Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Chapter 6: The artyficial paradise: municipal face-work in a Chinese boomtown
In 2009, the Danish artist and professor Bjørn Nørgaard received notice that Ordos, a resource-rich municipality in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, was considering his work for a large art-theme park in a newly developed urban district. The communiqué asked Nørgaard to send photos of his earlier work to those responsible for selecting artists. After this review he was contracted to contribute an artwork to the ‘International Friendship Park’, located in the municipality’s new flagship district, Kangbashi, although the curators required more detailed documentation of his work. Following this, Nørgaard and his colleague sent more pictures and awaited a follow-up. After a longer period with no response, they gathered that another artist might have been chosen for the task, or that the project had simply failed to materialize for some reason. Then, towards the end of 2009 a notice arrived congratulating Professor Nørgaard, confirming that his artwork was nearly finished and, should he wish to make some smaller adjustments, he was indeed welcome. But in that case he should hurry. ‘I thought we were supposed to go there to do some work. Then after a while of not hearing anything from them we reasoned that it didn’t come through. Then we received the pictures!’ In March 2011, Nørgaard explained to me how the artwork was manufactured in a sculpture production centre located in the outskirts of Beijing. Those responsible for selecting artists had simply chosen an existing artwork and begun its reproduction from the photos they had received.
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