Beijing art centre to dedicate an exhibition to the coronavirus pandemic

Opening in May, the show, titled Meditations in an Emergency, will explore the uncertainty of our present moment

HNDJK6 Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Nº4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, in Dashanzi 798 Art District,Beijing, China. Alamy
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A contemporary art centre in Beijing will be the first institution to dedicate an exhibition to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reopening to the public on May 21, UCCA Centre for Contemporary Art will present Meditations in an Emergency, with works created within the past 15 years by more than 20 artists from China and other countries. The full artist list has yet to be announced.

The title is drawn from an anthology by poet and curator Frank O’Hara, and the centre quotes one of his poems (To the Film Industry in Crisis) in its announcement: “In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love.”

Curated by the UCCA exhibitions team, namely Guo Xi, Luan Shixuan, Ara Qiu, Rocky Lin, Duffy Du and Neil Zhang, the show will be divided into five sections and is scheduled to run until August this year. Meditations in an Emergency will also include archival material from a previous show titled Blue Sky Exposure, held in Beijing at the end of the Sars epidemic in 2003.

In its announcement for the 2020 exhibition, the organisation wrote: “The world is undergoing, separately, the first global moment of the 21st century. Amidst a pandemic that has brought commerce and culture to a halt, and against the backdrop of renewed mortality, heightened tension and amorphous suspension, we wonder: What is art for?” The show will address, among other things, the “epidemiological, economic, organisational” uncertainties of our present situation, and aims to ask questions about “the everyday, about mortality, about animality, about globalisation, about information”.

UCCA said it would take the necessary precautions and follow Chinese government guidelines to ensure the safety for visitors, including physical distancing measures (standing two metres apart), temperature checks, and even data tracking to guarantee that those attending have stayed in Beijing for the past two weeks. “Have we ever been able to assume so much about our visitors?,” the statement said.

Following government advice, the centre had to close its doors in early February to minimise the spread of the infection. Its previously planned shows for February and March, including one on the evolution of computer art titled Immaterial/Re-material and a solo exhibition by Yan Xing have been postponed.

The city of Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported, reopened in the first week of April after a harrowing 10 weeks in lockdown. So far, China has recorded 4,636 deaths from the virus.