Jin Feng. O ką, jei aš. 2000, fotografija
Zhang Linhai. Piemuo. 2002, drobė, aliejus,
Chen Yu. Be pavadinimo 7 AC. 2002,
drobė, aliejus, 170x120
Reflections of the Present Time and Tradition
While Chinese national
cultural policy is becoming more liberal, the Chinese contemporary art
is striking in its intensity, diversity, and overwhelming with the joy
of discovery. China abounds in art academies, which operate not only
in the mega-cities, but also in smaller towns. It is possible to speak
of several key contemporary art centres: Beijing, Shanghai, and historical
capitals, Xiajin, Nanjing and Chengdu, even though not all of these
towns have an equally developed network of art museums and galleries.
There are no large exhibition spaces for showcasing contemporary art
in Nanjing and Xiajin, or private galleries. These both towns keep attracting
visitors by their ancient architecture and the collections of ancient
art. Though Xiajin Art Academy teaches 15.000 students, the town only
has one small art gallery, which belongs to the academy. True, a huge
building is being constructed nearby, a future contemporary art exhibition
The Xiajin Art Academy, like Beijings Academy, provides courses
in traditional Chinese art techniques and oil painting, alongside students
produce new technological media art. Reverence to tradition marries
with curiosity for the new.
In Beijing the situation is different. The capital sees more of Chinese
contemporary art, though exhibition venues still are on short supply.
Shanghai, by contrast, already has a museum of contemporary art, situated
centrally, next to the museum of ancient art. Another, even larger museum
will be opened shortly. Several art magazines are published in Shanghai.
The town has spacious exhibition venues, like the Jingwen Art Centre,
and several contemporary art galleries.
Sponsors and collectors of contemporary art in China are mostly foreigners
as of yet, though some local ones have started to emerge too. The state-supported
Artists Union s still has a key role to play, but there are also
new bodies involved in organizing artistic life, and the number of independent
curators is increasing.
A large number of Chinese art students go to the West to continue studies
and stay there. On the other hand, with positive developments in China
changing the situation, the émigré artists started coming
If Chinese artists are interested in what is going on in the West, the
West is also interested in Chinese art. Contemporary Chinese art is
extensively represented in the largest international Western events;
also, huge specialised shows are being put up. Three such exhibitions,
launched in Germany this past spring and summer, well captured the pace
of contemporary Chinese art. A huge exhibition featuring 40 artists
from all over China was put on in Duisburg, Kuepfersmuehle Museum. The
artists showed painting, photography, video, sculpture and installations
from the past two years, most of the products reflecting the dramatic
changes in the country. Painting and calligraphy in China have kept
the top position in the hierarchy of arts, the exhibition revealed.
The exhibition in the Castle of Oberhausen focused on the relationship
of the present time and tradition. The exhibition featured works from
several collections in Europe and China spanning the period of several
thousand years. Alongside, contemporary works were exhibited, though
the so-called Chinese political pop art of the 80s was dedicated
just a small part of the exhibition. One more, and even more radical
aspect of contemporary Chinese art was presented at Bochums Museum.
It hosted the exhibition of the work of Zhang Huan (b.1964) his
gigantic photographs, documenting his ritual performances capturing
extreme situations of human existence. The artist is making a political
and social statement in these performances, yet they also carry a much
deeper symbolical and existential implications. Zhang Huan now lives
in New York City and exhibits worldwide.
On the whole, contemporary Chinese art includes things from meditative
tradition to extreme avant-garde, or even a mixture of this. Curiously
enough, this art first conquered Western exhibition halls, and only
now is starting to establish itself on the national scene.