N e w  C h i n e s e  A r t


The Cultural Revolution (CR) ends with Mao Zedong's death in October 1976. But the change in leadership does not immediately result in new cultural values. From 1977 to late 1978, artists continue to produce work in the CR style, substituting new leaders for the former cast of characters. However, a few small-scale group exhibitions organized by artists feature landscape and portrait painting, challenging conventions that demand overt political/ideological subject matter in art.

A January exhibition of French 19th-century rustic landscape painting at the National Gallery, Beijing, contributes to the emergence of a new form of critical realism later in the year. This is the first show of foreign art since the beginning of the CR, and parallels an influx of publications on western art. The Review of Foreign Art (Guowai meishu ziliao), which later changes its name to the Journal of Art Translation (Meishu yicong), is established in January. Along with World Art (Shijie meishu), an academic journal of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, it becomes the major periodical source of western art movements of the 1970s and '80s.

Deng Xiaoping introduces economic and social reforms emphasizing increased openness to capitalism and western culture. Intellectuals and the public respond to the initiative with the Beijing Spring Democracy Movement, which flourishes from November 1978 through 1979. Intellectuals challenge the foundations of Maoist ideology with philosophical and cultural debates on humanism and individual freedom. This questioning spirit and the concurrent influx of western aesthetic ideas catalyze several new art movements.

The New Spring Painting Exhibition (Xinchun huahui zhanlan) opens in February at Sun Yat-sen Park, Beijing. The show features some 40 artists from different generations, including influential older artists such as Liu Haisu and Wu Zuoren, all of whom advocate an apolitical approach to artmaking. A significant moment in the development of this "New Academicism" occurs in September when several murals are unveiled at the Beijing International Airport. Yuan Yunsheng's Water-Splashing Festival: Ode to Life, includes nude female figures, which triggers a serious controversy over nudity in public art. (The mural is boarded over in 1981.)

In February a group of twelve artists in Shanghai organize an exhibition (Shierren huazhan) at the Palace of Infants, Huangpu district; it is China's first modernist show since mid-century. The works are influenced by Impressionism and Postimpressionism, considered radical in the post-CR context, although the subjects are traditional (birds, flowers, etc.).

Scar Painting (Shanghen huihua) and the Star group (Xing xing) emerge as the two most important art movements of 1979. Both aim at criticizing the realities of contemporary China and often portray the CR negatively.

Scar Painting, part of a broader movement called New Realistic Painting (Xinxianshizhuyi huihua), takes its name from a related literary tendency. The term refers to the emotional wounds inflicted on the Chinese--especially intellectuals, students, and older cadre--by the CR. For example, Cheng Conglin's painting A Certain Month of a Certain Day in 1968 and the illustrations to Zheng Yi's short story "Maple," by Liu Yulian, Chen Yiming, and Li Bin, describe the tragic results of Red Guard battles during the CR.

The Stars are principally self-taught artists (i.e., not trained in the Academy) and are the first influential avant-garde group, challenging both aesthetic convention and political authority. Their use of formerly banned western styles, from Postimpressionism to Abstract Expressionism, is an implicit criticism of the status quo. The group's first exhibition, in September 1979, is a provocative display of work hung without official permission on the fence outside the National Gallery, Beijing. After the exhibition is disrupted by the police, the artists post a notice on Democracy Wall and stage a protest march. The Stars' first formal exhibition (Xing xing huazhan), held in Beihai Park, Beijing, in November, includes 163 works by 23 nonprofessional artists.

In March, Art Monthly (Meishu) publishes an article about the Stars in which the author, Qu Leilei (a painter in the group) proclaims "art for the sake of self-expression" (ziwobiaoxian de yishu). The article prompts a debate about art's function that continues for two years. The Stars hold another exhibition (Xing xing huazhan) at the National Gallery, Beijing, in August, this time with official approval. The primary intention of the group is to criticize authority by emphasizing self-expressionism (ziwobiaoxian), although the show becomes controversial for its overt political content, in particular, Wang Keping's wooden sculpture of Mao as Buddha, a comment on the seeming deification of Mao.

Rustic Realism (Xiangtu xieshi), a trend of New Realistic Painting which sometimes overlaps with Scar Painting, becomes prominent by year's end. But while the Scars focus on their own experiences of the CR, the Rustics depict the CR's impact on ordinary people in rural and border regions. Chen Danqing's Tibetan Series (Xizang xuhua), shown in October 1980 at the graduation exhibition (Zhongyang meiyuan yanjiusheng biyezhan) of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, and Luo Zhongli's Father (Fuqin) which wins first prize in the Second National Youth Arts Exhibition (Di'er jie quanguo qingnian meishu zuopinzhan) in Beijing, are particularly influential examples of Rustic Realism. Some filmmakers of the New Chinese Cinema are influenced by the style and incorporate its imagery in their work, for instance, Chen Kaige in Yellow Earth (1984), and Zhang Yimou in Red Sorghum (1987) and Raise the Red Lantern (1991), all critically acclaimed in the West.

The liveliest artistic activity occurs in a few unofficial and quasi-official groups that flourish in various parts of China (Beijing, Shenyang, Kunming, Shanghai). These "oil painting research groups" are devoted to the study of European painting traditions, and represent the peak of New Academicism. Meanwhile, the debate over formalism continues in the pages of Art Monthly (May issue) with the publication of "Abstract Aesthetic" (Lun chouxianmei) by Wu Guanzhong, a French-trained painter of the older generation who argues against the dominant forms of realism in favor of abstraction, or "no subject, just form."

Rustic Painting continues. Several modernist shows open around the country. In March, the First Xi'an Modern Art Exhibition (Xi'an shoujie xiandai yishuzhan), in Xi'an, Shanxi Province, causes a sensation and attracts 60,000 viewers. Modern Chinese ink painting is featured in Hubei Ink Painting (Hubei shiren guohua lianzhan) in Beijing. New Academic Painting is spotlighted in the Yunnan Ten-Person Painting Exhibition (Yunnan shiren huazhan), featuring works with "exotic" themes such as minority cultures.

Authorities launch the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign in early 1982, intended to counteract western influences that they believe are undermining the Chinese people's commitment to Communism. The campaign, which continues through late 1984, targets humanism in philosophy and literature, and condemns three westernizing trends in art that have appeared since the end of the CR: individualistic values, "art for art's sake," and abstraction. In September, the Beijing public is introduced to modern American art through an exhibition of works from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts held at the National Gallery. This is the second major and influential exhibition of foreign art since the CR.

