A food safety factory shutdown has Americans hunting for baby formula. Readying themselves for a covid-19 lockdown, Chinese in Beijing emptied store shelves. Emerging from lockdown, some in Shanghai are visiting well-provisioned markets. U.S.-China agricultural trade is booming, but many are still being left hungry. Food security, sustainability and safety remain issues.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will host the exhibition, "Megacities Asia" in the Ann and Graham Gund Gallery.
Monumental sculptures and installations represent the unique urban environments of Beijing, Shanghai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Seoul—Asian “megacities,” with populations of 10 million or more. The artists—some well-known, others emerging—respond to the unprecedented scale and pace of 21st-century South and East Asian urban life by gathering and arranging everyday objects, using the city itself as their medium, to create immersive physical experiences that evoke and respond to recent conditions in these Asian metropolises. Their large-scale works appear in indoor and outdoor spaces throughout the Museum, reflecting critical issues including rural-to-urban migration, consumption, construction, and pollution—while celebrating the vibrancy of today’s urban environment.
From the endless stream of migrants in densely packed Mumbai, to the bicycles that until recently filled the streets of Beijing, works by Hema Upadhyay and Ai Weiwei evoke the constant motion that characterizes emerging megacities.
Urban consumption is at the heart of Take off your shoes and wash your hands (2008) by Delhi’s Subodh Gupta: a wall of stainless-steel utensils found in urban Indian kitchens. Gupta’s first outdoor commission in the US, a 10,000-pound stainless-steel bucket will be installed on the Museum’s Huntington Avenue lawn.
Choi Jeong Hwa finds beauty and grandeur in urban appetites, with an installation comprised of cheap plastic objects from markets and 99-cent stores, while Delhi’s Asim Waqif and South Korea’s artist collective flyingCity are inspired by the rapid building that surrounds them—from the ubiquitous bamboo scaffolding of construction projects, to the metal parts churned out by machinists in central Seoul trying to compete in a globalizing market.
Aaditi Joshi amasses plastic bags on which Mumbai retail relies, finding beauty in them despite the enviromental threat discarded bags pose, and Beijing’s Yin Xiuzhen alters rubble left behind by waves of demolition around her city. Using cast aside historic objects as new construction dominates their cities, Song Dong creates interactive architectural sculptures that recall how Beijing families once ingeniously extended their cramped living spaces into rooftop pigeon coops, while Shanghai-based Hu Xiangcheng’s constructions find life in windows and doors salvaged from dismantled Ming- and Qing-era houses. Seoul’s Han Seok Hyun creates an undulating landscape of green products in Super-Natural (2011)—using bottles of rice wine and packages of dishwashing detergent—to ask how his city’s growing environmental consciousness can be reconciled with its ever advancing urban development.
The exhibition will be presented with support from the Korea Foundation.