Chaos and censorship at Beijing’s inaugural 798 Biennale

Chaos and censorship at Beijing’s inaugural 798 Biennale

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The inaugural Beijing 798 Biennale, held in the sprawling 798 art district in China’s capital, saw a chaotic opening on 15 August, with major works by Chinese artists widely censored by authorities. The biennale was arranged with international contributions operating independently at numerous private galleries in the 798 complex, which were not affected by the censorship and avoided the operational issues that hampered the main exhibition hall.

Billed as the first non-government biennale in China, the event was hampered by a lack of funds, operational support, and some inexperience on the part of the organisers, who were predominantly Chinese art journalists.

In steaming temperatures of around 40ºC, hundreds stood out in the sun to listen to opening speeches by assembled dignitaries. The ceremony was briefly interrupted by a demonstration and water being thrown at the platform. The demonstration, whose purpose seemed obscure, was performed by a group including a deaf mute in ancient Chinese costume, a man wheeling a cart of bedpans and another man wearing a metal mask accompanied by someone dressed as a bride. ()

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