As part of the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign, authorities denounce the January issue of Art Monthly--which contains articles about abstract art--as a contaminating influence. The editorial team is replaced. Even in this oppressive context, however, officially sanctioned presentations of western art continue. Exhibitions of Italian Renaissance art, the work of Picasso and Munch, and French contemporary oil painting are held in Beijing.

Aesthetic experimentation continues, too, outside of Beijing. In May, the Five-Person Exhibition of Modern Artists (Xiamen wu ren xiandai yishuzuopin zhan) in Xiamen, Fujian Province, features conceptual works and readymade objects by artists--including Huang Yong Ping--who will later form the Xiamen Dada group. The show never opens to the public. In September, the Experimental Painting Exhibition: The Stage 1983 (Basannian jieduan: Huihua shiyan zhanlan), which includes ten Shanghai artists, is forced to close soon after the opening and is harshly criticized in the Shanghai Liberation Daily.

1984 The Sixth National Art Exhibition (Diliujie quanguo meishu zuopin zhanlian), held in October at the National Gallery, Beijing, resurrects the political themes and propagandist forms of the CR. The retrograde content and style of the exhibition provokes a widespread backlash among artists, especially the young, laying the groundwork for the emergence of the '85 Movement.

A banner year for the Chinese avant-garde. The Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign had ended and the government embarks on a series of liberal reforms. Released from the restraints of the previous three years, avant-gardism flourishes across the arts--literature, dance, music, visual art, film--a phenomenon soon to be dubbed the '85 Movement.

In February, the Chinese Writers Association holds its fourth conference in Beijing, denouncing conservatism and calling for freedom of expression (chuangzuo ziyou). A parallel development occurs in the visual arts with the widespread appearance of unofficial groups--more than 80 across the country, 1985-87--in which artists of the younger generation debate, write, and exhibit. These groups sponsor some 150 events during 1985-86, involving at least 2,250 artists. Openly antagonistic to official culture, they champion individualism, freedom of expression, and a radical overhaul of aesthetic concepts and forms; they reject both Chinese traditional art and socialist realism, deploying instead western modern and postmodern styles such as Surrealism, Dada, Pop, and conceptual art.

Avant-garde ideas and artists are promoted in new magazines and newspapers such as Art Trends (Meishu Sichao), Fine Arts in China (Zhongguo Meishu Bao), and Painters (Huajia). Established journals such as Art Monthly and Jiangsu Pictorial (Jiangsu huakan) shift attention to the '85 Movement. Many of the publications' editors are young critics who themselves are involved in the avant-garde.

The new groups can be divided roughly into two types, Rationalist (Lixing huihua) and Current of Life (Shengming zhiliu). Representative of the Rationalists are the North Art Group (Beifang qunti), the Pool Society (Chishe), and the Red Brigade (Hongselu). The North Art Group, founded in March in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province (the area formerly known as Manchuria), promotes a "Civilization of the North," which its artists--among them, Wang Guangyi, Shu Qun, Ren Jian, and Liu Yian--believe will surpass both western and traditional Chinese civilization. Emulating Surrealism, their paintings often feature landscape elements and abstract forms suggested by the glacial terrain of northern China. Members of the Pool Society, based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, are notable for their biting sense of humor and absurdist spirit. Their first exhibition, New Space '85 ('85 xin kongjian huazhan)--which includes Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi, and Wang Qiang--features "gray humor" paintings, performance works, and conceptual art. The Red Brigade, established in 1987 in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, consists of the principle organizers of the Jiangsu Art Week Modern Art Festival (Jiangsu qingnian yishu zhou), an influential exhibition covering all the arts.

Current of Life artists advocate an anti-urban pastoralism or regionalism, along with the exploration of individual desire, which, they argue, has been suppressed by collectivist rationalization. Many are from remote areas, for instance, Gansu Province, where a group of five artists led by Cao Yong organizes the exhibition Research, Discovery, Expression (Tansuo, faxian, biaoxian); or Kunming, Yunnan Province, the base of the Art Group of Southwest China (Xinan yishu qunti), which includes Mao Xuhui, Pan Dehai, Zhang Xiaogang, and Yie Yong Qing. The ad hoc Shenzhen Zero Exhibition (Shenzhen lingzhan), so-named because it has no funding or institutional framework, is held on the streets of Shenzhen, a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in South China. The Three Step Studio's (Sanbu huashi) first exhibition in Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province, features installations constructed from ordinary tools used by peasants. Twenty artists from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, organize the November Exhibition (Shiyiyue huazhan), held at the Forbidden City; these artists later form the Beijing Youth Painting Society (Beijing qingnan huahui). Other groups of the Current of Life trend include the New Barbarianism (Xinyiexinzhuyi, Nanjing), the Miyang Painting Group (Miyang huahui, Hebei Province), and the Hunan Zero Art Division (Hunan ling yishujituan, Changsha).

Young, academically trained artists begin to play a forward role, in particular the graduates of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. Wang Guangyi, Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi, Huang Yong Ping, Wenda Gu, and Wu Shan Zhuan are all leading figures in the '85 Movement and all attended the Zhejiang Academy. The exhibition Young Art of Progressive China (Qianjin zhong de Zhongguo qingnian meishu zuopin zhan), held in May, brings together work from various academies, including Zhejiang, Beijing, and Sichuan. The most remarkable works in this show combine Neorealism and western Surrealism, an approach typified by Zhang Qun and Meng Luding's Enlightenment of Adam and Eve in the New Age (Xinshidai de qishi).

Traditional styles are challenged by younger artists. In July, art critic Li Xiaoshan publishes "The End and Death of Chinese Painting" (Zhongguohua daole quntumolu zhiru) in Jiangsu Pictorial. The essay shocks the traditional painting world and inspires fierce debate between members of the old and new generations. In November, Wenda Gu and other Chinese ink painters participate in the exhibition Recent Works of Traditional Chinese Painting (Zhongguohua xinzuo yaoqingzhan) in Wuhan, Hubei Province, updating ink painting by synthesizing traditional Chinese philosophy and western art styles such as Surrealism. This new form is called scholar painting (xuezhe huihua). A retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg's work opens in November at the National Gallery, Beijing, and has a profound impact on the artists of the '85 Movement. This is the Chinese public's first opportunity to see original works by a contemporary western artist. Rauschenberg delivers a lecture at the Central Academy of Graphic Art in Beijing and participates in a discussion with the artists of the Anonymous Painting Group (Wuming huahui).

