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Exploring Kunming's reborn bicycle culture through art

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The art scene in Kunming is blooming lately. So too — just as in most large Chinese cities — has a general love affair with bikes. In terms of the Spring City art scene, it seems there are new spaces popping up all the time, with exhibition opening ceremonies held almost every week. It was maybe an inevitability then that these two trends would converge.

Just such an intersection got underway this Saturday in IWE Art Museum on the Western Hills. More than a hundred people went up to see the opening of Human Driven, a mixed-medium exhibition featuring both local and foreign artists. The gallery set-up and artist recruitment was the work of guest curator Luo Fei (罗菲) — known from his projects at both TCG Nordica and Tai Project.

The original inspiration for the exhibition, according to IWE administrators, was Vera Regina van de Nieuwenhof. Last year she cycled from Holland to Japan, swinging back around west to end her trip in Kunming. When she arrived here, she decided to stay. Following conversations with IWE, Nieuwenhof's idea of a large-scale celebration of cycling would help create this bicycle-oriented exhibition featuring works by more than 50 artists.

Picnic by Tang Zhigang (唐志冈), 150x180cm, oil on canvas 1995
Picnic by Tang Zhigang (唐志冈), 150x180cm, oil on canvas 1995

The focus of Human Driven: An encounter between artistic expression and cycling is to encourage its audience to remain active. The IWE facility is rather large, and for this exhibition, all of its rooms are filled with artworks. Some displays are traditional oil or watercolor paintings, while others are installations featuring TVs playing videos. More works are entirely based on live performances, written words, photography, or created using 3D printers.

Works by several artists who first made names for themselves in the 1990s are also on display. So too are those by what event organizers refer to as 'local foreigners'. Together, the gathered paintings, installations and other exhibits look to celebrate simple and elegant two-wheeled transportation. Human Driven runs until April 15, and entry costs 20 yuan per person.

Images: Anna Novikova

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More bicycles, fewer cars, keep peddling it's good for you.

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