Representing Beijing: Billy Tang and Qu Kejie of Magician Space on exhibiting in London
Tell us about where you’re based in Beijing.
Our gallery is located in the 798 Art Zone district in Beijing, a decommissioned military factory partly designed by the East Germans using a bauhaus-influenced approach. The building we occupy is smaller than the epic sized spaces some people are used to. It was important for us to try to allow the artworks themselves to dictate how the space functions - sometimes with large spaces it can be the other way around.
How did you choose the gallery’s name?
It’s hard to explain – it plays with the English meaning and the phonetic translation into Chinese characters. In Chinese, there is an allusion to alchemy: of distilling or refining materials to discover something like gold. So it’s philosophical and proto-scientific. Of course in English there's the idea of things appearing or being conjured up in front of your eyes.
How would you describe the gallery's programme?
The programme is cross-generational in approach and looks to cultivate a dialogue with different contexts that travel internationally. We look for “blind spots” in the way contemporary art has develop in China, and from there, try to find ways to connect our artists with new audiences.
What are you presenting at Focus?
It’s a curated presentation by Liu Chuang and will be the first time his work is shown in a solo context in the UK. He’s a conceptual artist dealing with modernity in China, especially as it has unfolded following after the 1980 and the Open Door policy. It will involve many layers across the stand - sculpture, an animation work, and an installation. The underlying theme is an ancient Chinese symbol that somehow survives through eras by adapting itself across different carriers: the artist researches its reappearance in a popular Chinese animation from the ‘80s. The form of the symbol is also mirrored in a pattern weaved into the frame of a metal chair, and porcelain vessels double as flickering electric lights.
It can be a big undertaking to participate in a fair in London for a gallery so far away…
It feels good to be representing the gallery scene in Beijing - a city where most of the emerging and established Chinese artists live and have their studios. The Focus section allows attention – for us, an opportunity to give a dedicated space for people to immerse themselves in the richer narrative of Liu Chuang's wider practice.
Are there any other galleries in the section you look forward to seeing?
We’re looking forward to seeing the whole thing – we’re curious about how the other galleries manage to express their artists' work within the spatial dimensions of the Focus stand.
What else around London do you plan to do during Frieze Week?
Catching up with our friends at Bao and their new restaurant; eating the small dishes at Koya or Morito; late dinners in Chinatown; and finding a great London pub too. In terms of art: very curious to see Cabinet's new space, and I find the ethos of Cubitt Space very inspiring. Also I have enjoyed every show I have been to at Rodeo and look forward to the exhibition they have at the moment.
What are you currently showing in Beijing?
Our second solo exhibition with artist Jiang Zhi, whose practice developed out of the historic ‘Post-Sense, Sensibility’ exhibition in 1999, and for our gallery has created a touching moving-image installation.
Magician Space is exhibiting in Focus at Frieze London