Deng Xiaoping is named Man of the Year by Time magazine in January. Deng's cover photo is reproduced as a part of a collage with Rauschenberg's work China. The artist is quoted: "It is a great beginning in China today, since there has been a kind of new emotion, new spectacle which had not existed three years ago."

The '85 Movement continues to expand, especially the number of conceptual or anti-art (fanyishu) groups. The conceptualists challenge not only propagandist art and traditional academic styles, but new schools of art as well. Their principal goal is to eradicate utopianism, subjectivity, and the artist's hand. Their primary mediums are language and readymade objects. Their conceptual sources are Dada and Chan (Zen) Buddhism; the latter, like Dada, attempts to break free of any doctrine or authority.

In January, the Last Exhibition '86, No. 1 ('86 zuihou zhanlan yi hao), opens at the Zhejiang Art Gallery. Organized by seven young artists of the Zhejiang Academy, including Wenda Gu and Song Baoguo, it features readymade objects and performance works. The show is closed by authorities three hours after opening because of the sexual content of some of the works. In April, a Tibetan avant-garde group led by Li Yanping exhibits in Beijing People's Cultural Palace. At the same time, Wu Shan Zhuan and fellow artists in Hangzhou hold two private exhibitions of installations entitled 70% Red, 25% Black, and 5% White (Hong 50%, hei 25%, bai 5%).

The largest of exhibitions of avant-garde work opens in August under the title Festival of Youth Art in Hubei (Hubei qingnian meishu jie) in the cities of Wuhan, Huangshi, Xianggan, Yichang, and Shashi. About 50 small groups participate and some 2,000 works are displayed in 28 exhibition sites. A striking characteristic of the work is a trend toward fusing vernacular culture, including ancient sources and contemporary styles. Concurrent with the exhibition is the first symposium on the '85 Movement and the Chinese avant-garde, held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, attended by critics, editors, and artists representing groups nationwide. One outcome of the conference is a decision to organize a national avant-garde exhibition.

The September exhibition of Xiamen Dada (Xiamen dada xiandai yishu zhan), a group led by Huang Yong Ping, coincides with Huang's publication of "Xiamen Dada: A Kind of Postmodernism?" (Xiamen Dada: Yizhong houxiandai?) in Fine Arts in China, in which Huang advocates the synthesis of Dada and Chan Buddhism. He also produces a series of roulette wheel-like compositions based on the Yi Jing, or Book of Changes, which he uses to direct his painting.

Similar events--performances, happenings, installations, mixed-media exhibits--are held throughout the year by diverse groups, including the Xuzhou Modern Art Exhibition (Xuzhou xiandai yishuzhan) in Xuzhou, Henan Province, in May; the Luoyang Modern Art Space (Luoyan yishuchang), Luoyang, Henan Province, in May; To Bring into the Light (Shai taiyang) in Nanjing in September; and Convex/Concave (Aotuzhan), which includes the artists Li Shan and Wang Ziwei, in Shanghai, Xuhui District, in November. The Pool Society--including Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi, and Wang Qiang--creates a series called Yangshi Taichi No. 1 (Taiji xilie yihao) on the banks of Xihu Lake and in the streets of Hangzhou. The Southern Artists Salon (Nanfang yishujia shalong), founded by Wang Du, Lin Yilin, and others in Guangzhou, organize the First Experimental Exhibition (Diyici shiyanzhan).

In November, the Chinese Modern Art Research Committee (Zhongguo xiandaiyishu yanjiuhui), an association of about 30 critics, is founded in Beijing, in part as a planning committee for the nationwide avant-garde exhibition.

Student demonstrations are staged in a number of Chinese cities in late 1986. Authorities respond with a campaign against "bourgeois liberalism," targeting all new political and cultural thought. The campaign continues through mid-1988, significantly hampering the activities of the avant-garde.

A planning meeting for the national avant-garde exhibition is held March 25-26 in Beijing. The show is given the seemingly neutral working title Nationwide Exhibition of Research and Communication of Young Art Groups (Quanguo qingnian yishuqunti xueshu jiaoliuzhan). Authorities see through the ruse, however, and on April 4 ban all organized scholarly communication among young people. Then, on April 12, a leader of the Chinese Artists Association (Zhongguo meishujia xiehui), a government-approved organization directed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), approaches the chief organizer of the exhibition with a request to terminate his activities. Plans for a nationwide exhibition are halted. In May, Wu Shan Zhuan and colleagues continue a language project begun in 1986 with a new exhibition called Red Humor (Hongse youmo). Wu himself creates a related series entitled Red Characters (Chizixilie). Other group activities continue, even in remote areas, for example, the Contemporary Art Association Exhibition of Inner Mongolia (Neimenggu dangdaiyishu yanjiu hui) in Huhehot.

But the '85 Movement is weakening under the dual impact of the government-directed antibourgeois campaign and pressures to produce more commercial work, a result of Deng's 1978 economic measures. The CCP reduces financial support for art during this period, suggesting to artists that they find commercial outlets for the sale of their work (a formerly illegal practice). Avant-garde art, however, is not a valuable commodity in China.

Some important artists begin to move overseas. Wenda Gu, for instance, has a solo exhibition at York University Art Gallery, Toronto, in August, then settles in New York City.

The campaign against bourgeois liberalism ends, and some avant-garde activities resume or new ones begin in the autumn and winter.

Solo exhibitions of work by Xu Bing and Lu Shengzhong open at the National Gallery, Beijing, in October. Xu Bing's installation, Book from the Sky (Tianshu), consists of books and scrolls fabricated using traditional Chinese printing techniques and paper, and classical typographic styles. The thousands of hand-carved characters, however, were made up by the artist and are completely unintelligible.

In November, the 1988 Chinese Modern Art Convention (1988 Dangdai yishu yantaohui) opens in Tunxi, a famous scenic site in Anhui Province. About 100 artists and critics from across China participate. Their goal is to revitalize the avant-garde movement and raise again the prospect of a national exhibition.

After delays due to political circumstances, financial problems, and the forces of conservatism, on February 5 the first nationwide avant-garde art exhibition opens at the National Gallery, Beijing. Entitled China/Avant-Garde (Zhongguo xiandai yishuzhan), a total of 293 paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations by 186 artists--including Wang Guangyi, Xu Bing, Wu Shan Zhuan, Huang Yong Ping, and Wenda Gu--are displayed. Wang's Mao Zedong No. 1 causes a stir, and his Pop Art-influenced style initiates the Political Pop trend of the early 1990s.

