Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) presents “Street Art: a global view,” which runs through August 21. Jointly curated by Tang Hui and Magda Danysz, this is China’s first comprehensive exhibition about the development of international street art.
Street artists are gaining international acclaim as their works make their way from street murals to the white walls of galleries and reputable museums around the world. Some artists are even attaining high prices at auctions and becoming household names — Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, and JR, who has recently taken over the Louvre in Paris with a new installation, are but a few examples. Recognising its influence, Christie’s even presented a collecting guide on how to approach and invest in the medium.
By chance, a few weeks ago I came across an audio recording of an interview that I did with the late Iranian filmmaker and photographer Abbas Kiarostami in May 2013, when he was having an exhibition of his “Snow Series” (1999–2002) photographs at Rossi & Rossi gallery in Hong Kong. In the past few days, after learning that the legendary Iranian cineaste had died in Paris on July 4, I listened to that interview again and transcribed it. Our conversation lasted less than 30 minutes and Kiarostami was tired from his trip and eager to finish a pack of cigarettes that he claimed would be his last. We spoke through an interpreter, although Kiarostami understood many of my questions. He wore his trademark sunglasses while we sat at a desk in the back room of the gallery, so it was hard to see his eyes. He didn’t particularly seem to enjoy talking about his own photographs, and it took some time before he would give up information about them or about what he thought of the works. But his own comparison between the “Snow Series” and Japanese sumi-e brush-painting best revealed the kind of meditative precision he sought, as well as the kind of relationship to nature he was evoking. Though very different than his socially oriented films, his photographs are similarly pared down and intensely focused, and should also be seen as an effort to get directly to the essence of things.