Between Scylla and Charybdis

Between Scylla and Charybdis

Chinese Art Since 2000

Extra Credit- Annelysse Eggold


Prior to 1980, art in China was dominated by the school of academic realism, which was directly related to the prevailing ideology of Maoist Communism, Socialism and revolutionary ideology.   All Chinese were propagandized towards working towards this ideology and Chinese art developed without the modern idea of individuality and experimentation while information about Western contemporary art, particularly modernism, was never provided in schools, introduced objectively in the mas media or acquired by students studying in the west.

When there was an attempt in this direction, such as the Bat Project by Huang Yong Ping, a Chinese artist living in France, the Chinese government cancelled its exhibition in China three times for “diplomatic reasons.”  The foreign view of Chinese art revolved within the context of colonialism with the essential nature of its contemporary art was not antiestablishment but was rootless and manipulated by others, particularly the western concept of what Chinese art “should be.”  Under these conditions, the exotic and stereotypes of Chinese identity became the primary characteristics of Chinese art.  At this level, the Chinese government agreed with the artistic productions as they reflected the primacy of the Chinese culture of old.


Therefore, since Chinese art lacks the experience of modernism, its creation looks more like a policy to fit into programmatic exhibition schemes while lacking self-reflection.  In the international art world, the main function of Chinese art is to offer a Chinese image as a proof of “some abstract pluralism.”  Inside China, artists are losing their status as opposed to the pre-Maoist revolutionary era.  Analyzed from within, the art system of the 1990’s led to a logic based on the manipulation of ideological differences and antagonisms between China and the West.  Under this impact, Chinese art led only to an interpretation and counterpoint to Western values and standards.


As the economic realities of globalization spread, ideological differences are gradually being altered and the narrow-minded Cold War ideology is disappearing, giving way to conflicts to a comparison of values between two culturally diverse societies arising out of differing worldviews.

Chinese artists must now prepare for an era in which these ideologies presumably will disappear and artist will turn their attention to the deeper layers of Chinese society without ideological conflict as its basis.

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