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A visitor looks at the painting "Purple Air O" made by Chinese artist Lui Wei, in the inaugural exhibition of the winners of the 2008 Chinese Contemporary Art Awards Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Photo: EFE / Oliver Weiken.

BEIJING.- Being announced in January and first presented last September in Shanghai Bund 18, The 2008 Chinese Contemporary Art Awards exhibition now opens at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. The exhibition features important and recent works by the 2008 CCAA awarded artists: Liu Wei, Tseng Yu-Chin, and Ai Weiwei.

The Chinese Contemporary Art Awards were founded by Uli Sigg in 1997 as a nonprofit entity to enhance the position of Chinese contemporary art both domestically and internationally. With the growth of the art market in the ensuing decade, the purpose of the awards has shifted to emphasize a critical position on the conversation over what constitutes meaningful art in current Chinese production. In the words of Uli Sigg, "The market is today the dominant force to validate artworks. To balance and enrich this debate, an institution such as the CCAA plays an important role." The awards offer a platform for artists to become recognized on the world stage and allow foreign curators to identify some of the most interesting art in greater China.

"We are really proud to present CCAA at UCCA. In showing the 2008 awarded artists, UCCA is committed to the future of Chinese art and recognizes its value beyond market forces", said Jerome Sans, UCCA director.

Liu Wei, Ai Weiwei, Tseng Yu-Chin were selected by a jury committee consisting of Hou Hanru, Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs and Chair of Exhibitions and Museum Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute; Ken Lum, Canadian artist of Chinese heritage who has received a Guggenheim fellowship, enjoyed a career in education, and been invited to many major exhibition; Gu Zhenqing, curator and critic in charge of the recently opened gallery Li Space; Chris Dercon, director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich; Ruth Noack, curator of Documenta 12; Huang Du, independent curator and critic who curated the sixth Shanghai Biennale; and Uli Sigg, founder of CCAA. These esteemed critics, artists, and curators took as their criteria the display of original and unique talent in artistic creation. This academic criteria should help stimulate debate over the concept of artistic value in the currently booming art market. The exhibition of the winning artists works will be accompanied by a publication written by Pauline Yao, who received the newly-established Chinese Contemporary Art Award for independent art criticism in 2008.

Liu Wei, recognized for the Best Artist award, challenges the limitations of experience and the standard of discourse implied by the language of international contemporary art. His installation and conceptual work has achieved great success in terms of representing China in the international art scene. In his experiments, he continually revises his system of artistic production and methodically interrogates that which most artists take for granted. He has shaken our understandings of both the definition of contemporary art and the role played by the exhibition in this system. Liu Wei does not fear failure, and often begins again after unsatisfactory projects. In this way, he gestures towards a future beyond the current boom in the Chinese art market against a background of global production and consumption.

Tseng Yu-Chin, recognized for the Best Young Artist award, creates work characterized by a deep and subtle humanism. He is largely concerned with the role of the individual in the context of a changing contemporary society, especially in terms of the perceived demise of traditional configurations of community and family; his practice, however, is also filled with hope and redemption. His films and videos are in turns compassionate and voyeuristic, pushing depiction of his subjects almost to a point of representational crisis. In this way, he pays homage to the pioneering video art of Zhang Peili while developing towards a unique aesthetic voice. These pieces often appear as video vignettes borrowed from a particular model of Taiwanese cinema, allowing his work to act as a bridge between the changing modernities of mainland China and Taiwan, where he is based.

Ai Weiwei is recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Perhaps no artist has mirrored the volatile and challenging history of Chinese contemporary art more deeply and accurately than Ai Weiwei. His work has transcended the category of contemporary art and penetrated the very heart of Chinese society, engaging with China's complex social and political dynamics and contributing to its radically changing architectural and designed spaces. His multivalent contributions have made Ai Weiwei a reference point for any student who desires to gain an understanding of the present situation of Chinese contemporary art and culture.