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Coup de Foudre Chinois, an interesting exhibition to check out at Arsenal in Griffintown

There’s a big storm a brewin’. Can you hear it? It’s rumbling down in Griffintown. It’s got winds blowin’ in from the east, so full of power and fury, they may just knock your socks off.

Arsenal Contemporary Art’s newest exhibition, Coup de Foudre Chinois/Like Thunder Out of China has boldly brought some of the biggest names in Chinese contemporary art to Montreal. Curated by Pia Camilla Copper and Margot Ross, this multi-artist exhibition showcases pieces by the renowned Gao Brothers (shit disturbers extraordinaire), Qiu Jie (the progenitor of Chinese Pop Art), Han Bing (who walks a cabbage like nobody’s business), along with several other key names that, if aren’t familiar to you yet, soon will be.

Qiu Jie, Woman and Leader

Han Bing, Walking the cabbage on Tiannamen Square

Thematically, the works are threaded together by their political charge, with (almost) every photograph, sculpture, painting and scroll veritably shouting its dissent over the prevailing governmental, cultural or societal regimes of China. 

And when the zhishgufenzi (or “intellectuals with thunder and lightning at their heels”) start shouting, you can’t help but sit up and take notice. The mighty-mighty Gao Brothers offer up two in-your-face pieces, in the form of Miss Mao (you can’t miss her) and Double Portrait – Osama Bin Laden. He Yunchang answers the question, “what would popular artist and thorn in Communism’s side Ai Weiwei look like as a swimsuit?” with his provocative piece, Ai Weiwei Swimsuit Print. The acclaimed artist Gu Wenda seems to have a fetish for all things follicular, and lets his freak flag fly with American Flag.

If I have one bone to pick with this exhibit, it is that it seems slightly uneven in terms of actual execution of work (I’m looking at you, Lu FeiFei and Chang Lei). If I have another partial bone to pick, it would be that I wasn’t particularly jazzed about the physical presentation of the collection (regarding positioning, lighting and mounting – why were some of the photographic prints mounted flat and bare to the wall with magnets? Curatorial choice? Request by artist?) But perhaps that is neither here nor there.

All things considered, this is an interesting exhibition to go and see. The bluster, talent and force behind Coup de Foudre Chinois will surely reverberate through Montreal’s art world for months to come.

Coup de Foudre Chinois/Like Thunder Out of China
From January 31 to July 27
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