Whew. As David Burge said the other day, we put a "global pincer movement" on the watercolor world last week: my wife Olga at the Shanghai Zhujiajiao International Watercolor Biennial Exhibition, and I was in Hendersonville, NC for the Kanuga Watercolor Workshop (Kanuga post to follow soon). See earlier post about judging the Shanghai exhibition HERE. More photos from the opening and links to artists will be added as I get them.
More pics added today! (April 23) Six photos courtesy Javier Oña -- see much more on Javier's blog HERE.
I was not able to make the opening, so Olga represented me and had a fabulous time. Before all of the events, she went into Shanghai with Alvaro Castagnet and his lovely wife Ana, accompanied by my friend (who is also a very good artist), Jin Xin. They checked out the Bund and historic Yu Gardens.
The other judges -- Ong Kim Seng, David Taylor, David Paskett, Changjiang Wu, Tieshan Huang, Weixin Wang, Jian Chen, and Xidan Chen -- reconvened, along with many of the award winners from the world over. I'm familiar with all from the international field, but I'm very sorry not to have had the chance to meet the Chinese artists, the majority of whom are unknown in the West. I think this will change as a result of the exhibition, and there are two or three dozen who are simply mindblowing. It's tempting to post some of their paintings (I took lots of photos while judging in March), but its best to see them reproduced so beautifully in the book (see below).
There was a dinner the night before the opening in a private dining room of the 5-star Royal Tulip Garden Hotel where many toasts and friendships were made amidst a gourmet feast of Chinese cuisine. Olga was overwhelmed by the hospitality and attention paid her, which comes as no surprise following my visit. These people not only embrace those of us from the West, they have a profound respect and admiration for watercolor. As an artist, it's a wonderful feeling that borders on celebrity and I'm sure we all could get used to that!
The next day, April 15, involved a tour of the Zhujiajiao district and another spectacular lunch before the opening. The hotel hosted a reception and press conference with the media, and many speeches were made for the exhibition and its future as the most important watercolor event in the world. 2.5 million visitors are expected in the Quanhua Gallery during the Expo. The Chinese government has officially committed to supporting it for a long time, based on the success of this inaugural show.
At the Quanhua Gallery, guests saw 244 paintings selected out of approximately 25oo entries from over 2000 artists, representing 19 countries. 15 equal awards of excellence were granted. The judges are also displaying work. Everything has been gorgeously framed at no cost to the artists. The winners, in addition to prize money and having their work inducted into the Quanhua permanent collection, were also flown to Shanghai and stayed at the Royal Tulip Garden. I'm quite sure there isn't another watercolor organization in the world that does this -- they spared no expense!
International field award winners (6): Xiaochang Zhang, Alvaro Castagnet, Brian Stratton, John Salminen, Mark Mehaffey. Joseph Zbukvic was unable to attend.
Award winners from China (9)were Yongjin Chen, Wei Hou, Zhenwen Jiang, Changshou Wang, Weicai Wang, Yong Wang, Zhoutian Xue, Xiao Yang, Jitong Zhao. (unfortunately, I'm unsure of who's who in the photos)
A string quartet played at the gallery, and a dedication ceremony preceded the awards. Chinese girls in traditional costumes attended, and thousands of photographs were taken of the artists and judges. In this respect, it was probably better to have Olga there than yours truly, ha. A formal banquet followed at the hotel where more speeches were made, and endless toasts offered.
There is no way to adequately thank the people responsible for this huge shot in the arm that watercolor sorely needed, nor to thank all of them. However, the biennial would not have been possible without the organization and leadership of Liu Dawei, Chao Weilin, Gao Kang, Wu Changjiang, Zhang Guohong, Liu Jian, Huang Tieshan, Yang Jinsong, Sun Ping, Ding Jie, Wang Weixin, Liu Yaping, Liu Shouziang, Guan Weixing, Chen Jian, Zhou Gang, Qu Huimin, Tao Shihu, Gu Jun, Cao Weiming, Jiang Zhinan, and Ong Kim Seng.
Corporate sponsors include Artron, L' Art de L' Aquarelle, Canson, International Artist, and EMS.
Special thanks go to Zhang Guo Hong, Governor of the Qingpu District of Shanghai, and Qianlin Lu, CEO of Shanghai Zhujiajiao Investment & Development Co., Ltd. And the whole thing would never have happened if not dreamed up by Xidan Chen, esteemed Chinese watercolorist who lobbied for money and support. Last but certainly not least, I want to extend my gratitude to Xidan's daughter, JoJo, without whose tireless organizational efforts, liasion with the international field, and impressive translating talents, the exhibition would not have run so smoothly. Thank you Xidan and JoJo, I can't wait to return and see you again!
The exhibition book is incredible -- easily the most stunning collection of watercolor art I've ever seen in one place. This sets the standard for all other watercolor exhibitions and catalogs. 275 pages, printed on high quality paper, and very accurate color reproductions of every painting in the exhibition. There is also a small abridged version and a book of postcards. The book can be ordered from this link, and for a limited time, they are including the latest issue of The Art of Watercolor (English edition of l' Art de l' Aquarelle) which has a spread on the exhibition and also wonderful features on Shanghai exhibitors Janine Gallizia, David Poxon, and Guan Weixing.