7 Women in Contemporary Chinese Art You Need To Know

Meet the women who dominate the scene in China.

Kelly Ying

Continuing our celebration of successful women in the art world, artnet News has compiled a list of seven women who are making a name for themselves in the Chinese contemporary art scene. We learned some of their thoughts about contemporary art and what it means to be a professional woman.

Gong Yan

Gong Yan

Gong Yan, Director of the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, as well as an artist, curator, and the editor-in-chief of Art World magazine.

Yan is the co-founder of the O Art Center at Fudan University in Shanghai. She has been at the helm of Art World since 2009, and with Power Station of Art since 2013. Her artworks have been featured in the Shanghai Biennale in 2002 and 2006.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?
A: Tolerance, strength, endless creativity, and productivity.

Q: Do you have any advice for young ladies who have just entered the field of contemporary art?
A: To maintain your curiosity and to unify yourself through discovery and creation. Stay away from self-pity and being narcissistic.

Q: Please use a few sentences to describe your experience and understanding of the scene of contemporary Chinese art.
A: There are too much strategies and trends (within this field), and (it has always been) looking for bold challengers with no rules or restrictions.

Q:  What’s your favorite color?
A: Medium aquamarine and cobalt blue.

Carol Yinghua Lu

Carol Yinghua Lu

Carol Yinghua Lu, Art Director of OCAT, Shenzhen.

Lu is a curator and art critic, living and working in Beijing. She is currently a contributing editor at Frieze magazine and sits on the editorial board for the Exhibitionist magazine. She was the first visiting fellow at the Tate Research Centre: Asia-Pacific in 2013. She was also the co-curator of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale and sat on the jury of the 2011 Venice Biennale.

Currently she is working with Liu Ding on a joint research project, “From the Issue of Art to the Issue of Position: Echoes of Socialist Realism,” which attempts to reassess the perspectives and methodology of Chinese contemporary art.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?
A: The personality is part of me, but not everything. Currently I am more concerned about the role of being a wife and mother.

Q:  Do you have any advice for young ladies who have just entered the field of contemporary art?
A: Less talking, more seeing.

Q: Please use a few sentences to describe your experience and understanding of the scene of contemporary Chinese art.
A: This is a long-term job that calls for self-discipline and continuous working. Nothing should be taken for granted.

Q:  What’s your favorite color?
A: Honeydew.

Tang Xin

Tang Xin

Tang Xin, Director and curator at Taikang Space.

Beginning her practice in 1997, Xin was one of the earliest independent curators in Mainland China. She has curated several exhibitions and events centering on contemporary Chinese arts, many of which have focused on interactions between China and Europe. In 2003, she joined Taikang Life Insurance Company and founded the company’s corporate art collection and non-profit gallery space, Taikang Space, where she continues to serve as director and curator.

Q:  What does being a woman mean to you?
A: Family is the most important.

Q:  Do you have any advice for young ladies who have just entered the field of contemporary art?
A: Nothing special.

Q:  Please use a few simple sentences to describe your experience and understanding of the scene of contemporary Chinese art.
A: This circle is quite limited. No matter what position in what organization, it is always (like performing) on the same little stage.

Q:  What’s your favorite color?
A: It depends, nothing special recently.

Wang Wei

Wang Wei

Wang Wei, Shanghai-based art collector.

Q:  What does being a woman mean to you?
A: Women should be self-disciplined at all age. When I was at my 50th, I decided to establish an art museum even though I could enjoy my life without worrying too much about work, but I have chosen to share art with everyone.

Q:  Do you have any advice for young ladies who have just entered the field of contemporary art?
A: Developing an interest in art is the best cosmetic product; women who enjoy art usually enjoy their lives as well. The passion they have brought into their lives and families (from art) would definitely make them a better person.

Q:  Please use a few simple sentences to describe your experience and understanding of the scene of contemporary Chinese art.
A: I believe in the art market in China, so do the Chinese artists. I would love to help them build bridges to facilitate communication and also ‘import’ wonderful art from outside the country.

Q: What’s your favorite color?
A: Red.

Weng Ling

Weng Ling

Weng Ling, Founder and director of Beijing Center for Arts.

Ling was the inaugural director of the Gallery of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, which was the first exhibition space to show contemporary Chinese art in a major city of Mainland China. In 2001, Ling curated a traveling exhibition called “Towards a New Image: Twenty Years of Chinese Contemporary Painting—1981 to 2001,” which featured 20 of China’s leading contemporary painters.

