Stairway to Heaven

From Chinese Streets to Monuments and Skyscrapers

June 7 – December 14, 2008

Stairway to Heaven is an exhibition of contemporary art analyzing the changing streets and urban landscapes of China.  The work in the exhibition responds to traditional monuments and the unparalleled growth in skyscrapers within the context of cultural transformation.  The artists provide an intimate look at how new histories are constructed and old histories are erased in a country that assiduously recorded its history through the arts until the Mao era that was dominated by propaganda.  It is a remarkable opportunity to watch art history in real time during this extraordinary moment in Chinese history as the country’s transformation is now realigned with a resurgence in Chinese art.  Just as Germany tore down the Berlin wall leaving little trace of its history during a building boom, China is dismantling its urban history in an unprecedented scale by building skyscrapers while the artists are recording and critiquing the old and new histories as they unfold at alarming speed.

The exhibition presents layers of diversity through multiple voices, strategies, and techniques of the seventeen Chinese artists.  Organized thematically the exhibition focuses on the changing relationships between artists and streets, monuments and skyscrapers with a subtext exploring the multi faceted art boom in China.  The loci are sites where artists are digesting and processing an overload of cultural, philosophical, economic, and technological change in a condensed period of time.

As the 21st century develops, China is becoming the next dominant global culture. Yet, in 2008 the world is still curious what role China wants to play in this new 21st century.  The best way to gauge the future path of a culture is through art.  As China becomes the political and economic focus of the international scene during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Stairway to Heaven offers a unique context and opportunity to present the response of Chinese artists to the resurgence of China.

The exhibition is organized by a college art museum consortium of the Bates College Museum of Art, the H & R Block Artspace at Kansas City Art Institute and the California State Los Angeles, Luckman Fine Arts Complex. It will be accompanied by a book published by University Press of New England.

Artists: Ai Weiwei, Chen Shaoxiong, Gu Wenda, Gu Zheng, Hong Lei, Liang Weiping, Liu Bolin, Lu Yuanmin, Luo Yongjin, Ma Liuming, Wang Jing, Weng Fen, Xing Danwen, Yang Yongliang, Yening, Zhang Dali, and Zhu Feng.

  • Bates College Museum of Art. Lewiston, Maine: June 17 – December 14, 2008
  • H & R Block Artspace at Kansas City Art Institute: January –  April, 2009
  • Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal State Los Angeles: August 8 – October 3, 2009