Posted on September 16, 2011
Interview with curator and critic Carol Yinghua Lu
Published July 23, 2011
I remember getting to know Carol Lu at a small dinner party that she and her husband, the artist Liu Ding, hosted at their home in Beijing during the winter of 2005. As I sat at a metallic silver, Regencystyle dining table—which, I later learned, had belonged to the apartment’s previous owners—I watched Carol rush around, welcoming people as they arrived, monitoring the cooking, making sure that bottles of wine were opened, leaping to fetch a book she wanted to show us, and plunging into discussions about the Beijing art scene. I recall noticing at some point that the pleats of her skirt were still sewn together at the hemline. Carol had probably been distracted by something more pressing—perhaps a conversation with Liu Ding, or an essay she was editing—and had prioritized accordingly. It struck me then that this was a woman of action, rather than appearances, engaged by ideas and a sense of possibility, quick to laugh and intensely focused.
Another memory, three years later: Carol was curating the inaugural show for Beijing’s soon-to-open Iberia Center for Contemporary Art. I was working around the corner at another art center, and had been hearing reports that construction on Iberia’s renovated factory space was behind schedule. It was no wonder: the Olympics were upon us, and the 798 Art District looked like a warzone as crews struggled to complete staggering, last-minute beautification projects before the moratorium on building took effect. The grand opening of Iberia—and Carol’s exhibition—was less than a week away. Carol and I decided to meet for coffee nearby. She was unworried and enormous. Nearly nine months pregnant, she showed no signs of fatigue and no interest in slowing down. She offered to take me over to Iberia so that I could get a sense of what she was working on. I held my breath (the baby!) as we struggled to keep our balance, climbing over and through the mountains and valleys of mud that surrounded Iberia’s entrance. Inside, the new art center was striking: well proportioned, beautifully designed, and far from finished. I recall with clarity an image of Carol—surrounded by the deafening buzz of power tools, mud on her shoes, hugely pregnant—undaunted as she showed me where she planned to place the artworks.
It is this tenacity, coupled with her insatiable curiosity, which continues to serve Carol as she forges ahead with increasingly ambitious projects, even if it sometimes seems that she’s pulling the whole ofcontemporary Chinese art behind her.