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Chinese Contemporary Art at Eli Klein Fine Art, New York, February 3-March 1

February 3, 2010 China, Global Art 3 Comments

Zhao Kailin's "The Dream Back to Tang Dynasty", 2010 (Courtesy of Eli Klein Fine Art)

There can be no doubt that what makes Chinese contemporary art so universally powerful and internationally prominent is its uncanny ability to visually voice the modernist angst within a world that is constantly changing.  Perhaps more than any other country (along with India, I would say) China’s artists have managed to consistently understand that modern day uncertainty transcends borders.  As such, this angst does not belong to any particular individual or country but is, instead, embedded within the collective sensibility.  It is a universal human theme.

Much has been made of the drastic economic change and consequent modernization within China and the ensuing problems which accompany such rapid socio-economic transformation. While there is no doubt that this reality has played a significant role in Chinese contemporary art, it only half-answers why Chinese contemporary art has developed such international appeal.

Luo Qing's "2008 AD", 2009, Courtesy of Eli Klein Fine Art

The real answer lies in the “immediacy of the modernist angst” that is so apparent in Chinese contemporary art, an immediacy that is a direct reflection of the “sudden and present” nature of  China’s growth.

Unlike the Western World’s Industrial Revolution which occurred over a one hundred year span, China’s “industrial revolution” is taking place in the now.  Moreover, it is happening in a much more condensed time span.  This is also amplified by modern communications which allows one to both personally witness and experience first hand the different aspects of these changes. The Western world hasn’t lived through the drastic changes of radical modernization the way China’s people have.  The Western world has not gone from black to white within the span of a few years.  China has and it is this immediacy that China’s contemporary artists have been able to translate onto their canvasses.

Zhang Dali's "Slogan B5", 2009, Courtesy of Eli Klein Fine Art

In turn, this immediacy resonates with our Western world’s present preoccupation with political and economic uncertainty.  The words terror and recession no longer belong in the sphere of “the other”.  9/11 shattered the Western world’s comfort zone and left, in its onslaught, an angst not unconnected to that experienced by China in the wake of its radical socio-economic change.

Like so many of their contemporaries, the art of Zhao Kailin, Luo Qing, Zhang Dali, and Jiang Huan explores the pervading sense of alienation that often accompanies the individual’s navigation through an uncertain world.  These artists, along with a number of others, are being exhibited at Eli Klein Fine Art until March 1.

Jiang Huan's "Nanna's Sunday", 2009, Courtesy of Eli Klein Fine Art

If you are in New York, the Eli Klein gallery is well worth a visit.  If you walk away with anything, it will be this:  the Contemporary Chinese art scene did not explode onto the Western art market because of its sensationalist subject matter or its sensationalist marketing strategy.  What puts contemporary Chinese art at the forefront is its ability to speak directly to the global citizen of today.


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. sylvain levy says:

    Why we have decided to collect chinese contemporary art ?

    First reason : Art is the mirror of a Society
    Even if Art is more and more global, Art is also a product of language, geography and history. “Chinese contemporary art reflects Chinese modern life from every aspect including politics, economics and culture.
    When we came for the first time in Shanghai in 2005 I felt that there was another logic here; something that speaks of a very schizophrenic attitude towards economic development, the city embodies a ceaseless pursuit of the “superhuman” that redefines traditional definitions of humanity, sustainability, scale, speed. Somehow these feelings were very inspiring and we wanted to find art and artists that express the relationships between contemporary art production and society.
    Second reason : China has a long cultural history
    Culture exists in China for more than 5.000 years
    Third reason : Collecting is the best way to connecting to people
    Through this collection, we were able to meet a lot of people in China and to better understand chinese culture

    What type of artists we are interested in ?

    I am always keen to find individuals who are interested to see where the prevailing boundaries lie, either in terms of content, of materials, of disciplines and how they can push them open. That doesn’t just mean young artists.
    I learned that contemporary Chinese art is as varied as its Western counterpart and, like that more familiar model, has its highly-visible personalities, auction house favorites and celebrities. But also, like the Euro/American scene, there are many Chinese, Taiwanese and other Asian artists who are laboring quietly in the vineyards, producing credible and beautiful work. Below I will mention some of the categories of artists that we are interested in and the most outstanding ones.

    Firstly Artists who remains individuals, autonomous persons and who are nevertheless decisive factors within this general movement.
    For example Gu dexin.
    Beijing-based Gu Dexin, this most enigmatic and evasive figure within the contemporary Chinese art scene. His distrust in all systems and his objection to live his life according to conventions set by any social milieu made him choose retreat as a strategy, a retreat from obligations and mainstream that actually advances him in a position of relative freedom and autonomy. He is one of the most respected artist by curators of all of the world

    Secondly Artists who can implant and advance Chinese traditional painting, traditional Chinese aesthetics and thought into a contemporary context and thus reaching an ideal model of “cultural and individual autonomy”
    For example Yang Jiechang.
    His large inks are based on the traditional Chinese principle of the sublimation of the self to put forth the spiritual qualities inherent in the work and the material, which, on the conceptual level, means advancing through retreat and non-doing.

