Something unusual happened recently. Three local media outlets known for publishing reviews of art exhibits all published a review of Tucson Museum of Art’s current Ai WeiWei exhibit, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. In the nearly 16 years, I’ve lived in Tucson, I cannot remember this ever happening - that the same exhibit would get so much attention. The fact that Tucson Weekly, Zócalo, and Sonoran Arts Network all published a review of Ai WeiWei’s work is testimony to the impact that Ai has in the international art world.
I have no intention of writing a review of the reviews – especially since I wrote one of them. I do want to correct an error in one review. The Zócalo review repeatedly misuses Ai’s name. The Chinese put the family name first, then the personal name. That means Ai is the family name of this artist. What we call “last name” is first in China. The initial mention of Ai WeiWei’s name in Zócalo is correct. What follows is the repeated use of his personal name, WeiWei. This is exactly as if one wrote a review of a Pablo Picasso exhibit and referred to the artist as Pablo throughout the review. This matters because it indicates a lack of knowledge of China and Chinese ways. Keep in mind that China has nearly 1.4 billion people, a population which represents 20% of all humanity. And China is currently having a tremendous impact on the art world. So we do want to know about them, and you better believe that they already know a lot about us.
Here are links to all three articles.
Sonoran Arts Network
Read all three and then decide for yourself which review helps you to understand Ai, his artwork, and the exhibit at TMA. Why would you do this? The answer is in the phrase “arts journalism.” The art world is an important subject for us to know about. It is rife with all the same issues that we find elsewhere: international and national politics, class issues and division of wealth, race issues, the education of our children, and our health – mental and physical and spiritual.
Sonoran Arts Network is dedicated to arts journalism because we think art is important. A couple of years ago, Art in America had an excellent article about arts journalism. The article argues that if no one writes about art, and no one is reading about art, then art will be viewed as less important than it really is. People will not be motivated to go to concerts, and exhibits, and performances because they won’t know about these events. Most deadly of all, people will not see the need to fund the arts in our cities, and in our schools.
By the way, your editor lived in China and has had the privilege of learning about the culture and history of the Middle Kingdom. If you want to learn more (and you should want to learn more), read my book Voices of New China available from Amazon or from me. (shameless plug!)
If you think about the subject of arts journalism and would care to share your views about these three reviews on Ai’s exhibit at TMA or anything else, please enter your comments below.
C.J. Shane is the publisher and editor of Sonoran Arts Network. She is an artist and writer. Visit her website at www.cjshane.com to learn more about her.