China/Avant-Garde is closed twice by authorities during its two-week run. The first closing occurs just hours after the opening, when Xiao Lu and her collaborator Tang Song transform their installation, Dialogue, into a performance by firing two gunshots into it. The second closure results from anonymous bomb threats sent to the gallery, the municipal government, and the Bejing Public Security Bureau.

Gu Dexin, Huang Yong Ping and Yong Jiechang participate in Les Magiciens de la terre, an exhibition organized by the Pompidou Centre in Paris. This is perhaps the first time Chinese avant-garde artists are shown in a major international exhibit since the end of the CR. Huang leaves China to attend the exhibition and remains in France.

Pro-democracy student demonstrations begin in April. Following the June 4 crackdown in Tiananmen Square and the return of conservatism, the national avant-garde exhibition is castigated as a typical example of bourgeois liberalism.

As a result of the post-Tiananmen tightening down, as well as ongoing commercial pressures, idealist avant-garde activity in China declines drastically and never fully recovers. Art publications suffer as well. In January, Fine Arts in China, which played an important role in the avant-garde movement, is closed by authorities. In September, the most popular art journal, Art Monthly, which had devoted considerable attention to the '85 Movement, is restaffed with conservatives. One of its editors, Gao Minglu, is ordered to stop all editorial work and spend time at home studying Marxism.

Pockets of avant-gardism remain in the Academy, characterized by a discreet eclecticism combining progressive and conservative forms. Liu Xiaodong, for example, a young teacher at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, holds a solo exhibition of oil painting in May. Considered one of the New Generation painters, Liu's work is typical of 1990s Cynicism or Cynical Realism (Wanshi xianshizhuyi). Proponents of this sensibility often engage in self-mockery or present the most mundane aspects of everyday life in which they appear to have lost all faith. Another academic exhibition, The World of Women Painters (N¥ huajia de shijie), showcases eight artists--Yu Hong, Jiang Xueying, Wei Rong, Liu Liping, Yu Chen, Chen Shuxia, Li Chen, and Ning Fangqian--widely accepted as the new generation of Chinese women artists.

Xu Bing completes his installation project, Ghosts Pounding the Wall (Guidaqiang), a series of rubbings from the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall in Hebei Province. The work was two years in the making, and involved more than 100 assistants, 1,500 pieces of paper, and 300 bottles of ink. The combined rubbings total 1,500 meters. After this project, Xu Bing moves to the United States.

More and more Chinese avant-garde artists leave for friendlier climes, or at least shift their sights to international venues. In fact, even as outlets for their work dwindle at home, international audiences are receptive to their work, and an increasing number of exhibitions feature Chinese avant-garde artists. For instance, Chine: Demain pour hier, sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture and held in Pourrieres in July, is curated by Chinese art critic Fei Dawei. It is reported to be the largest exhibition of modern Chinese art ever mounted in a western country. Participating artists include Chen Zhen, Wenda Gu, Huang Yong Ping, Cai Guo-qiang, Yang Jiecang, and Yan Pei Ming.

In January, "I Don't Want to Play Cards with Cézanne" and Other Works: Selections from the Chinese "New Wave" and "Avant-Garde" Art of the Eighties is held in the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California. Participating artists include Geng Jianyi, He Duoling, Li Luming, Lu Shengzhong, Mao Xuhui, Xu Bing, Yu Hong, Zeng Xiaofeng, Zhang Peili, Zhang Xiaogang, Ye Yongqing, Zhou Changjiang, and others. A series of lectures and discussions accompany the exhibition.

The Exceptional Passage, another show of Chinese avant-garde art, opens at the Fukuoka Museum in Japan. It includes Wenda Gu's Vanishing 36 Pigment Golden Sections (Sanshiliuge huangjin fengel¥), Huang Yong Ping's Emergency Exit (Feichangkou), and works by Cai Guo-qiang, Yang Jiecang, and Wang Luyan.

In China, artists and critics try to break free of political censorship. The symposium Artistic Creation in the New Period (Xinshiqi yishuchuangzuo yantiaohui), held in Xishan, a suburb of Beijing, focuses on contemporary Chinese art and includes such prominent artists and critics as Shui Tianzhong, Liu Xiaochun, Gao Minglu, Li Xianting, Shao Dazhen, and Yi Ying, among others. The symposium is criticized by the conservative-controlled Art Monthly.

The New Generation (Xin shengdai yishuzhan) opens in July at Beijing's Museum of Chinese History, a group show of New Generation academic artists, including Wang Jinsong, Song Yonghong, and Liu Wei, exemplars of the Cynical Realist trend. In December, an exhibition of installation works by Feng Mengbo and Zhang Bo at Beijing Contemporary Art Gallery is closed by authorities. This is the first public installation show since the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989.

A few small-scale avant-garde shows are organized in various cities. The Beijing Art Museum sponsors an exhibit of works by Liu Wei and Fang Lijun. In May, Zhang Peili and Geng Jianyi mount an installation and video show at the Diplomat's Hotel, sponsored by the culture section of the Italian Embassy in Beijing. "Pop-Abstract" art is the theme of A Documentary Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Art (Zhongguo dangdai yishu wenxianzhan), held in Guangzhou, a slide/photo presentation with commentaries by art critics. Young Contemporary Sculptors (Dangdai qingnian diaosujia), held at Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, is the first exhibition organized by and for the new generation of sculptors, and includes Zhan Wang and Sui Jianguo.

The first nationwide avant-garde exhibition since the Tiananmen Incident, Guangzhou First Oil Painting Biennial (Guangzhou diyijie youhua shuangnianzhan), opens in Guangzhou in November. The show is developed under official policies urging economic expansion; an ideal (and naive) goal of the exhibition's organizers is to increase the value of Chinese avant-garde art in both domestic and international markets. The work of some artists in the Guangzhou Biennial--Wang Guangyi, among them--exemplifies Political Pop (Zhengzhi popu), a dominant artistic trend in China after Tiananmen, and not especially popular with authorities. Practitioners combine socialist realist or CR imagery with the irreverent sensibility of American Pop Art. Political Pop and Cynical Realist works are in demand on the international exhibition circuit throughout the early 1990s.

