Exhibition News

Ma Shulin: Think Internationally, Behave Locally



Many Roads Lead to Beijing / 2016 / acrylic on canvas / 100cm×300cm

Works of the 7th Beijing Biennale, 2017

    The international biennale is a model of exhibition introduced from the West featuring recurrent organization every two years. Because of continuity and wide participation of world countries, the Beijing Biennale has in the last fifteen years gradually grown into a grand event with great international influence. As one of the curatorial committee members of the Biennale, I feel very honored to be part of the planning and preparation process in person. Over the years, I have always paid close attention to the Biennale—I have deep love for it while expecting much from it.

   As an essential program approved and financed by the government, the Beijing Biennale, since the day of its birth, has represented the open-minded cultural orientation of the country and shows the strong determination of China to intensify cultural communication with the world. Nearly all international biennales feature openness and internationalization. The Beijing Biennale is of course no exception. For the last fifteen years, with more and more artists both at home and abroad consistently joining the exhibition, the Biennale has made continuous progress in both scale and artistic level. As the distinguished international curator Sanfo once said, “The Beijing Biennale should build its own characters. What the Venice Biennale emphasizes is mind-blowing performance while what its Beijing counterpart should focus on is the quality of art.” So while taking inclusiveness and internationalization into account, the Beijing Biennale acts locally by sticking to originality and putting emphasis on quality of art to avoid being dominated and assimilated by the Western modes and standards. This is one of our principles when we started to plan the exhibition. 

  A review of the previous Beijing Biennales in the last 15 years leads me to three conclusions. First, the Beijing Biennale is a grand international event of cultural significance at national level. So though it didn’t start early, it has developed steadily in terms of scale, artistic level and influence thus having promising prospects. 

    Second, equality and respect premise international communication. Whatever it is “bringing in” or “going out”, as long as we show respect and tolerance to each other and take a sincere and open-minded attitude during cultural dialogue, we can surely make the cooperation a friendly, pleasant and fruitful one. The Beijing Biennale is a successful testimony to the practice of international artistic communication based on equality and respect, which shows the cultural confidence and artistic inclusiveness of our country. 

  Third, the Biennale serves as a mainstream national platform to, on the one hand, bring the best of contemporary Chinese art to the global audience and on the other hand, introduce the latest fruits from the international art scene, which will help to correct some misunderstandings about contemporary Chinese art and facilitate internal and external audience to have a multi-angle, comprehensive grasp of the status quo of contemporary Chinese and international art. 

   The Beijing Biennale has not only enriched the cultural life of Chinese people but also spurred the development of contemporary Chinese art. Meanwhile, it has deepened the mutual understanding and friendship between China and other countries and promoted a harmonious world. In that sense, the significance and impact of the Biennale can be called as immense. I’m fully convinced that with successive organization of future Biennales followed by more frequent international communication and collaboration in art, the Beijing Biennale will keep gaining momentum in the international arena and demonstrate its one-of-a-kind academic and cultural significance. 

Ma Shulin

Former Deputy Director of National Art Museum of China

Curatorial Team Member of Beijing Biennale

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