|French Concession Shanghai, photo LG|
|Bicycle Repairs, Shanghai, Photo LG|
My most memorable Chinese hotel experience was in Beijing, in the winter of 2012, at a supposedly swanky "art hotel" (now closed, and no wonder!) I had begun to think I was the only guest, when on my second night at about 11.00pm there was an almighty noise of thundering feet and shouting in the corridor, and then a loud banging on my door. Imagine my astonishment when I looked through the peephole to find a young Chinese man, stark naked, beating the door with both fists. Later, safely home again, I told a gay friend this story and he said, "Give me the name of this hotel immediately!" I, however, was a little alarmed. I called the reception fuwuyuan, who said with apparent resignation, "Oh Miss, what we can do? He drink too much!" I suggested that perhaps in fact they they did need to do something, anything, anything at all! whereupon the manager rang back and told me they would move me to another floor. There was nothing to be done about Mr Naked Guy. Reluctantly I agreed, and waited for the manager to accompany me. He knocked on the door, I opened it, and together we stepped over the naked body of the man who was now completely comatose, lying stretched out across my doorway. The incident was never mentioned again for the rest of my stay. (Except when I told my translator, who refused point blank to believe that it could possibly have been a Chinese man - he told me I must be mistaken, as only a "waiguoren", a foreigner, would behave so badly.)
A more ludicrous (and less amusing) Chinese hotel experience happened in Xi'an, where I sent some clothes to the laundry and then waited for their return. And waited. When I rang reception they were most apologetic and concerned. A farce ensued, where I received knock after knock on my door, with staff from the laundry bearing ever more preposterous items of clothing and attempting to persuade me they were mine: mens' leather jackets, assorted tiny dresses for tiny Chinese ladies, and enormous jeans for enormous men. It culminated around midnight, with a staff member who simply could not accept that a sequin-covered blue suit (think Xi Jinping's wife on a state occasion) was not in fact mine. He became argumentative and kept trying to shove it at me through the door, which I eventually closed in his face. I never did get my best David Jones blue sweater back.
And of course, there are the two most bizarre experiences of all: the "Art Hotel'' in Chengdu where I discovered to my surprise - and horror - that I was expected to make a speech at the opening of an exhibition of an Australian and Sichuan artist. With about two hours to write it and have it translated, and with no fancy clothes in my overnight bag (perhaps I should have taken that sparkly suit after all!) I fronted up and discovered that my speech was to follow the local Party chiefs, the Chengdu Art Academy bigwigs, and the Australian Ambassador. I was introduced as a "famous Australian art critic" (ha!) and began in Chinese with an apology for my poor language skills. The artist's son then translated my speech line by line. I began to see my entire life flashing before my eyes as time seemed to stop and then go backwards. Dripping with sweat, I ploughed gamely on, filmed by three local television stations - thank God nobody is ever likely to see that footage.
But the honours for first place must go to the "Vineyard"- and I use those inverted commas advisedly - about two hours out of Xi'an, where I was taken to see an artist's work. My lunch with the artist, a property developer, and a returned Chinese movie producer from Hollywood is a story for another time. I will just say that the wine, the wisteria and even the fields of grapes stretching into the distance are all fake. The local farmers have been persuaded to stop growing corn and vegetables and instead grow table grapes so that wealthy city people can come on weekends and go grape picking and stay in the "chateaux". Truly a Marie-Antoinette at Le Petit Trianon experience.
|Yang Fudong, still from video at Yuz Museum|
|Xu Zhen, Guanyin and 'Shanghart Art Supermarket' at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2014, Photo LG|
|Xu Zhen Éternity' at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing 2014|
|With Lu XInjian in front of one of his "City DNA" series|
|Chen Zhen Purification Room, 2000 - 2015, found objects, clay, photo LG|
|Chen Zhen, Crystal Landscape of Inner Body, 2000, crystal, iron, glass, photo LG|
|Yang Fudong, still from video work, Yuz Museum|
|Lin Ran "Lesbos Island" - traditional Chinese medicine cabinet with drawers "filled with gifts and mementoes given to the artist by lesbians" at Pearl Lam Gallery Shanghai photo LG|
|Zhou Fan, Mountain #0003, 2014, Acrylic ink and mineral color on paper, 38.3 x 56.7 cm image courtesy the artist and Art Labor Gallery|