His exhibition at Long Museum, called “Still Moving”, is adapted from his “Still Being” show from Brazil in 2012.Apart from (2012), a series of interlinking open rectangular structures made out of light tubes; and drawings of human forms he has made since 1981.
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However, the success of the Long Museum, owned by collectors Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei, is in knowing precisely what locals want to see.
Earlier this year, long queues appeared for the James Turrell: Immersive Light exhibit.
The flexibility of the figures’ placement allows the meaning of the work to shift as it moves from city to city.
When he placed them within an old military fort in Florence two years ago, Gormley called the collection an “anti-monument evoking all the victims of the 20th century”.
In 1998, they were placed in the courtyard of the Royal Academy in London to invade what Gormley called “the sense of august decorum” brought about by the academy’s celebration of the hierarchy of Western art.
The 67-year-old’s goal in Shanghai is just as ambitious, though possibly self-defeating: to encourage a Chinese cultural model that dispenses with both the superior attitude of traditional museums and Western artistic practices.
Most artists are still mirroring, or are hypnotised by, Western art.” Coming from an Englishman, this sort of comment may smack of an Orientalist desire to see Chinese art in the way a Westerner imagines it.
But Gormley is simply echoing what many Chinese collectors have expressed privately: that there hasn’t been the explosion of creativity that the country’s enormous social changes should have evoked.
“Obviously my interest is the possibility of my work being open to a new audience, but that’s rather greedy and selfish,” he says.
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Like many bullish lovers of China, he speaks with gleeful conviction about the relative demise of the West today.