Behind the Scenes at the Guggenheim
02:27 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: This is part of CNN Style’s coverage on “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.” The exhibition will be shown at the Guggenheim Museum Oct. 6, 2017 to Jan. 7, 2018.

New York, New York CNN  — 

Step inside the installation of “Art in China after 1989: Theater of the World,” at New York’s iconic museum.

This week, New York’s Guggenheim museum opens “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” an exhibition highlighting the experimental and controversial works of more than 70 Chinese collectives and artists, most of which were created between 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square protests and 2008, the year of the Beijing Olympics, widely seen as China’s coming out party.

“I think the most important distinguishing factor of this exhibition is that its starting point is not the beginning of art in China. It’s rather the moment at which art in China becomes an implicitly global phenomenon,” said Philip Tinari, one of the exhibition’s curators.

"New Beijing" by Wang Xingwei (2001)

Tinari references 1989’s important historical events, “Tiananmen … the year that the Cold War begins to end, the year that globalization as we know it starts to unfold,” but also points to pivotal art exhibitions.

“There was a major exhibition (“1989 China Avant-Garde”) at the National Art Museum in Beijing, which sort of marked the end of the ’80s as a decade of experimentation and just a few weeks later, an exhibition in Paris (“Magiciens de la Terre”) held at the Centre Pompidou, which understood itself as the first global exhibition of contemporary art and included several Chinese artists.

“It’s really from this moment onward that you have artists from China thinking and working in an international context. We wanted to think about what that means for China, but also for the broader world of contemporary art.”

The show will include more than 150 works and several large installations, such as Chen Zhen’s “Precipitous Parturition” (1999), a 65-foot ‘dragon’ made of metal and bicycle parts, suspended over the museum’s rotunda.

Another large installation, Huang Yong Ping’s “Theater of the World” (1993), will be shown, though in a stripped back format. The work – which was to involve live reptiles and scorpions devouring each other throughout the course of the show – was one of three pulled from the final show due to threats by animal rights groups.

The cage-like structure will remain but without the animals.

Installation view.

With the global spotlight increasingly focused on China, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World” offers insight into some of the most transformative periods in modern Chinese history.

“It’s a very diverse show,” said Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. “I think that what you see in the world of art is an indirect expression (of) the sort of sentiments that are animating society, and what you see (here) is a tremendously disparate set of works with lots of chaotic, dissimilar takes on the world.

“A large number (of these artists) don’t want to be identified as just Chinese artists, in this ghettoized world of national art. They want to be viewed as global artists, to jump the fence of Chinese culturalism.”

Watch the video above for a 360-degree virtual reality tour of the exhibition.

Video by Alex Segal, CNN and Niko Koppel, CNN