Magiciens de la Terre and China: Looking Back 25 Years

March 11, 2014
Columbia University

116th St and Broadway
New York, NY

Speakers: Jean-Hubert Martin, Fei Dawei (translated by Xin Wang), and Jane DeBevoise (Chair of Asia Art Archive)

Moderator: John Rajchman (Columbia University)

A special presentation and informal discussion of the landmark exhibition ‘Magiciens de la Terre’, held at the Centre Pompidou and Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris in 1989. Featuring over one hundred artists of whom half were from non-Western locales, this exhibition was one of the first to offer a broadened perspective of global art practice and to challenge the established Euro-centric discourse of contemporary art. Controversial at the time, ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ was a watershed event and debates about its propositions and its discursive legacy continue to this day.

In this presentation, ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ curator Jean-Hubert Martin reflected upon the exhibition’s history, context, and curatorial thinking, followed by remarks from Fei Dawei, who facilitated in the research and selection of three Chinese artists Huang Yongping (b. 1954), Yang Jiechang (b. 1956), and Gu Dexin (b. 1962). Alongside this discussion, Jane DeBevoise of Asia Art Archive (AAA) introduced selections from the Fei Dawei Archive of primary documents, now part of AAA’s digital research collection.

Co-organized by Asia Art Archive in America, Columbia University, and Xin Wang.

Jean-Hubert Martin
Born in 1944, Jean-Hubert Martin joined the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris as a curator in 1971, and was part of the team that established the Centre Pompidou in 1977. After serving as the director of Kunsthalle Bern in 1982-85, Martin returned in 1987-90 to the Pompidou as director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and has since overseen institutions including the Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie in Paris and the Museum Kunstpalast in Dusseldorf. His organization of the exhibition ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ in 1989, which included established contemporary artists from the West with their peers from across the world, is widely regarded as a breakthrough in reassessing the center-periphery hierarchy of Modernism.

Fei Dawei
Born in 1954, Fei Dawei is an independent curator and art critic based in Beijing and Paris. He graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Art (CAFA) in 1985 and in the following year gave presentations at various academies and museums in France to introduce the latest developments in avant-garde art in China, which led to Jean-Hubert Martin’s trip to China in 1987 and the participation of three Chinese artists in the exhibition ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ at the Centre Pompidou in 1989. Fei Dawei was a member of the organization committee of the exhibition ‘China/Avant-Garde’ in 1989, and subsequently curated several large-scale contemporary Chinese art exhibitions overseas, including ’Chine Demain pour Hier’ in Pourrières, France, in 1990; ‘Exceptional Passage’ at the Fukuoka Art Museum in 1991, and ‘The Monk and the Demon’ at the Lyon Contemporary Art Museum in 2004. Fei was the founding director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, and curated the Center’s first exhibition in 2007, ‘85 New Wave’, a large-scale historical retrospective.

Fei Dawei’s Archive is part of AAA’s China 1980s research project, ‘Materials of the Future.’ The archive consists of more than 2,500 items and is constantly added to and updated.

Xin Wang is a curator and art critic based in New York. A recent graduate from Columbia University’s MA program in Art History (2011), she has worked as the research assistant on Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Essays, reviews, and artist interviews have appeared on in AmericaHyperallergicModern Art Asia, and Leap.