Yesterday we visited The Tao of Now, the new exhibition of contemporary Chinese art at the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale, and had a very good time. The wonderful bright red pig car whose tongue soars to the ceiling and has another, golden pig and two other figures hanging from its tip – that and other pieces that were in the foyer previously are still there, but the three upper floors have had a complete makeover and the works are as fresh and surprising as the last lot.
As we were chatting over a display catalogue of Qin Fengling’s work, a tall silverhaired woman with a chihuahua on her arm (‘He will bite,’ she said later) joined our conversation, saying, ‘We have her red piece, though not in this exhibition.’ She flipped through the pages and showed us the piece she meant, and then went on to say that the Guggenheim had been interested in it, but she’d beat them to it because she didn’t have to secure a committee’s approval.
Aware of my solemn responsibility as blogger cum citizen journalist, and sharp as a tack as always, I said, ‘You must be … the owner.’ Those three dots represent the moment in which the name ‘Judith Nielson’ didn’t get past the tip of my tongue. She didn’t seem to mind. ‘Not the building,’ she said. ‘That’s my husband. But yes, I own the artworks.’
We chatted for a couple of minutes (there were five or six of us in the room – that citizen journalist thing was definitely a joke), and she said something that explained part of the appeal of the gallery: ‘I never buy something because of the explanation. If I need to read about a work to be able to enjoy it I’m not interested in acquiring it. But once we’ve bought it and have it back here, we have a whole machinery that swings into action to fill in the background.’ and it’s true: whether it’s the motorbike and sidecar crocheted out of bright blue wire, the interactive screens based on classic Chinese watercolour scrolls, or the giant painting of a headless Mongol archer looking out over Tien an Minh square, the works in this exhibition grab the attention first, ask questions later. It’s a bonus that there are attendants on every floor who are keen to raise and answer the questions.
I don’t suppose Ms Neilson and her tiny, dangerous dog are always there, but clearly they sometimes are, as an extra special bonus.