museum in progress presents "The New Angel" by Cao Fei as the 25th “Safety Curtain” at the Vienna State Opera


Cao Fei, The New Angel, 2022. Installation View, Safety Curtain, museum in progress, Vienna State Opera, 2022-23. Courtesy of Cao Fei, Vitamin Creative Space and Spruth Magers..jpg

Cao Fei, The New Angel, 2022. Installation View, "Safety Curtain", museum in progress, Vienna State Opera, 2022/23. Courtesy of Cao Fei, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers. ©museum in progress and Cao Fei. 

“My digital avatar China Tracy lives in the virtual world. In the opera house, the huge portrait resembles a quiet sculpture. China Tracy is silent and compassionate, as a Buddha statue. She silently observes the real world through the heavy layer of the stage curtain, without giving any answer.” Cao Fei

museum in progress is proud to present the 25th “Safety Curtain” at the Vienna State Opera: The New Angel by Cao Fei.

“Safety Curtain” is an exhibition series conceived by museum in progress, which has been transforming the safety curtain of the Vienna State Opera House into an exhibition space for contemporary art since 1998. The jury (currently: Daniel Birnbaum, Bice Curiger and Hans Ulrich Obrist) selects the artists whose 176-square-metre works are presented at the State Opera for one season and can be seen by more than 600,000 visitors. Previous artists include Tauba Auerbach, Thomas Bayrle, David Hockney, Martha Jungwirth, Jeff Koons, Maria Lassnig, Beatriz Milhazes, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Rosemarie Trockel, Cy Twombly, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and others.

On the occasion of the “Safety Curtain” project, a signed edition by Cao Fei (C-print behind acrylic glass) was published by museum in progress. This edition is part of a number of extraordinary editions that museum in progress has realised with artists such as Alighiero e Boetti, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Joan Jonas, Peter Kogler, Beatriz Milhazes, Olaf Nicolai and Carrie Mae Weems.


Cao Fei, The New Angel, 2022. Installation View, "Safety Curtain", museum in progress, Vienna State Opera, 2022/23. Courtesy of Cao Fei, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers. ©museum in progress and Cao Fei.

Venus Lau about The New Angel by Cao Fei:

“A face appears in the proscenium. This face belongs to ‘China Tracy’—artist Cao Fei’s avatar, the mirror image of her alter ego. China Tracy’s digital dermis gathers the visual stereotypes of a ‘female warrior’. Even so, China Tracy is not born to fight, nor is she an ‘honest’ simulation of Cao Fei in real life. After all, she was created in Second Life, which is a virtual world without plots, choreographed actions nor missions, neither gravity (you can adjust it) nor (even virtual) death are certain. As a ‘resident’ of such virtual realm, China Tracy wanders in the user-content-driven virtual world, drifting and teleporting between numerous virtual cities, embodying an experience outside conventional spatial dimensions. China Tracy’s embodied experience was transformed by Cao Fei into a (computer-graphics-engine-based) machinima video entitled iMirror, which premiered at the 52th Venice Biennale, where audiences interacted with China Tracy in a multi-domed, inflatable pavilion, gazing at each other at the relative cavity between the virtual and actual.

The creation of China Tracy annunciated the birth of RMB City (2009–2011), a virtual city built by Cao Fei in Second Life that collages the fragments of Chinese urbanscapes onto a virtual platform, weaving the scraps of speedy urbanization in real life into a multi-point perspective scroll. It condenses China’s landmarks, urban spaces, and social realities that interweave exceptions, exclusions, incongruities, and contradictions. RMB City officially closed in 2011, since then it vanished on Second Life and became an invisible city haunting with images and texts on the Internet and exhibition copies in museums. China Tracy has not yet made her exit, existing as the Cheng Huang (the protective god of ancient Chinese cities) of RMB City, holding a two-way mirror between the actual and virtual, denoting and connecting the two coexisting realms. China Tracy is a new angel of our time, envisaging the eternal present where events appear, burgeon, and collapse simultaneously in real-time communications; while being pushed to the dark void where the speculative futures, embodied by the bygone RMB City, have not yet come to light.”

The exhibition series “Safety Curtain” is a project of museum in progress in cooperation with the Vienna State Opera and the Bundestheater-Holding.

Courtesy of Cao Fei, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers. ©museum in progress and Cao Fei.