Wang Jianwei hosts first solo show at Guggenheim

By Stephanie Cheng

via Guggenheim
via Guggenheim

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents the first of three commissions by the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative with “Wang Jiangwei: Time Temple.” The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative is a part of the Guggenheim Art Initiative, which explores the works of artists from China and expands the discourse of contemporary Chinese art. Beijing-based artist Wang Jianwei is recognized throughout Asia and Europe for his contributions to Chinese avant-garde.

Sent to the countryside for re-education in 1975 during the final years of the Cultural Revolution, Wang graduated in oil painting from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Art (now China Academy of Art) in 1987. He became a prominent painter but abandoned the medium to pursue a multimedia artistic process instead and became a pioneer in video and installation art in China.

First inspired by science in 1991, Wang found himself connecting science in his artwork. The idea of “wanting to know what I don’t know” inspired him to depict the freedom of time. Wang describes time as a temple because it does not confine people to pray to certain figures and instead encourages individuals to pursue spiritual awakenings and grasp the metaphysical.

The artist also touched upon the idea of “self-censored projects”—projects we don’t dare to do. However, he emphasizes that as artists, we should pursue the things we don’t know.

A filmmaker as well, Wang emphasizes the need to foster collectivity and enjoys the medium because “it is a collaborative process that shows past experiences”.

In the multi-art exhibition, Wang explores the relationship between space and time. The extensive collection presents works that range from large-scale paintings to jagged sculptures that recognize and show different interpretations of the concept of time. Each installation in the spacious setting is both of and beyond time. Like science, time is relative and can be manipulated: twisted wooden sculptures depict different interpretations from different viewpoints and angles. A large four-panel painting may seem flat from to the viewer from the front, but if the observer moves towards an angle, he or she realizes the two alternating panels are actually placed further in front of the audience. Wang challenges viewers to be conscious of the illusion of time and space created by society.

“Time Temple” is Wang’s first solo exhibition in North America and will be on view until February 16, 2015.

Stephanie Cheng is a staff writer.  Email her at


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