China’s New Art, Post-89


China’s New Art, Post-89
(Hong Kong, 1993) and China Avant-Garde (Berlin, 1993)
Art exhibitions
‘China’s New Art, Post-1989’, curated by Chang Tsong-zung and Li Xianting and co-presented by the Hong Kong Arts Centre, the Hong Kong City Hall and the Hong Kong Arts Festival Society in February 1993, was the first major survey exhibition of Chinese avant-garde art to take place outside of mainland China. It was originally conceived four years earlier when Chang met Li at the Beijing China Avant-Garde exhibition, but historical circumstances postponed its opening to 1993. Organized by Hanart T Z Gallery, the exhibition sought to sum up the cultural sensibilities emblematic of the avant-garde in the 1990s, contrasting the more exhilarating but less focused explorations of the 1980s with works done in the intervening years between 1989 and 1991 in the post-Tiananmen era. Underscoring the current of malaise, disillusionment and cynicism that had followed the New Wave movement of the mid 1980s, it emphasized art as a force that developed creative responses to sociocultural situations.
The exhibition adopted Li’s original terms Political Pop (zhengzhi popu) and Cynical Realism (Popi) and introduced four other categorical distinctions—‘Wounded Romantic Spirit’ (Ding Fang, Xia Xiaowan, Zhang Xiaogang); ‘Emotional Bondage’ (Zhang Peili, Cai Jin); ‘Endgame Art’ (Gu Wenda, Xu Bing); and ‘New Abstract Art’ (Shang Yang, Wang Chuan, Liu Ming, Ding Yi)—that were principally proposed by Chang and finalized in curatorial discussions. It featured fifty-one artists and some 200 works including paintings, mixed media installations and sculptures, with examples of Political Pop and Cynical Realism dominating and attracting instant attention abroad.
This highly successful exhibition subsequently travelled for five years, first in a reduced form and with a new title, ‘Mao Goes Pop’, to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia, and the Melbourne Arts Festival. From 1994 to 1997, with the original title restored, a reduced exhibition travelled to the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, and five venues in the USA, organized by the American Federation of Art in New York.
‘China Avant-Garde’, a similar retrospective exhibition organized by Hans van Djik, Jochen Noth and Andreas Schmid for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (January 1993), brought the existence of Chinese avant-garde art to the attention of European audiences. Consisting of cinema, music, theatre, poetry and visual arts (sixteen avant-garde artists were featured), this exhibition attempted to relate Chinese experimental art since the late 1970s to other avant-garde movements in contemporary Chinese culture. It subsequently toured Rotterdam and Odense, and was reshaped to focus more on installation art for the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford.
Both ‘China’s New Art, Post-1989' and ‘China Avant-Garde’ were pivotal in creating public awareness of Chinese experimental art and helped its post-1989 revival. They also created immediate discourses exposing the prevalent tendency of Western institutions to stress the dissident aspect of such art. The circulation of substantial, multiauthored catalogues further enhanced the reach and reading of both these exhibitions.
See also: art exhibitions (experimental, 1980s)
Doran, Valerie, C. (ed.) (1993). China’s New Art, Post-1989, with a Retrospective from 1979 to 1989. (exhibition catalogue). Hong Kong: Hanart T Z Gallery. (Reprinted in 2001 by Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong).
Noth, Jochen, Pöhlmann, Wolfger and Reschke, Kai (eds) (1994). China Avant-Garde: Counter-Currents in Art and Culture. (exhibition catalogue). Berlin and Hong Kong: Haus der Kulturen der Welt and Oxford University Press.
ALICE MING WAI JIM

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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