Furor in China Over Artwork Ranking Women by Their Looks


“What kind of environmental forces are cultivating and condoning such shameless people?” Zhang Ling, a Chinese movie scholar who teaches at Purchase College of the State University of New York, wrote on Weibo, a well-liked Chinese social media platform. “The so-called ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘art creation’ should not be used as a fig leaf for the despicable.”

On Friday, OCAT Shanghai issued an apology, saying it was withdrawing the work and quickly shutting down the exhibition in order that it might take a while to “reflect” on its errors. Curated by Dai Zhuoqun, the exhibition, titled “The Circular Impact: Video Art 21,” featured works from 21 Chinese video artists spanning the previous 21 years. The present had been scheduled to run from April 28 to July 11.

“After receiving criticism from everyone, we immediately re-examined the content of the work and the artist’s explanation,” the museum mentioned. “We found that the concept of the work and its English title were disrespectful and offensive to women.”

Within China’s artwork circles, opinions have been combined. Some raised issues about OCAT Shanghai’s dealing with of the case, contending that the museum might have completed extra to defend the artist or at the least facilitate a dialogue between Mr. Song and his critics. Others mentioned that misogyny was a deep-rooted concern in the artwork world, and that the museum shouldn’t have given a platform to amplify Mr. Song’s work from the beginning.

OCAT Shanghai, Mr. Song and Mr. Dai didn’t reply to requests for remark.

The Guangzhou-born Mr. Song, who’s in his early 30s, is called a provocateur — a “bad boy” of types. His work usually pokes enjoyable on the political forms, and on at the least one event censors pulled a bit of his from a government-backed present.

In one critically praised video set up, referred to as “Who Is the Loveliest Guy?” (2014), Mr. Song persuades Chinese naval officers to journey a curler coaster and information their efforts to remain critical and composed. The set up was included in the New Museum’s Triennial in 2018.

Like many artists, Mr. Song has sought to problem notions of what he sees as political correctness. In a 2013 performance art piece titled “One Is Not as Good as the Other,” he ranked 30 younger feminine volunteers from “beautiful to ugly” and had them stroll down a runway earlier than an viewers in that order. The work was a part of a broader project by Mr. Song referred to as “The Origin of Inequality.”


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