As Shanghai vies to become the capital of China’s booming contemporary art scene, it’s an exciting place to be connected with – and LOOK Photo Biennial 2019 takes full advantage of the fact. Each edition of the festival sees Open Eye Gallery working with a different exchange country, and this time around, its China, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Liverpool and Shanghai’s official twinship (born out of a long history of trade and migration between the two ports). The headline exhibition Peer to Peer lies right at its heart.
The group show will spotlight the work of 14 photographer/artists based in the UK and China who are deemed on the verge of major international recognition. The selection has been made by 14 influential cultural leaders from each country – including directors and curators at some of China’s most influential international photography galleries and organisations. Peer to Peer will take place at Open Eye Gallery, in the dramatic setting of the St. George’s Hall vaulted basement, and at the Shanghai Centre of Photography.
Among the UK-based artists, we’re particularly excited to see the work of Tumblr photographer Maisie Cousins, who navigates the relationship between the beautiful and the grotesque in her sticky, sweaty, hyper-saturated photographs and videos. Othello De’Souza-Hartley, who creates striking photographs of men that unpick contemporary notions of masculinity and examine how and why men feel compelled to perform a gender role. And French artist Alix Marie, whose work attempts to redefine our relationship with the body – expect to be taken aback by her monumental photographic sculpture Orlando, in which photos of body parts are crumpled and piled up into a large mound of warped body parts.
The six rising Chinese artists include Sun Yanchu, Wu Yue, Fan Xi, Qin Yifeng, Chen Zhe, and Jiang Pengyi, who was included in the recent ‘40 Years of Chinese Contemporary Photograph’ exhibition in Shenzhen. Altogether, Peer to Peer will present an impressive gathering of some of the most promising names working in the UK/China art scene today – and should strongly reflect one of LOOK Biennial 2019’s central themes: the power of images to communicate across borders, technologies and cultures.