ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, 09|17|2011 – 02|05|2012
Room of Histories

Face the Facts: 1989 & the Arts


Art in America, July 1989, The Global Issue. The issue included statements of 14 artists about the 'advent of a new global

post-modern visual culture'. Magazine cover scan.

When reviewing the events of the year 1989, a great number of images spring to mind: perhaps it is the day when Günter Schabowski accidentally declared the Berlin Wall open, or the uprising in South Africa prior to the reforms that led to the collapse of the apartheid regime. One could not but think of the end of the Cold War, and there may even be a few who recall Nintendo’s release of the first GAME BOY. But who has ever considered the year 1989 as a turning point for the arts?

Let us take a brief look back to the year 1989: in February, just a few months prior to the military crackdown on the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protesters, Chinese artist Xiao Lu, fired a gunshot at her installation entitled Dialogue on show at the exhibition China/Avant-Garde in Beijing. Xiao Lu thus gave voice to a form of contemporary art that was not rooted in western Modernism. Moreover, in May of the same year, the Centre Pompidou in Paris opened the exhibition Magiciens de la Terre. For the first time works by artists from countries such as Haiti, India, Madagascar, Australia and South Africa were displayed alongside their counterparts from the main art centers. The exhibition included a series of works that, previously, would have been labeled ‘World Art’ and confined to ethnographic museums. Although the exhibition was controversial, it was the first attempt by a major art institution in the West to open the eye and the mind to a truly global art. Finally, in November the exhibition The Other Story opened in London, pointing to the contribution of Afro-Indian artists to British modern art, despite being forgotten by official historiography. The exhibition was curated by Pakistani artist Rasheed Areen, whose Third Text Journal had already begun rewriting art history from a ‘Third World’ perspective, in 1987.

This series of events pointed to the development of a new global geography of art which was to lay the foundation for the contemporaray multi-voiced and multi-centered art world. But was it really that easy – or might this be only half the story? Find out more at the Room of Histories at the exhibition The Global Contemporary. Art Worlds After 1989.



Kirstie | 2011-09-02 19:41
0 #1
It's interesting that the terms "contemporary art" and “global art” are used synonymously most of the time ... The term global art was circulating before 1989, by the way. See for example: "Global Art Fusion" (1985) by Joseph, Warhol and Higashiyama.

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