The Chinese avant-garde begins producing work that takes as its subject the problems of consumerism and materialism, increasingly evident in Chinese culture under the impact of a globalized economy. This critique is prominent in the work of the New History Group (Xinlishi xiaozu), led by Ren Jian, and the Long-tailed Elephant Group (Daweixiang), which includes Lin Yilin, Chen Shaoxiong, Xu Tan, and Liang Juhui.

The New History Group organizes a multimedia event entitled Mass Consumption (Daxiaofei), which is to include rock music, painting, and a fashion show, scheduled to take place at the new McDonald's restaurant in Beijing on April 28. The work reflects a transition from a focus on the art object to the production process. At midnight on April 27, however, the event is prohibited by the Beijing Public Security Bureau. In November, the Long-tailed Elephant Group produces a series of installations in the Red Ants Bar (Hongmayi jiuba) in Guangzhou.

International interest in Chinese avant-garde art heats up, for both ideological and commercial reasons. China's New Art, Post-1989 opens at the Hong Kong Arts Centre in January, then travels to Australia. The exhibition includes more than 200 works by some 50 artists, including paintings, sculptures, and installations, predominantly of the Political Pop and Cynical Realist stripe.

China's New Art boosts the international cachet of Chinese avant-gardism. In June, thirteen artists from this show--Wang Guangyi, Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi, Xu Bing, Liu Wei, Fang Lijun, Yu Hong, Feng Mengbo, Li Shan, Yu Youhan, Wang Ziwei, Sun Liang, and Song Haidong--are invited to participate in the 45th Venice Biennale. In July, works by Wenda Gu, Huang Yong Ping, Wu Shan Zhuan, and Xu Bing are showcased in Fragmented Memory: The Chinese Avant-Garde in Exile, held at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio.

Lack of government support and declining public interest forces avant-garde artists to find alternative venues for exhibiting their work: books, magazines, private homes, less populated rural areas. For instance, artists Zeng Xiaojun, Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, and art critic Feng Boyi fund the publication of Black Book (Heipishu), a parody of Red Flag (Hongqi), the official organ of the CCP.

In Shanghai, a new generation of installation artists exhibits in The Stage 1994 (1994 Jieduanzhan), held at Huashan Art School in May. The Third Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art Documents (Disanjie zhongguo dangdai yishu wenxian [zisiao] zhan), held at the library of East China Normal University in Shanghai, consists mainly of slides and videos showing installation and performance works. A similar presentation, Installation: Location of Language (Zhuangzhi: Fangwei yuyan), continues into 1995.

A number of performances and installations are held in private spaces, a phenomenon dubbed Apartment Art (Gongyu yishu). Ma Liuming, Zhu Min, and other young artists stage performances in a private space in the East Village (a suburb of Beijing). It is reported that they are arrested because of the work's erotic content, then forced to move. In September, Berlin-based Chinese artist Zhu Jinshi organizes a series of activities under the title Eye Ear (Yaner) in his own apartment in Beijing. Similarly, Wang Gongxin and Lin Tian-miao mount installations in their apartment, open only to the art community.

Only one academic institution, Capital Normal University in Beijing, provides space for the public exhibition of avant-garde art. The Com-Art Show: China, Korea, and Japan '94, organized around the theme "Today Is the Dream of the Orient" (Jinri shi dongfangzhimeng), presents modern paintings and installation works. The Chinese artists include Wang Luyan, Wang Jianwei, Song Dong, Li Yongbin, Wang Guangyi, Wei Guangqing, Wang Yousheng, and Gu Dexin.

In October, Political Pop artists Li Shan, Yu Youhan, Wang Guangyi, Liu Wei, Fang Lijun, and Zhang Xiaogang participate in the 22nd International Sao Paulo Bienal. It is reported that the content of the works, especially images of Mao, spurs protest among Chinese in Brazil.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, Chinese avant-garde artists have developed a high profile in international art circles but are virtually ignored at home. For international art institutions, the Chinese avant-garde signifies an important underground voice in one of the few remaining Communist countries. On the other hand, China's rapid entrance into the global economy has catapulted Chinese art into the international art market.

In China, however, some artists continue to seek out alternative exhibition spaces. For example, Sui Jianguo, Zhan Wang, and Yu Fan install works in a demolished area of Beijing, while Feng Boyi uses a private space in the eastern suburbs of Beijing for a group show of installation and performance work. The principal viewers of Feng's exhibition are peasant residents of the suburb.

Capital Normal University continues to support avant-garde work by providing public exhibition space. It sponsors a series of one-person exhibitions under the title Individual Method (Geren fangshi), featuring installation works by Zhu Jinshi, Song Dong, and Yin Xiuzhen. In December, the university organizes Beijing--Berlin Art Exchange (Beijing-Bolin yishu jiaoliuzhan) in which eight Chinese artists participate.

Reality, Today and Tomorrow: An Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Art (Xianshi, jintian yu mingtian), held in Beijing in 1996, features recent painting, sculpture, installation work, and video by the new generation of artists, including Fang Lijun, Zhao Bandi, Zhan Wang, Sui Jianguo, Song Dong, Wang Jin, and Sun Liang. The exhibition is organized by a new generation of art critics, Leng Lin, Feng Boyi, Qian Zhijian, Zhang Xiaojun, and Gao Ling. In December 1996, however, the large-scale Invitation Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Art (Zhongguo dangdai yishu yaoqingzhan) is canceled on opening day for reasons unknown.

Meanwhile, the international circulation of Chinese avant-gardism expands geographically to include all Asian and European art capitals, as well as major US museums. Exhibitions include Avantguardes art"stiques xinese (Centre d'Art Santa Monica, Barcelona, 1995); China: Zeitgenössische Malerei (Kunstmuseums Bonn, 1996); Quotation Marks (Singapore Art Museum, 1997), Against the Tide (Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 1997); Cities on the Move (Vienna Secession, 1997).

Compiled by Gao Minglu, with contributions by Qian Zhijian.


Taiwan loses the China seat at the United Nations, and embarks on a campaign of economic and social development accompanied by increasing political liberalization. This bid for self-sufficiency, along with the loosening of ties to Taiwan's Cold War supporters, sets the stage for gradual political liberalization, widespread disenchantment with western notions of progress and development, and a search for an authentic Taiwanese identity.

