Cultural power shifts :: China

In 2010, China reached first place as the largest art market “with 33% of global fine-art sales stemming from auctions based there.”* (Crains)

“Four Chinese artists made it into the top 10 ranked by auction revenue for 2010, up from just one in 2009.” (Crains)

If US fairs featured more galleries that represented Chinese artists, that would give Chinese artists the opportunity to visit the US.  Simply visiting the US during an at fair and taking that experience back to China is a great way to cross pollenate ideas and culture.

A gallery owner from Shanghai said that he would not be coming to New York for Art Week because the US economy is still feeling the recession.

The Armory Show 2010
This year for New York Art Week, Eli Klein Fine Arts, one of the most prominent US galleries representing Chinese artists, was rejected from The Armory Show.  I specifically did not make it to The Armory Show nor VOLTA this year because I did not see any Chinese focused galleries listed.  Not having representatives from the most populated country and the largest art market not only stems potential financial flow, but also cultural flow.

 Last year during New York Art Week, I met Zhang Gong and Liu Ye.

Zhang Gong’s most recent exhibition, features cityscapes of New York and Beijing. “Zhang Gong was fascinated with New York City on his first visit which was his debut at Eli Klein Fine Art; he became inspired to portray this metropolis as a counterpart to his Beijing cityscapes.”

 Zhang Gong’s “Beijing – New York” at Eli Klein Fine Arts

Crain’s states that Zhang Gong’s current exhibition is “three-quarters sold out after just three week.”

Power doesn’t just shift, it flows.  And if people are concerned that power in a specific market is being shifted to China, what can be contributed to this current?
What do we want to carry in that power, or more importantly where do we want to carry that power to?

Joseph Nye of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government takes the concept of “soft power” which is used to describe development of infrastructure, hospitals, energy plants, or schools. Soft power is in contrast to the “hard power” of the military.

Nye suggests furthering the soft power to development of art and media that represents culture.

So why are so few in the US supporting another nation’s development of culture?

Nye states that, “Great powers often try to use culture and narrative to create soft power that promotes their advantage.” In a global and international context, the effort is less about promoting one’s advantage as it is about increasing a dialogue.  In this age, it is increasingly difficult to sell one form of corporate or nationalistic propaganda to the people of that organization, let alone to people in a different market or country.  Art is a great means for creating a dialogue, especially outside of a highly rigid framework, hopefully New York will embrace it in 2012.

Crains, Art-world power shifts to China, 艺术世界的权力转移到中国 – http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110327/SMALLBIZ/303279971
Eli Klein Fine Art – http://www.ekfineart.com/html/exhibinfo.asp?exnum=713
Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chinas-repression-undoes-its-charm-offensive/2011/03/24/AFdlxRYB_story.html

*Art Info says that “China has outpaced the United Kingdom to become the second-largest art market in the world.”

Chinese Avant-Garde Art 前卫艺术

CHINESE ART STYLES:

  • Guohua 国画 – defined China’s physical beauty as an appropriately patriotic subject for painting.
  • Scar Paintings – described the calamities and spiritual wounds caused by the Cultural Revolution.
  • Rustic Realism – depict ordinary citizens, particuarly herders, peasants, or minority people, the type of people encountered by the young artists during their years spent working in the countryside.
    with a “high degree of realism [and naturalism] and [featuring] extreme technical finesse.”
    “Realism is acceptable to people in almost all ideological camps politically and socially”
  • Political Pop – One senses the artists’ self-mockery, because they are unable to do anything about their own circumstances and environment.
  • Avant-Garde
  • AG characteristics
    -“involved occasional political dissidence”
    -“context of the conflict between the old and new traditions”
    -often “in a situation of suppression”
    -“it has no links with the official art of the Cultural Revolution and was developed in opposition to official styles.”
    -“promoted creative freedom and individual human freedom.”
    -“unconcerned with commercial trends, but instead sought critical recognition, first, within China and, now, abroad.”
    Advents – (that allowed for the movement)
    -“partial ‘retreat of the state.'”

