for the opening of the exhibition, she remarked, “To me, collecting art is not only for pleasure, it involves participation and bearing witness to the development of an art form. That is why I personally know the artists whose work I collect. Some even became good friends. The most valuable experience comes from discussions and exchange of ideas with them.”

She has a Chinese name, given to her by her friends in the Chinese art scene. It means “like the wind”.

Eloisa was collecting Latin American art when in 2001, she chanced upon some contemporary Chinese photography and video works at a gallery in Shanghai. Astounded, she bought many pieces that started the collection.



Back at home, Eloisa started reading about Chinese photography and video, at the same time meet many Chinese artists and art critics, to gain an understanding of the subject. She now travels to China every three to four months as she felt the need to keep up with the speed of transformation there.

Zooming into Focus has travelled to many countries, including San Diego (USA), Shanghai (China), Mexico and now Singapore, after which it will travel to Beijing (China). According to Eloisa, the exhibition in Beijing will be the largest and will present almost all of the 100 over works in the collection.

While on show in Shanghai Art Museum last year, the Museum’s introduction to the exhibition reads, “Zooming into Focus: Contemporary Chinese Photography and Video from the Haudenschild Collection will present the works of many of the most noteworthy Chinese artists working today, and will highlight the remarkable photography currently being created in China, a country that is undergoing tremendous development and growth. This swift transformation of Chinese culture is reflected in the work of each of the artists, who comment on contemporary Chinese urban life with intelligence, wit, foreboding and nostalgia.”

Looking at this exhibition, one experiences the metamorphosis of contemporary photography and video works - from being just a tool in documentation, to a ‘canvas’ for a myriad of artistic expression.


About Lim Jen Erh 

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