Yen Chia-kan assumes the presidency after Chiang Kai-shek's death. Premier Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, announces the objectives of the Six-Year Plan for National Economic Development. Taiwan enters its first period of Nativist (Xiangtu) consciousness, in which the Taiwanese--Han Chinese who predate the migrations of Nationalist Chinese (Kuomintang, or KMT) from the Mainland after the Communist takeover in 1949 as well as indigenous peoples--begin to demand economic and political rights.

This social-political movement is accompanied by a Nativist movement in literature and art that advocates both an exploration of Taiwan's indigenous cultures and an attack on the Taiwanese tendency to accept all things western. Nativism/Xiangtu defines Taiwan's identity as anti-modernist and anti-western, a rejection of the cultural traditions of modernism introduced first by Japan during its colonial occupation (1895-1945) and then by the United States Information Service (USIS) in Taipei. Criticized by some as nostalgic and provincial, the Xiangtu movement is also credited with generating a new sensitivity to the environment and the dangers of unchecked modernization. Xiangtu artists--influenced by the literary output of grassroots writers as well as American photorealism--turn to nature, rustic subject matter, and Taiwanese folk culture for inspiration, producing romanticized images of rural life in a hyperrealist style. Chou You-rui's series, Banana (Xiangjiao lianzo), exhibited at the USIS, is representative of the new aesthetic and receives critical acclaim as a groundbreaking synthesis of Photorealism and Xiangtu.

Lion Art (Xiongshi Meishu), a monthly journal of art and culture, shifts its focus from traditional Chinese to native Taiwanese art. Artist magazine (Yishujia/I shu chia) is founded and publishes a series of articles by Hsieh Li-fa entitled "The Taiwanese Art Movement during the Japanese Occupation." The KMT's efforts to "sinicize" Taiwanese culture included suppressing Taiwanese artists educated under the Japanese and promoting traditionalist Mainland artists who had migrated with the Nationalists. Hsieh's articles are notable as the first art-historical scholarship to discuss this virtually forgotten generation, and to focus on native Taiwanese rather than traditional Chinese artists.

Taiwan Political Forum (Taiwan zhengzhi luntan) is forcibly shut down, its registration license revoked by the Supreme Military Court. A new journal championing native Taiwan, Summer Tide Forum (Xiari xinchao luntan) quickly fills the void.

Taipei's mayor orders a feasibility study on building a modern art museum in Mu-ja. The market for contemporary art is practically nonexistent and will remain so until the mid-1980s, although a few private galleries open. Grassroots realism and Photorealism become the dominant styles in art academies. Solo exhibitions of self-taught painter Hung T'ung at the USIS and sculptor Ju Ming at Taipei's National History Museum are popular with critics and the public; the native background of the two artists, reflected in their work, further enhances the status of the Xiangtu movement. Hung T'ung's paintings, inspired by Taiwanese folk art and noted for their brilliant color and use of pictographic symbols, will influence a second wave of Nativist sensibility (Bentu) in the late 1980s and '90s.

Artist Liao Chi-ch'un dies. As mentor to the Fifth Moon Painting Group (Wuyue, prominent during the 1950s and '60s), Liao had advocated the adoption of western modernism--i.e., Abstract Expressionism and other forms of abstraction--and condemned traditional Chinese art.

Taipei municipal government designates Yuan-shan Number 2 Park for the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Formerly the site of the country's diplomatic hotel, the selection represents a symbolic gesture conferring government legitimacy on Taiwanese art. Guotai Art Museum, Taiwan's first private museum, opens in Taipei.

The literary world debates the significance of Nativist writing. Lion Art advocates Nativist art and delineates its central characteristics with special issues entitled "Concern for Our Environment" (Guanhuai ziji zhouzao de huanjing) and "Form-making and Locale" (Fengtu yu zaoxing). Artist introduces the work of Chinese artists living abroad, for instance, Photorealist painter Yao Ching-chang (Taiwan-born) and Zao Wou-ki (Mainland-born). Their success in achieving international fame becomes a blueprint for younger Taiwanese artists.

US president Jimmy Carter announces the establishment of formal ties with the People's Republic of China and ends the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty. Chiang Ching-kuo becomes president and declares a state of emergency, canceling all elections and ordering all military units to assume positions for national defense.

Xiangtu sensibility--embodied in the slogan "Humanism, Nationalism, Realism" (Rendaode, minzude, xianshide)--still dominates the art world, but Taiwanese artists educated abroad begin introducing ideas from the New York contemporary scene about new forms such as earthworks and performance art. Hsieh Li-fa's series on Taiwanese art before 1949 is published as a monograph (see bibliography). The exhibition Twentieth-Century Spanish Masters (Xibanya mingja huazhan) opens at the Guotai Art Museum and is popular with the public.

The US breaks all formal diplomatic ties with the Kuomintang's Republic of China on Taiwan (Taiwan), and transfers diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Formosa Magazine (Meili Dao) is founded as the voice of progressive, anti-KMT politics. A rally sponsored by the magazine at Kao-hsiung sparks the Formosa Incident, a confrontation with authorities in which a hundred police officers are injured. In response, the government closes the magazine and arrests its staff and supporters.

Meanwhile, the art world redirects its attention from politics to the commercial gallery market. The work of performance artist Hsieh Te-ching provokes a controversy over whether such work constitutes a valid art form. Li Chung-sheng, mentor to the Eastern Painting Group (Dongfang/Tong fan) and supporter of western-inspired modernism, has his first and only solo exhibition at the Dragon Gate Gallery. The status of Taiwanese native artists of older generations gradually improves. A revival of Kunqu, the classical theater and music of Taiwan, is launched by Kuo Shio-juang.

The family of lawyer Lin Yi-hsiung, a defendant in the Formosa Incident, is attacked while at home; two of Liu's three daughters are murdered. The case dominates the media. Taiwan announces its withdrawal from the International Monetary Fund. Sin-chu Science and Industrial Park opens, a government-sponsored site for high-technology industries and research. The national per capita income in Taiwan reaches US$2,312. The Academia Sinica sponsors the First International Sinology Conference in Taipei. The Taiwan University archaeology team discovers the Neolithic site Bai Nan.

Taiwan's art world expands in step with its booming economy and budding international profile as a modernized society. Many art groups form during the early 1980s, promoting experimentation and avant-garde forms from abroad; their potential will not be fully realized until after the end of martial law in 1987. Government revenue and private money is devoted to the arts, including the building of an institutional infrastructure--cultural centers in each county and municipality, art museums, private galleries--all of which translates into more frequent exhibitions and a broadening market for art objects.

