This essay reviews two publications on Chinese contemporary art and its relation to the global through the lens of exhibition histories. The monograph Die chinesische Avantgarde und das Dispositiv der Ausstellung. Konstruktionen chinesischer Gegenwartskunst im Spannungsfeld der Globalisierung (The ‘Chinese avant-garde’ and the exhibition as dispositive. Constructing contemporary Chinese art in the global context) authored by Franziska Koch (2016), and the edited volume Uncooperative Contemporaries: Art Exhibitions in Shanghai in 2000, (2020) published in the Exhibition Histories series by Afterall Books. The former seeks to re-write the history of contemporary Chinese art exhibitions from a transcultural perspective with a particular focus on group exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art in the West. The latter focuses on exhibitions that took place in the wake of China's “global turn in the year 2000. It examines the first international Shanghai biennial and so called “satellite shows,” unofficial exhibitions that took place concurrently with the biennial. Both books examine how Chinese contemporary art's relation to the global has been conceptualized and operated differently at different times, in different yet often transculturally/transnationally entangled locales, socio-political contexts, power structures and geopolitical currents, in different discursive contexts, according to specific political and discursive conditions and agendas, and through various agents and institutions. This essay argue that by shedding light on specific locales, and their transnational and transcultural entanglements, and the various agents involved in the formation of global contemporary Chinese art both publications critically intervene into top-down universalist discourses of the “global contemporary.” Speaking from different positionalities, they seek to complicate narratives and understandings of contemporary global and Chinese art from the bottom-up. Informed by the post-colonial critique of historicism a bottom-up perspective they conceive of global art not as a universalistic concept, but as plural articulations of global contemporaneity conceived as “disjunctive unity,” a shared yet heterogenous present constituted by multiple contemporaneities.

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