TOPIC AMONG THOSE WHO KNOW is Contemporary Chinese Art. Major galleries are
backing emerging Chinese artists and collectors are investing heavily. And it's
not just the collectors who are hooked last year's exhibition
of Chinese contemporary art held at Battersea Power Station saw queues stretching
around the block every day. Earlier this year the Tate Liverpool hosted their
own exhibition ('The Real Thing: Contemporary Art from China'),
as did London's Haunch of Venison Gallery.
Everywhere you turn in the art world, you can discover Contemporary Chinese
Art. So how do you tell the must-have pieces from simple, good workmanship?
One way is to pick up a copy of China Art Book: The 80 Most Renowned Chinese
the first comprehensive overview of China's contemporary art scene. Not content
with just introducing the eighty most important and influential artists of today,
the book also predicts the stars of tomorrow.
Each artist has dedicated pages with a quote, a brief history, selected exhibitions
and selected publications. There are examples of his or
her work with a detailed description, written in English, German and Chinese.
Cai Guoqiang's work is shown with the quote: "As a Chinese, you are always involved
an obligation I learned from my father who is [an] art historian."
Whatever you think about the contents of the book, you will find something you
like. Perhaps you will also find something bizarre, beautiful, and confusing;
something disturbing or something shocking. Perhaps you will think that a number
of the images only pass for art. But one thing is true: beauty is in the eye
of the beholder, and you
will admit that these imaginative and unusual pieces provoke an emotion. Painted
faces, models, trees and the weird and whacky
you will find them all. Some are fascinating: giant hands holding a baby with
a woman's face gently and protectively, a piece by Ma Liuming.
Other artists, Rongrong & Inri for example, seek to explain themselves: "People
who go to visit those places cannot perceive the world of our experience. That
world does not exist anywhere in the real world. You can only possess that world
with us in our photos."
Some of the work is sinister, like that of the talented Qiu Jie
along with the colourful scenes of life you will find the sinister or the sexual.
Boldly executed, the images reflect his life and his Chinese heritage.
The contemporary Chinese art scene has developed rapidly over the last decade
with new galleries opening all the time. Greater market freedom and modern technology
have played their part in making China's art market accessible while improved
freedom of expression
has increased its diversity and appeal. But the sceptical may consider the real
key to the current boom to be price. Recent works have been sold for astronomical
sums of money which has drawn increasing attention to the market. Once considered
off-track and exotic, con-temporary Chinese art has today gained extraordinary
China Art Book explores such influences and their effects on China's
contemporary art scene, as well as the effects of the Cultural Revo-lution.
Many of today's artists lived through those changes but are
only now finding a public outlet for the art used to explore their experiences.
Artists are returning from long stays abroad looking to share in the boom at
home, their experience further fuelling both the rapidly growing art scene and
the popular debate over the West's influence.
Many artists combine deeply personal experiences and Chinese beliefs with influences
from the West. Zhang Xiaogang, for example. Probably the best-known artist of
his generation, Zhang bases his art on the combination of family photographs,
traditional Chinese portraiture and the work of Belgian surrealist René Magritte.
In the pieces selected
for China Art Book, Zhang plays with the concept of identity, painting
emotionless figures in black and white with just a splash of colour across their
We identified with 30-year-old Hu Xiaoyuan when she says: "I choose the materials
and forms of my art: they don't choose me." Some of her work is delicate and
appealing. And Ji Wenyu says: "As an artist, I pay attention to the changes
in our life, and I care more on the changing process of our attitude in this
changing circumstance and the conjunction between China and the world. This
is why I painted these paintings."
"New" genres like conceptual art, video works and installations are increasingly
shown alongside the more traditional mediums of painting and sculpture. Celebrated
performance artist Cang Xin, a bona fide shaman, takes performance art to a
new level using his work to promote harmony between himself and nature. In the
featured work, Communication, Cang connects with the world through his tongue
a most sensitive part of the body
promoting an "at oneness" and understanding between himself and his location.
On-going cultural development has been stimulated by the 2008 Olym-pic Games
in Beijing. Thousands of private and public galleries are opening across the
country ensuring that contemporary Chinese art will go on growing for many years
to come. What better time to get to know the big names of today and tomorrow?
China Art Book holds the key to everything you need to know about China's
fast-growing art scene.
What better place for the words of Zhao Bandi: "I am not responsible for art."
China Art Book: The 80 Most Renowned
Chinese Artists, published by DuMont Buchverlag, is edited by Uta Grosenick
and Caspar H Schübbe and is on sale now, at an RRP of £24.95. ISBN: 978-3-8321-7769-0.
Uta Grosenick studied history of art and literature; worked as organiser and
curator of exhibitions and is the Editor of such internationally distributed
books as Art at the Turn of the Millennium, Women Artists, Art
Now, International Art Galleries: Post-War to Post-Millennium and Art
Now Vol 2.
Caspar H Schübbe studied law and history of art, works as a developer and start-up
financier and is the founder of a sculpture park and museum at Canton Valais