Main Problems of the Chinese Contemporary Art
Source:Art Focus Author:Du Xiyun Date: 2008-06-05 Size:
Since the end of the 1970s, Chinese contemporary art has always been entangled with the western art.

Robert Rauschenberg Works

Since the end of the 1970s, Chinese contemporary art has always been entangled with the western art. In fact, this entanglement started when China began to modernize under the western influence. In this condition, the intellectuals’ attitude towards the local culture swings back and forth between conceit and inferiority, similarly, the attitude towards western changes between admiration and resistance. During the Fine Art New Tide in 1985 when China began to be open to the world after the culture shortage, Chinese people were eager to cure the “disease” with the help of western culture. Therefore, it is evident that Chinese contemporary culture followed the western as an example. Here is a case in point. After the Robert Rauschenberg Exhibition hold in China, many followers appear in China. Though this kind of imitation is immature; it is still an indispensable step in the growth of the Chinese contemporary art. In addition, faced with various western cultural resources, Chinese contemporary artists chose to imitate. The imitation with individual and local experience indicates that the imitation is based on the demand of the local culture. Meanwhile, it is undeniable that there are accidental and blind imitations. Just as what Shang Yang told to me, “Someone came across an idea in a book and felt greatly inspired to practice it and make speeches according to it, thus, others followed and imitate him to create a theory in China. There is a phenomenon from 1980’s to now.” “Actually, it is accidental. If the book is not picked up or translated, it is impossible for the idea in it to develop in China. For instance, a large number of people follow the style of Freud Lucian. What’s more, a common painter, was the most popular one in China and had a great influence on the Chinese art. It is ridiculous.”

In the entanglement of imitation and alienation, as well as admiration and resistance, Chinese contemporary art in 1990s saw the post-colonialism market. Then, a sharp and serious problem arose: which way we should choose to go, returning to the local culture and facing the rigid ideology, strict control and sluggish market, or producing paintings in large quantities to meet the demand of the western post-colonialism. The Chinese overseas artists, on one hand, had no choice but to accept the inferior situation, on the other hand, they tried hard to take advantage of the cultural background and resolve the problem in the perspective of the local culture and on the basis of the local resources (Huang Yangli defined this way as Using Eastern Culture to Win Western Culture). Chinese contemporary art distinguished itself rapidly and degraded itself ideologically so that it is far from resolving the problems of the local culture. Its pioneering quality is fading gradually. At present, indulging in culture thievery is evident and serious. The reason why people feel puzzled about the definition and orientation of art lies in the value of the artists.

Since 2005, a large amount of capital was put into the Chinese contemporary art market. The Chinese contemporary art, once a borderline category, became popular so rapidly that the old artists who are busy to summarize the victory still have doubts and puzzles. First, we have to admit that the Chinese contemporary artists are pride of self-control. The fact that Chinese contemporary art can draw so much attention is closely related to the economic and political development of China. Second, the sudden prosperity of the Chinese contemporary art market has something to do with the non-academic tendency, such as the current financial policy. Third, the price of the contemporary works is soaring. However, the art value is not table. Some people buy the works with the intention of seeking profit by short-term investment instead of collecting. The buyers use a series of propaganda activities to increase the price and then sell them. Nobody wants to be the final owner of the works of the highest price. Because they will lose every cent they invested if the market collapses. Finally, with the increasing of the price, artists become more and more confident. And the western culture which was the model is ignored and despised. Actually, there is no direct relation between the academic value and the market value. If artists can gain confidence because of the price increase, they also can lose it because of the price decrease. It is the truth that the works with the highest price were the ones with a strong sense of post-colonialism created in 1990s. The value of the mainstream of the Chinese contemporary art is not high.

Generally, it is self evident that academic value is more important than market value. Capital investment in the Chinese contemporary art market has its advantages. In the current situation of China, it can help the Chinese contemporary art to free from the authoritative ideology. With the capital assistant, the Chinese contemporary art with the foundations and galleries can gain its academic value. But the current situation is worrisome, because the Chinese contemporary art is entangled with profit. The different categorization is originated from the problem of the independence of the Chinese contemporary art which is the main problem that artists face. Faced with the temptation of fame, many people can not stick to his belief. However, it is the serious problems of the local environment that the Chinese contemporary artists should face. Artists shouldn’t do some vulgar things in the name of contemporary art.

[Editor] Mark Lee