    Third point: Artits who approaches contemporary discourse through promoting local and vernacular culture.
    For example Zheng Guogu with Yangjiang Group.
    Zheng Guogu who is one of the most famous artist from the young generation has decided to live at Yangjiang and not in Beijing By retreating to Yangjiang, on one hand, he creates a space for non-mainstream, locally-imbedded artistic imagination and creation. On the other hand by including those local outcomes in his projects he advances the local onto a global platform.

    “Chinese contemporary art reflects Chinese modern life from every aspect including politics, economics and culture, which is quite valuable in recording the past 30 years since the reform and opening up policy,” Wang said.
    Ye Yongqing, artistic director of the institute, explained that the organization will dedicate itself to academic research as well as education on contemporary art. A systematic project to analyze and promote the contemporary art industry will also be established.
    “Chinese contemporary art’s success and development to a large extent has depended on independent artists and collectors, but from now on, there is a new platform to do all things related to contemporary art,” Ye said.
    Ye added that unlike many art organizations that gather artists together and benefit from works created by them, the institute is more like a think tank, with the hope that experts will contribute their ideas and reflections on Chinese contemporary art’s development.
    “Only with a formal institute is there hope that systematic research on contemporary art can be done,” Ye said. Famous artist Luo Zhongli, also the director of Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, has been appointed director of the new institute.
    in conclusion, We are used to China’s growing influence on the world economy—but could it also reshape our ideas about culture and specially contemporary art?
    Why you should collect chinese contemporary art ?
    . The market for Chinese contemporary art pieces shows great potential, but at the same time, it faces many questions that had never arisen before. It is constantly initiating contemplation and inquiry.
    There has been a lot of money flowing around the Chinese art scene over the past few years that has had a dramatic effect on the art scene and the nature of the art being produced
    The market has come to occupy such a dominant position in the art world, often deciding “quality” and “importance”, most obviously in terms of Chinese art works and a local scene that does not enjoy the sobering influence of meaningful critical debate. Yet, at the same time, Chinese artists are often criticised for being overly commercial, while their understanding of how the art market functions is informed by their knowledge and experience of Western models.
    Chinese artists, especially those in the so-called “millionaire’s club of painters”, have re-invented the art world for themselves and may or may not reap the windfall. They have played dealers and auction houses off against each other. They have dropped their own works into auction with relish and have manipulated their markets with a degree of savvy and bravado that has left many dealers stunned. This art is here to stay and, in my opinion, while European and American markets may plateau or even fall, the Asian markets will continue to climb. Why should not the best Asian artists be priced at the same levels as their western counterparts?
    There has been a lot of money flowing around the Chinese art scene over the past few years that has had a dramatic effect on the art scene and the nature of the art being produced. This volume of funds is going to fluctuate in the coming year or so, which is not a bad thing. It might make artists reflect upon the quality of the work they are producing, and encourage some of the new galleries to formulate more productive strategies to deal with a slackening off in the market. So, hopefully, these recent events will have a positive impact.
    Many people in China today are only just becoming aware of the contemporary art produced by local artists
    Many people in China today are only just becoming aware of the contemporary art produced by local artists
    As two years ago, few could name even a single Chinese collector of contemporary art. It was a truism that the Chinese preferred to spend their money acquiring antiquities and classical works. Since then several well-known mainland collectors have emerged on the scene.

    Looking at the continued innovations of the older generations of artists, as well as the growing number of young graduates from art academies around the country, I think we can safely say that Chinese contemporary art is far from an imminent demise. It might have been a bit under the weather in recent months given the mood of the international and the domestic art markets (and the media), but being still young, vibrant
    What are the difficulties in collecting Chinese contemporary art?
    The biggest difficulty comes in how to benchmark a work, Art is always about quality. The quality should be evaluated by experts, scholars, curators, and critics. The weakness of Chinese art scene is that critics and curators do not have much power. So their influence is very limited within the recent art market.
    Another important issue: How to determine what is the good price of an artwork in that context knowing that specially on the Chinese market there could be a difference between a price asked and the real value of the work
    To conclude, I shall say that The market for Chinese contemporary art pieces shows great potential, but at the same time, it faces many questions that had never arisen before. It is constantly initiating contemplation and inquiry
    So even as the market stumbles, and even as we hear rumours that almost a third of the galleries in China there are headed for extinction in the coming months as rents rise and sales drop, I can’t help but feel optimistic for the future.
    sylvain levy
    Founder of dsl collection

  2. roggersmith says:

    Banksy art has become highly collectable during the past decade. Banksy originated from the Bristol underground scene. Some of his street work has been preserved by the local council, particularly in and around his home town of Bristol. Unfortunately some of Banksy art has been painted over too. Banksy art is available from graffiti shops and online graffiti websites.

  3. chinese art says:

    thanks for the sharing nice post

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