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Weekly Watchlist: Five Artists Respond to Beijing’s Dizzying Transformation

New episode this Friday: “Beijing”

Tune in or stream starting at 10:00 p.m. ET

The latest season of Art in the Twenty-First Century continues this Friday with the second of three new episodes.

“Beijing” airs Friday starting at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).

Full episodes can be streamed from the PBS Video app. Full artist segments can be streamed from Art21.org and Art21.live.

Amid Beijing’s dizzying economic, urban, and cultural transformation, four artists respond to the region’s relentless evolution with urgency and ambition, all the while contending with many centuries of Chinese cultural traditions.

“Beijing” features artists Guan Xiao, Liu Xiaodong, Song Dong, Xu Bing, and Yin Xiuzhen.

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Last Friday’s season premiere episode, “London,” is now streaming. The season finale, “Borderlands,” airs next Friday. See the episode guide for details on the new season.

Deepen your connection to Art21

Five films to watch ahead of “Beijing”

Cao Fei in “Fantasy”

Applying strategies of sampling, role play, and documentary filmmaking to capture individuals’ longings and the ways in which they imagine themselves, Cao Fei reveals the discrepancy between reality and dream, and the discontent and disillusionment of China’s younger generation.

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Yun-Fei Ji with Kerry James Marshall at Prospect.3

Using traditional Chinese painting techniques and addressing contemporary social, environmental, and political issues, Yun-Fei Ji’s work marries history with the present. “I’m making it because I’m so troubled by what’s going on,” said Ji, describing one of his painted scrolls. “So many Chinese villages are dying—they’re disappearing.”

Ai Weiwei in “Change”

An outspoken human rights activist, Ai Weiwei infuses his work with political conviction and personal poetry, often making use of recognizable and historic Chinese art forms in critical examinations of a host of contemporary Chinese political and social issues. “The media is the message,” said Ai. “It carries the full intention and the meaning. Once you change it, it is very disturbing.”

Lynda Benglis in “Boundaries”

A pioneer of a form of abstraction in which each work is the result of materials in action, Lynda Benglis has created sculptures that eschew minimalist reserve in favor of bold colors, sensual lines, and lyrical references to the human body. But her invention of new forms with unorthodox techniques also displays a reverence for cultural references that trace back to antiquity.

Rackstraw Downes in “Balance”

Rackstraw Downes does not think of himself as a landscape painter, but as a painter of his surroundings. Created en plein air, his panoramic compositions feature horizons that bend according to the way the eye naturally perceives.

Event: Screening and conversation with Guan Xiao

Join Art21, in partnership with Asia Art Archive in America, for a special digital screening and conversation with artist Guan Xiao.

The event takes place via Zoom on Wednesday, October 7, at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Following a screening of the artist’s segment from the forthcoming “Beijing” episode, the artist will be joined by Weng Xiaoyu, associate curator, Guggenheim Museum, for a conversation and Q&A.

The program will be conducted in English and Mandarin, with English translation.

Admission is free, but advance registration is required. Details will be sent with registration.

Register now.

Screen the new season with your community

Screening Society is an international free screening initiative created to increase knowledge of contemporary art, spark dialogue, and inspire creative thinking for a global audience.

For the 2020 edition—reimagined as a digital-first experience—Art21 invites a wide variety of partners such as schools, universities, libraries, museums, nonprofit organizations, galleries, arts and cultural spaces, community centers, and more to host screenings from the latest season that are free and open to the public.

Visit Screening Society to learn how to host or attend a screening.

Thank you for supporting our work

More than ever, online access to the lives and stories of artists is crucial, and Art21 is proud to share them with welcome an ever-growing number of visitors including students, teachers, parents, and art enthusiasts alike from around the globe. If you are able at this time, please consider supporting the work of Art21. Every dollar makes a difference.