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Interview with Chinese curator Feng Sun

To celebrate the Chinese New Year of The Dog, Catherine McDermott (ICOM UK Secretary) talks to Chinese curator Feng Sun, the project director of a new exhibition in London.  Initiation is showing at the Bloomsbury Gallery until 1st March, focusing on emerging Chinese artists and designers chosen from China’s leading art schools. The show is organized by China’s largest cultural events group, the CIEA.


Your organisation is not a museum so what does it do?

I work for the China International Exhibition Agency (CIEA) part of the much larger China Arts and Entertainment Group within the Chinese Ministry of Culture.


Is the CIEA China’s British Council? 

In a way yes, CIEA is our organization for international cultural relations and Government cultural exchange.  We have more than thirty staff working on projects with different countries and each year we deliver around fifty exhibitions.


What elements of the CIEA’s international programme will ICOM UK members know best?

ICOM members probably know we deliver international events like the Venice Biennale’s China Pavilion, alongside international festivals and exhibitions. Recently these have included events in France and India and yearlong festivals in South Korea and Japan.


Does CIEA build partnerships with museums?

Yes we do.  For example we have established close relationships with the Guggenheim museums alongside working partnerships with international art professionals, including the British Council, China Exchange and the Bloomsbury Gallery.


What is your role at CIEA?

I deliver ten international exhibitions a year and project managed all aspects from curating to budgets, the media and catalogue publishing.


What are the challenges facing your organisation?

Our CIEA programme is the result of decades of work to establish collaborations across the world.  We continue to work closely with foreign embassies and the world’s major museums, galleries, foundations, cultural institutions. Most recently a new partner under development is Dubai.


You are opening an exhibition in London – what is the purpose of the exhibition?

We wanted to showcase new creative talent rather than historical treasures from China’s past and introduce British audiences to a new wave of Chinese creatives who are building the future.


Which exhibits from the show caught your eye? 

That is a hard question but Huang Chunmao’s tableware for the G20 Summit ceramics are finely designed and made by traditional Chinese craftworkers using exquisite natural materials.  Different, but very smart, is Chen Xi’s conceptual sound installation and Zheng Ming’s industrial products.


What do you think are the trends in contemporary Chinese creative practice?

This generation of Chinese artists is adapting tradition, experimenting with traditional materials and new media.  Many of the questions they are asking, such as the purpose of art and its interaction with audiences will however be very familiar to UK museum staff.


What disciplines does the exhibition cover?

The scope covers works, such as contemporary installations, photographs, textiles, porcelain, jewellery, furniture and industrial products.


Can you tell ICOM UK members a little more about the selection?

The exhibits were selected from award winning graduates and young tutors from leading Chinese art institutes, including Central Academy of Fine Arts, China Academy of Art, Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, Nanjing Arts Institute, College of Art and Design Tongji University, School of Design Jiangnan University and Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute.


What other projects are you working on in 2018

2018 will be a busy year with the Chinese Gold exhibition in Egypt and Benin and the Silk Road exhibition in Nigeria.


What is the future plans for your organisation?

To build our international programme we are now forming strategic partnerships with Chinese museums, including the National Palace Museum, Guangdong Museum of Art, the Central Academy of Fine Arts and Minsheng Art Museum.

For example for the exhibition about Chinese comics opened this month in Belgium we loaned some works from the Guangdong Museum of Art. Also we have established long-term cooperation with Minsheng Art Museum for the Hong Kong-Macau Biennale.