Nativist activism continues. Newspapers advocate a "return to the native soil" (huigui bentu). Artists and cultural workers from central, southern, and eastern Taiwan--in other words, outside the official art world of Taipei in northern Taiwan--organize exhibitions of ink and oil painting, ceramics, and other local crafts, emphasizing vernacular idioms and subject matter. Modernist art makes a comeback, encouraged by government largesse, the institutional demand for art to exhibit, and scholarly as well as popular interest in reconstructing Taiwan's cultural history. These circumstances entice many Taiwanese artists of the 1950s and '60s modernist movement--i.e., the Eastern and Fifth Moon painting groups--who had subsequently left, to return to Taiwan.

The First International Art Festival (Diyijie guoji yishujie), sponsored by private entities, is held in eleven cities and counties and features more than 500 artists from fifteen countries. Hsiao Chin, an abstract artist living in Milan, and Hsia Yang and Han Hsiang-ning, photorealists living in New York City, return to Taiwan for symposium talks.

The Taiwan University archaeology team discovers the Neolithic site Chih-shan Yen near Taipei.

Zao Wou-ki's first visit to Taiwan electrifies the art community. Conceptual artist Chung Pu returns from abroad; installation and mixed-media work become popular among younger artists. Influential artist Hsi Te-chin dies; a watercolorist, Hsi was the first to combine modernist and native idioms, and documented Taiwanese native architecture in a book of photography. An exhibition of work by the Fifth Moon and the Eastern painting groups is held on the twenty-fifth anniversary of their founding. The Cloud Gate Dance Company, Taiwan's first modern dance group, tours Europe.

US-Taiwan trade talks are held in Taipei. The Industrial Development Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs announces a plan to develop high-tech information industries.

The National Art Academy is formally established and admits its first class of students. The mayor of Tainan organizes the Exhibition of One Thousand Artists of Taiwan (Zhonghuaminguo qianren zhanlan), an event deemed the first official endorsement of the Taiwanese art world. The 101 Contemporary Artists Group (101 Xiandai yishuqun) is founded by Lu Tian-yan, Wu Tien-chang, Yang Mao-lin, and Yeh Tzu-chi (the last-named eventually emigrates abroad). All are Taiwan-born, graduate from the same art program, and advocate a grassroots sensibility.

The artist Lin Shou-yu returns from Britain and introduces a younger generation of Taiwanese artists to Minimalism, inspiring a new interest in contemporary idioms. Lion Art publishes special issues on Mainland Chinese art, and begins reporting news related to current developments in the Mainland art world.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) opens, Taiwan's first museum of modern art. The death of Chang Dai-chen, a traditionalist painter who moved to Taiwan with the KMT in 1949, prompts interest in this generation of artists. The Council for Cultural Planning and Development (CCPD; Wenjianhui) organizes the First International Biennial Print Exhibition in Taipei, with 1,140 participants from 49 countries. Taiwan's film industry is energized by a new generation of directors, including Yang Te-chang, Wu Nien-cheng, Ko Yi-cheng, Jen Juan-hsiang, and Chang Yi. Hou Hsiao-hsien's films, notable for their Nativist sensibility, achieve international acclaim.

Chiang Ching-kuo continues his presidency with a new vice-president, Lee Teng-hui. The Summer Tide Forum publishes an article on Taiwan's relationship to the PRC, stimulating debate on the issues of unification and independence.

The magazine Taiwanese Art and Literature discusses the current "Nativization" of literature, and the literary community enters the climactic phase of the Nativist movement. A freighter en route from Kao-hsiung to Peng-hu accidentally explodes and sinks, taking with it all 450 artworks for the 38th Provincial Exhibition (Disanshibajie quan sheng meizhan). The artists Tsong Pu and Chen Hsing-wan are awarded grand prize at Contemporary Art Trends in Taiwan (Shoujie xian dai huihua xiuzhan wang), an exhibition held at TFAM. The Taipei Painting Group (Taibei huapai) is established by graduates of Chinese Culture University, advocating an art that reflects political and social reality; its members include Wu Tien-chang and Lu Tian-yan.

Li Chung-sheng, mentor to the Eastern Painting Group, dies. The CCPD organizes the International Seminar on Chinese Calligraphy (Zhongguo shufang guoji yantaohui).

The Foreign Reserve branch of Taipei's central bank surpasses the US$2 billion mark, and the average per capita income rises to US$3,144. Taiwan's economic boom attracts worldwide attention.

Over a thousand art events are documented for the year. The formation of many young artists' groups reflects the pluralism of Taiwan's art scene and the broad range of concerns addressed by artists, among them, environmental devastation. The Third Wave Artists Association (Disanpo huahui) organizes the exhibition Rescuing Our Homeland from Pollution (Wuran: Guanxin womende jiayuan) at Taiwan University, and 101 Contemporary Artists Group launches a series of exhibitions entitled Protecting the Environment (Huanbao zhan).

Lee Tsai-chien's star-shaped red sculpture, Minimal Infinite (Dixiande wuxian), scheduled for exhibition at TFAM, causes concern among museum personnel that the piece will be misconstrued as a Communist red star. Controversy ensues when the museum director has the sculpture painted gray without Lee's permission, raising issues of freedom of expression.

The 200 members of the non-KMT affiliated Dangwai organize the May 19 Green Movement in Wan-hua, demanding the abolition of martial law (instituted in 1949). The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is established, becoming Taiwan's first official opposition party. Concern for the environment prompts a demonstration among the people of Lu-kang, protesting the opening of a local factory by the American Du Pont Corporation.

The Studio of Contemporary Art (Xiandai yishu gongzuoshi) is founded by artist June Lai, who soon becomes a pivotal figure for younger artists. The establishment of the Southern Taiwanese Art Association (Nan Taiwan yishu fengge huahui) reflects growing confidence among artists in the south in relation to the official art world of Taipei. The National Academy of Art establishes a center for traditional art. The Cultural Ministry sponsors the exhibition Art China, a title that raises controversy over who and/or what can be defined as Chinese or Taiwanese. The First International Ceramic Biennial in Taiwan (Zhonghuaminguo diyijie taoyi shuangnian zhan) opens at Taipei's National History Museum. The first solo exhibition of self-taught Chinese ink painter Yu Cheng-yao (at the age of 88) is received with great fanfare by the media and art world.

