October 30, 2013

Recently I invited Li Zhenwei, a young Beijing artist, to exhibit at Telescope. He is a 2011 graduate from CAFA, Central Academy of Fine Art, in Beijing, and had never had a solo show outside of the Academy setting. I love him as an artist and as a person. He is a serious, thoughtful, and cares more about his work than becoming a fixture on the scene. There were many frustrations and roadblocks along the way to realize his plan but I kept pushing him to keep going and not give up on it or settle for less. Finally with a deadline approaching we hit a brick wall and had to make some fast decisions and creatively compromise on his vision. But ultimately we produced a fantastic show and something we were both very proud of. When the show came to an end he told me that he was thinking about curating an invitational show of the artists in Heiqiao, the area in Beijing where he lives and works. For several weeks I tried to contact him but had a hard time connecting. It made me think that he was not happy with his experience at Telescope but he just kept telling me he was very busy. I was a little concerned nevertheless. Finally one day he presented me an invitation to his show, entitled, HEY LOOK. When I arrived at the opening my mouth dropped open as I was stunned to see a huge, long, 2 story unfinished studio/warehouse building with 100’s of people milling about inside and out. There was food, drink, music, lights and art. There were over 60 artists and over 100 works of art filling both floors. He had not only curated a large exhibition he had also created a scene.

During these silent weeks Zhenwei had been working day and night on this show. He had secured funding from Song Changzhi, a friend of his who lives in Heiqiao and has wanted to help support the emerging artists in their area, received permission from the owner to use the unfinished building at no charge, hired Telescope’s installer to hang lights, paint, etc., cleaned the raw space, put the word out on Weibo, the Chinese Facebook, inviting artists to participate, selected the works for the show, designed the installation, arranged food and drink and after party. I was amazed and elated to see such a grand but raw and fly by night happening.  I knew that he had never curated a show before so I asked him how he came about doing this. He said that he had learned it all from his experience at Telescope. I was thrilled! But hey look…this is the mission of Telescope: to not only provide exhibition opportunities but also to mentor young artists in all aspects of being an artist in the world today. --James Elaine