    ACTORS INVOLVED
    Star Group Show 星星美展 – (a group that produced a show was that avant-garde for Avant-Garde style).
    AG Groups of 85 and 86
    functions:
    1) “defensive” – strength in numbers concept – (protection after being highly critical – sort of like the revolutions in the M.E./N.A. – you can shut the show, but the party still continues.) “As an exhibition, it will be closed, but as art it will not be concluded.”
    2) individual value for the artists
    “provided individuals with opportunities to vent the instincts that would otherwise be suppressed.”
    in a group setting identity is often merged or lost, here being part of the group is definition and provides a platform.
    3) self funded exhibitions – group pooling of funds

    TYPES OF CHINESE AG ART
    related to the question of humanism

    -rationalist painting
    “expressed their ideas in a cold, severe tone, so as to create a new, tightly controlled structure in which emotions play little role.”
    -“Current of Life” school
    “addresses the question of the nature of life in order to explore the value of humanity.”
    “painters express their opinions about the nature of life by means of venting their own individual emotions or expressing their own life situations.”
    -performance art – “expressed individual moods of oppression”

    CONCLUSION
    “The Chinese avant-garde is a movement that seeks to attack and destroy the traditional order in the art world, with the ultimate goal of attaining artistic freedom.
    It “strived for cosmopolitan values linked neither to the dominant official style nor to the new markets its advocates seek.”

    “To a great degree, the avant-garde art movement was not about art; it concerned cultural attitudes and concepts that were bigger than the forms of art that contained them.”

    THOUGHTS
    Like most art, I find that the most valuable part is art’s effect on culture and the societal changes that can come from that.
    The links between advents in art and politics can be plotted out with connections of varying degrees of influence between them.

    APPLICATION
    Initial Question
    How to apply this to current urban status quo?

    “All five of these artists wish to transcend the level of psychological and personal feelings to make more universal statements. They have the potential for being more dangerous to the old artistic culture in China than the more openly critical artists because they seek to create a viable alternative to the old art. The new artistic styles they create, if successful, may replace the styles of the status quo.”

    Applied Arts and Culture
    Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer argue that “mass culture” is constantly created by the “culture industry” like publishing houses, film studios, and the record industry.
    What is the connection between mass culture and what Xu Bing calls “applied arts”? What is the appropriate connection?
    The industrialization of culture caused “artistic excellence to be displaced” and evaluated on new artificial grounds like “sales figures as a measure of worth.” (wikipedia) For instance “a novel, for example, was judged meritorious solely on whether it was a best-seller”

    Currently, views, clicks and unique visits are some metrics in the digital realm. Those are the metrics for false systems of evaluation and profit that Umair Haque dubs “fake costs.”
    So not only are many of the metrics false, but the actual “value creating system” is false in this “zombieconomy.”

    What are the effective systems and what are new domains and metrics for evaluation (or judgement)? Exploration of systems that create value and that culture culture.

    OTHER
    “practice is the only measure of truth.” Deng Xiaoping
    “truth is no more than validated practical reality caused Chinese who were disillusioned by the Cultural Revolution to shift their values to pragmatism and individualism.”

    img
    “One example is Zhang Qun and Meng Luding’s Adam and Eve’s Rev- elation in the New Age”
    but what is the apple?

    quotes via: Andrews, Julia F. and Gao, Minglu. “The Avant-garde’s Challenge to Official Art”, ibid. pp. 221-278.
    wikipedia: Avant-Garde http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avant-Garde
    Mix: Umair Haque. “Why Busines is Brain-Dead and how to Wake Up” http://www.managementexchange.com/blog/why-business-brain-dead-and-how-wake

    NeochaEDGE

    NeochaEDGE “is a Shanghai-based creative agency that produces inspiring visual arts and music content with China’s leading creators – the EDGE Creative Collective – for the most forward-thinking brands and agencies in the world.” It is also a “web-magazine dedicated to celebrating Chinese creativity.”

    View them: edge.neocha.com

    They have a presence in the East Coast USA – Boston.

    Leap – Art in China

    Leap Magazine (艺术界)
    The first bi-lingual (Chinese and English) art magazine.  It’s broken up into three sections “上, 中, and 下 (top, middle and bottom) are differently conceived.”
    Their site is just a splash page – keep an eye on it.
    http://leapleapleap.com/
    Brought to my attention by Benjamin Bacon

    Intro by Redbox redbox.studio.cn

    “LEAP (艺术界) is a brand-new bilingual magazine covering Chinese contemporary art and culture. In the words of Chief Editor Philip Tinari, it’s “a magazine about art in China, or rather art and China, that aims to do things ever so slightly differently from the dozens of art magazines which have emerged here in Beijing since auction fever began in 2006.”

    The first issue was released just in time for the Lunar New Year, and features interviews, profiles, exhibition reviews, and a collaborative look back at the past ten years of Chinese contemporary art from leading figures. But mixed with serious criticism, there’s also a fashion photo-spread entitled “Caochangdi Last Supper,” and comic-like illustrations by Xu Zhen’s MADEIN. With a healthy dose of pop and irreverence, LEAP seems determined to not be just another Chinese contemporary art magazine.”

    Video preview on Youku
    Interview with Chief Editor Philip Tinari on 3030