Alvin Li

  • Tama River, Tokyo, 2020. Photo: Du Keke.

    Where we’re at: Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, New Delhi


    BLACK MAOISM was a real thing. Recently I’ve been thinking about what that means in China today.

    Radical histories of Blackness in China are rarely part of mainstream discussions on Afro-Asian solidarity on either side of the Pacific, yet those very legacies explain why Shirley Graham Du Bois is buried in Beijing’s Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, China’s illustrious burial ground for its national heroes.

    I’ve recently found access to these histories through the Department of Xenogenesis, a series of pedagogical dialogues organized on Zoom by the Otolith Group. Kodwo Eshun

  • Taipei Dangdai x Taipei 101 commission by Michael Lin. Photo: Taipei Dangdai.
    diary January 24, 2020

    Wanderer’s Love

    LANDING AT TPE ON JANUARY 16, just five days after Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen’s triumphant reelection, I was ready for a jollier mood than what had loomed over the capital during my last trip. That was during the Taipei Biennial two years ago, when I witnessed the Democratic Progressive Party’s defeat in the local elections, followed by Tsai’s resignation as the party leader. Now, on my ride to the hotel, I immersed myself in the view outside. The beauty of Taipei’s built environment—rows of slightly worn office buildings elbowing restaurants, Japanese lettering against the backdrop of a

  • Artists Bradd, Tamarra, Radha, Sunpride founder Patrick Sun, Ming Wong, Josh Serafin, and Amadiva. Photo: John Tain.
    diary December 05, 2019

    Love of Siam

    I LANDED IN BANGKOK in the midst of an identity crisis: Having lost my Chinese ID just before the Singapore Biennial, I realized my original itinerary was out the window. I had planned to travel from Shanghai to Thailand via Singapore, but now I could no longer apply for a tourist visa to enter the Lion City at all. And so I vacationed through the more visa-lenient nations of Indonesia and the Philippines, finally touching down in Bangkok the night before the opening of the second “Spectrosynthesis”—a queer art exhibition series initiated by the Hong Kong–based Sunpride Foundation, this time

  • Artists Tao Hui and Yi Xin Tong.
    diary November 18, 2019

    Happy Together

    THERE’S AN OLD CHINESE SAYING, “Food is the heaven of the people.” As it happens, one of the things I most look forward to during art week, anywhere in the world, is the immoderate free dinners. This time, the slew of feasts in Shanghai kicked off with a private dinner put on by Hyundai to celebrate their partnership with the Yuz Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This, I was told, would be the only meal all week to have both LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan and Yuz Museum founder Budi Tek in attendance.

    Monday, 7:30 PM sharp: I arrived at Bloom, a chic open-kitchen bistro known

  • Hardworking Goodlooking’s Clara Balaguer during her workshop Pirate Deep Listening. Unless noted, all photos: Alvin Li.
    diary January 22, 2019

    Smize Demise

    ONCE UPON A TIME, for most of the art cognoscenti, Hong Kong resembled a Wong Kar-wai film still. Then Art Basel happened. So it was all the more exciting to visit the city for a brand-new occasion: the inaugural edition of Booked, launched by Tai Kwun Contemporary. Since officially opening its doors to the public this past June, Tai Kwun, which is housed in the Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts—a major redevelopment project in the former Central Police Station backed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club—has welcomed more than a million people. According to the museum’s statistics, one-fifth

  • Artist Oscar Murillo, Ute Meta Bauer, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Photo: Robin Peckham. All other photos: Alvin Li.
    diary November 16, 2018

    Play Safe

    THE WARDROBE OF SMALL TALK must be continually refreshed; this year, during Shanghai’s unofficial art week, the once voguish ice-breaker of comparing Shanghai to Beijing proved suddenly démodé. China’s capital came up only once, during a dinner with artists Margaret Lee and Allison Katz: Margaret had just returned from a trip there, while Allison was anticipating her first visit. Symbolically, Beijing-based Philip Tinari didn’t come to Shanghai. Despite his sensible reasoning (“to attend the opening of the China show at SFMOMA and the David Diao catalogue launch in New York,” he told me two

  • View of “Crush.”
    picks November 14, 2018


    Gathering works by seventeen artists and groups, “Crush” reckons with the social forces that keep us hooked on love’s ambivalence, and reconsiders the place of negative emotions often associated with love in contemporary life. In the paintings Rave On and Demonstration, both 2015, Sarah Lai pictures celebrity tattoos and retouched skin on skin-toned wallpapers made of blown-up Instagram screenshots and beauty tutorial stills to call attention to the plasticity of intimacy in our hyper-mediatized culture. Elsewhere, the exhibition relates pathologized passions to the persecution of disenfranchised