an Expedition to the West
Hi Art, July
riff by Guo Degang runs as follow: “Someone spends 200 yuan on a piglet.
The piglet is healthy enough to eat and drink if you feed it water and
beans. To your surprise, the piglet dies after being thrown over a
of contemporary artists born in the 1960s has almost entirely been
thrown out of the country. Some were thrown out by foreign painting
merchants, some by foreign exhibition planners, some by foreign cultural
cheats, and some by themselves. Even those with slow responses were
started out, there was just one gallery in Wangfujing and several in the
Azure Stone Workshop, all of which were state owned and mainly sold
picture frames and nails. Shop assistants would nibble away at sunflower
seeds from behind the counter. The only major gallery was the National
Museum of Art, where retired senior cadres would practice qigong, and
shunned artistic exploration. In an art scene like this, one can easily
guess the living condition of artists.
In 1992, a
former People’s University student Brian Wallace opened the Red Gate
Gallery. It was the only place that conforms to the standards of a
gallery, and still operates today. Indeed, the Red Gate celebrated its
15th anniversary last month, with a big crowd of celebrities and much
reminisced what it was like opening the gallery. At that time, the group
of artists thrown out of the country had already set up their own
spaces. Banners such as “Post-89”, “Political Pop Art”, and “Cynical
Realism” were prominently displayed. The group had not died, and some
had even yielded fruit. The news of the new gallery spread like the
steam from a bamboo steamer of dumplings spreads across surface.
people became very conservative during the reform and opening, and
became reluctant to accept new or exotic things. People felt, however,
that they could accept things that came from overseas. Even those who
were too old to adapt to foreign ways came back to each you how to eat
Chinese bread with preserved vegetables. At first, everyone thought that
this was how foreigners behaved, and thought that copying this behavior
was the right thing to do. Soon, though, as time lapsed, people realized
that it was in fact abnormal.
culture is the last card a state can play if it wants to distinguish
itself from the others, especially in an era of global and regional
economic integration. Culture cannot and must not be integrated with
others, otherwise it would become dull and boring.
popularity of contemporary Chinese art in foreign countries is really a
way to supplement the Western scene. It is evidence that the game rules
are set down by Westerners, especially given the popularity and
influence of the Western tradition of oil painting in contemporary
Chinese art. .
Over the last
couple of decades, those artists from 1985 and 1989 who engaged
conscientiously in art and had a sense of cultural responsibility felt
increasingly depressed. Dreams of glory were shattered. Just as when we
pounded pizza dough in a kitchen at someone’s house, we would be
complimented on the great cooking skills of the Chinese. Should you
suggest making a Chinese pancake instead, the visitors would become
sulky and irritated in a flash.
In a sense,
culture is a dream shared by everyone of one nation or nationality. The
dream, sometimes, is intangible, and sometimes attaches itself to human
beings of all forms and shapes. You are either lying or squatting while
dreaming, but you must feel comfortable in yourself before being able to
I will not
make any comment on those who were thrown out of the nation and painted
a dream in oils. For those who have made the grade by cheating
foreigners with Chinese water and wash paintings are still dreaming. For
Xu Bing and Gu Wenda in the 1950s, Wei Dong and me in the 1960s, we see
that none came up in the 1970s and 1980s.