Published in Shanghai Daily, February 2004
Antique furniture and ceramics are usually favorites for Western collectors. But Eloisa Haudenschild, an American collector, will surprise local art lovers with a quite different collection in the exhibition Zooming into Focus: Contemporary Chinese Photography and Video.
The show, which opened on Thursday at the Shanghai Art Museum features nearly 50 photos, 10 videos, and several installations created by 15 contemporary Chinese artists, all collected by Haudenschild since 2002. "This is the first time an overseas photo and video collection came back to China for an exhibit," says the 40-something Haudenschild proudly. Shanghai, she says, is the second stop of the show after its launch at the San Diego State University Gallery and the San Diego Museum of Art.
If you are familiar with contemporary Chinese art, you will probably admire Haudenschild's ability for spotting the stars of tomorrow. Zooming into Focus includes a group of emerging and promising young Chinese artists, some of whom have received international recognition such as Yang Zhenzhong and Yang Fudong.
The charming collector is more interested in the quality rather than the quantity of her art, and she cannot even estimate the number of works she has in her collection. "For me, it's not important to show my collection on the walls but how much I am involved in the art," she explains. "I love to participate in and really enjoy the process." Initially collecting artworks by Latin American artists, Haudenschild fell in love with contemporary Chinese art at first sight, even though she did not know much about Chinese culture and history. "I was so amazed at the outstanding quality of these photos and videos created by Chinese artists," Eloisa said.
Those hallucinatory scenes in the avant-garde photos and videos are a mixture of the artists' fantasies, longings, and cutting-edge views of the future. "They conjured up a reality, a hyper-reality which is dreamy and beautiful," she said. Haudenschild was immediately caught by such illusory images. Every three or four months she comes to China to search for new artists and new works. A major in psychology, the San Diego State University alumna confesses that she never did anything related to her major but instead took up a series of art courses. "Now my focus is in photos, videos, and installations by Chinese artists."
The Haudenschild home is like a salon frequented by curators and artists from different countries. Yang Zhenzhong is among the lucky candidates. "I stayed at the Haudenschild's home for about two weeks and finished two pieces of work," he says. "She has a straightforward personality, very easy to communicate work."
Perhaps Haudenschild's knowledge of psychology enables her to access people more easily, "I like talking with Chinese artists - they are intelligent, witty and humorous. The future of Chinese art is certainly brilliant. Flying around the world to view different shows, Haudenschild found proof to support her words though a greater exposure to the works by Chinese artists in large biennales and art fairs.
Zooming into Focus is an exhibition aiming to offer art lovers a novel experience of photos, videos, and installations. The show features works by a group of active contemporary Chinese artists
from Yang Fudong's video City Light depicting the absurd and mechanical life of office workers to Xiang Liqing's photo featuring a cluster of match-box shaped old houses the works on display manifest the artists' doubts about society's rapid change and how it affects people.
Perhaps their names are unfamiliar, but these artists have already won international attention. Many of their works have traveled overseas for biennials and art fairs. If Westerns are still intoxicated by the old China in Zhang Yimou's films, these contemporary photos and videos will show them an updated video that many be quite perplexing.
"This should be an interesting and thought-provoking show," says Li Xuingyang curator at the Shanghai Art Museum.