“Edward Sanderson speaks with Zhang Wei and Hu Fang about discovering ways of working within a private gallery that fosters an experience of art that is more than mere consumerism.”
An expanded appreciation of the gallery environment and its players, with a particular emphasis on the nature and expression of the physical and perceptual spaces that make up that environment, plays a significant role in the thinking and activities of Vitamin, a Guangzhou- and Beijing-based art organization. In its activities, Vitamin recognizes and utilizes these spaces through interaction with implied psychological and spiritual attributes that create an invisible energy, and that act as productive elements in the relationships among artist, artwork, and audience.
Zhang Wei and artistic director Hu Fang established Vitamin and opened Vitamin Creative Space, in 2002, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Over the ten years of its existence, Vitamin has become relatively well established in the Chinese art scene as well as internationally by its presence at art fairs and through its projects and publications carried out with practitioners from both inside and outside its home territory. Its broad range of activities, exhibitions, events, and publications, and the often idiosyncratic nature of many of them, allow Vitamin to retain a feeling of informality, experimentation, and playfulness within a formalized gallery system.
In China, Vitamin occupies an important but somewhat paradoxical role within what is still a nascent “alternative” arts scene—paradoxical in that Vitamin adopts the basic role of a typical private gallery, and in perhaps its most straightforward state, it holds exhibitions in which objects are presented for sale. But as a continual presence in the commercial aspects of the presentations, various other activities support the exhibitions or exist parallel to them, preventing the art activity or object from being simply understood in terms of its exchange value. This allows for the non-commercial or the experimental to exist in conjunction with the commercial, an attempt to avoid a privileging of one over the other.
Zhang Wei and Hu Fang’s hometown of Guangzhou has played an important part in the development of contemporary art in China, playing host to important artist groups such as Big Tail Elephant Group and Yangjiang Group, the members of which Zhang Wei and Hu Fung characterize as having a practice that extends outside of the gallery. Many of these artists became intimately involved with Vitamin’s development and may be said to have fed into Zhang Wei and Hu Fung’s own sensibility about the idea of space.
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