A year later, Ling became gallery director at the Shanghai Gallery of Art, where she aided in curating the first Shanghai Biennale. In 2007, she founded Beijing Center for Arts.

Her television interview show, Arts China, has become a forum and an archive for art and culture. During this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong, she announced the establishment of Arts China Union, a platform aiming to promote the concept of “art as a force for social change.”

Q:  What does being a woman mean to you?
A: Working with arts, I think that being a woman has more advantages than men. For instance, women tend to have less pressure on pursuing for fame, less urgent in fighting for success, and not so fuss about what they had given out through the process, which could certainly help us maintain our dream and high standard from the very beginning.

Q:  Do you have any advice for young ladies who have just entered the field of contemporary art?
A: Broader your view and don’t be narcissistic. You need to cultivate and practice your appreciation on art through different cultures and subjects. I hope they could better communicate with their predecessors, like those artists from my generation. Because we have been through the whole establishment and development of contemporary Chinese art since its very beginning to the present day—where we participate and play an important role on the international stage.

Q:  Please use a few simple sentences to describe your experience and understanding of the scene of contemporary Chinese art.
A: Contemporary Chinese art has been through 30 years of ups and downs, and it has been developed and transformed so rapidly like the Chinese society. However the art world has never got out of its tiny circle. In fact, every single field is facing a bottleneck for further development. Therefore, artists need to learn how to understand and keep up with the future demand of our world, and be self-conscious on their responsibility and ability. If limiting oneself within a tiny circle by commercial and academic benefits, one could easily fall into a dead end. I have been extending my circle out of contemporary Chinese art in many different ways including my social habits, thinking modes, and executive creations. I am very much enjoying my current status.

Q:  What’s your favorite color?
A: Black, white, red and green. Black and white are my favorite colors when seeing arts, also my favorite colors on fashion. I also enjoy red and green. Red means passion and green represents vigor.

May Xue

May Xue

May Xue, CEO of Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.

After working and studying in Los Angeles, May returned to Beijing in 2007 to work for Cartier, before joining the team at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in 2009 (see . She was recently promoted as the CEO of UCCA.

Q:  What does being a woman mean to you?
A: It means working harder than a man does and you need more endurance and strength, if you are pursuing for any achievements. On the other hand, women also represent family and responsibility.

Q:  Do you have any advice for young ladies who have just entered the field of contemporary art?
A: Congratulations on being an art worker, I hope you can stick with  it. It’s a long and lonely path but worth fighting for.

Q:  Please use a few simple sentences to describe your experience and understanding of the scene of contemporary Chinese art.
A: It was in 2007 when I first encountered with contemporary Chinese art, I still remember that every time I visited an exhibition, the time I spent with the artists were the best. Even until today, I work within the scene, with the pressures and difficulties at work, the only reason that I could still stick to it is my original dream. After going through several austere winters, contemporary art comes to its spring. More and more of my friends are starting to develop their interest and passion on art and what encourages me more is that this is getting more and more common to see in our lives.

Q:  What’s your favorite color?
A: Orange.

Kelly Ying

Kelly Ying

Kelly Ying, Founder of Art021 (see ART021 is the Chinese Fair You Need to Know About) and a private collector.

Ying was born and raised in an art family. Her mother, a child star, was longtime friend of artist Chen Yifei. Originally beginning her career in the fashion industry, Ying served as executive at Modern Media Co. and Condé Nast China. She is the co-founder of the art fair Art021 as well as a major art collector herself.

Q:  What does being a woman mean to you?
A: It is just another gender that parallel with the male gender. In fact, when I consider gender issues, I don’t separate male and female. To talk about female separately, it is indeed considering female from a weaker position. I think of myself as a half-man.

Q:  Do you have any advice for young ladies who have just entered the field of contemporary art?
A: Hard working and diligent are the two most important things that would be meaningful for you.

Q:  Please use a few simple sentences to describe your experience and understanding of the scene of contemporary Chinese art.
A: An interesting community and environment, it is mixed with the new and the classic.

Q:  What’s your favorite color?
A: Black and white.‍

For more on the contemporary art scene in China, see: Who Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Living Chinese Artists at Auction?

For more on women in the art world, see:

The 100 Most Powerful Women in Art: Part One
The 100 Most Powerful Women in Art: Part Two
The 100 Most Powerful Women in Art: Part Three
Who Are the Most Influential Women in the European Art World?
10 Powerful Women Artists Breaking Social Taboos—And Loving It
25 Women Curators Shaking Things Up


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