Martial law is ended. The KMT lifts restrictions on the news media, and permits citizens to visit relatives on the Mainland. Thirty-one community organizations join a demonstration to protest the traffic in child prostitutes. Forty-one organizations form the Association to Promote the February 28 Day of Peace, referring to the Nationalist/KMT suppression of a local uprising on February 28, 1947, in which some 20,000 Taiwanese died. Academics and legislators draft A Manifesto on the Rights of Workers. Political pluralism, reflected in myriad political factions based in local cultures, generates a second wave of Nativist consciousness, Bentu/Pent'u, which, like the earlier Xiangtu Nativism, focuses on defining "Taiwaneseness," but within an urban, modernist construct.

Many artists and cultural groups support these social movements, and the lifting of martial law unleashes a long-simmering critique of Taiwan's social and political order. Artists such as Yang Mao-lin, Kuo Wei-kuo, Wu Tien-chang, and Lu Hsien-ming aim pointed visual barbs at the country's political strongmen, and attack the pervasive materialism. Western Neo-Expressionism is recast in Nativist/Bentu terms by Wu Tien-chang and Hou Chun-ming, among others, who combine painterly subjectivism with signs and symbols drawn from folk culture and traditional mythology.

This groundswell of political activism is accompanied by a mutual desire among Mainlanders and Taiwanese to learn and understand each other's history and culture. In the art world, works by Mainland Chinese artists, promoted by commercial galleries, gradually gain the attention of Taiwanese collectors. The exhibition Chinese Modern Ink Painting (Zhongguo xiandai shuimo zhan), featuring Mainland Chinese artists and held at Dragon Gate Gallery in Taipei, moves to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, a government institution.

The Executive Yuan authorizes the establishment of the Public Foundation for Art and Architecture (Gongzhong jianzhuyishu jijinhui). Nur Sculpture Garden in Pu-li opens, the first of its kind in Taiwan. Hung T'ung dies.

The Labor Union and some twenty other labor groups stage a massive demonstration on May 1. More than 4,000 southern farmers lead a demonstration for farmer's rights; northern farmers join forces in Taipei, leading to a bloody encounter with the police, known as the May 20 Conflict. Some 1,400 members of aboriginal groups gather in Taipei on August 25 to demand the return of their homeland by the government.

Postmodernism takes Taiwan by storm, including lively discussions in the art press. Victoria Y. Lu's "Phenomena of Postmodern Art," published in Artist, is particularly influential, along with western writings on postmodernism translated into Chinese. Christo and postmodern American architect Charles Moore arrive in Taipei for exhibitions at TFAM. The museum also organizes the International Dada Exhibition (Dadade shijie), featuring works by Duchamp and Man Ray, among others.

Artist Magazine and Mainland journal Fine Arts in China (Zhongguo Meishu Bao) begin editorial exchanges, contributing to wider attempts to develop institutional linkages between the Mainland and Taiwan. The Provincial Art Museum opens in Tai-chung.

The Ministry of Justice imposes a temporary ban on private contracts between citizens of Taiwan and the PRC. The founder of the journal Free Era, Cheng Nan-jung, is accused of treason and resists arrest by self-immolation. The number of domestic stock listings breaks 3 million.

Members of the Stars, a coalition of avant-garde artists from Mainland China, exhibit in Hanart Gallery's Stars: Ten Years. A retrospective of Lin Fengmian (Li Fengmin), a leader of China's modernist art movement in the early 20th century, opens at the National History Museum, Taipei. Books and articles about Taiwanese art are published on the Mainland, including a special issue on Taiwan's art scene in Art Monthly (Meishu), a supporter of avant-garde ideas on the Main-land. Lion Art and Fine Arts in China begin editorial exchanges.

Alternative exhibition spaces become the primary venues for showing the work of emerging conceptual artists, many returning from education abroad. Up Gallery in the south, Space 2 (Erhao gongyu, founded by Hsiao Tai-hsin), and IT Park (I-Tong/ Gongyuan, established by photographer Liu Ching-tang in 1990) are the most significant. Their goal is to challenge the commanding role and materialist values of official art institutions and the commercial gallery system, as well as the near-exclusive identification of the art world with northern Taiwan/Taipei. Members of Space 2 include Huang Chih-yang, Hou Chun-ming, Hung Men-ling, and Lien Teh-cheng. IT Park artists--noted for their satirical commentary on contemporary politics in Taiwan and influenced by Pop, Dada, and Arte Povera--include Chu Chiahua, Chen Hui-chiao, Chen Kai-huang, Chen Shun-chu, Ku Shih-yung, Lu Ming-teh, and Tsong Pu.

Modern Sculpture in Taiwan (Zhonghuaminguo xiandai diaosuzhan) and an exhibition of the Taipei Painting Group open at TFAM. Media attention centers on Wu Tien-chang's Five Periods of Chiang Ching-kuo (Jiang Jingguo de wuge shidai), a series of large satiric paintings of the late president symbolizing the five stages of freedom of expression in Taiwan since 1975; and Yang Mao-lin's Made in Taiwan (Taiwan zhizao), a four-part work on Taiwan's boom economy and glorification of western values.

Lee Teng-hui becomes the first Taiwanese-born president. The National Unification Committee and the Foundation for Cross-Straits Relations are established. Students demonstrate for democratic reform in Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Square, leading to a national affairs conference to advance constitutional reform. The Taiwanese stock market drops 3,000 points, causing turmoil in the financial markets.

The pluralism of the 1980s continues into the '90s. Feminist Wu Mali along with Peng Hui-rong, Lien Teh-cheng, Lee Ming-sheng, and Hou Chun-ming form the avant-garde group Taiwan Archives Workshop (Taiwan danganshi). Their first exhibition, entitled A Celebration of President Lee Teng-hui's Inauguration, is critical of the conservative political culture fostered by the KMT. Reflecting the importance of gender as an identity issue in the 1990s, the Women's Awareness Association (Funu xinzhi) sponsors Women's Art Week (Nuxing yishuzhou), an exhibition and symposium organized by art critic Victoria Y. Lu at Eslite Center. The CCPD organizes Environment and Art (Huanjing yu yishu yantaohui), a symposium held at the National Library. Han Mo, a journal on Chinese brush art, begins publication; its appearance coincides with an interest among some artists, among them Huang Chih-yang and Yuan Jai, in updating traditional Chinese techniques.

Interest in reconstructing Taiwan's native art history continues. Taiwan Art: 300 Years (Taiwan meishu sanbainian) opens at the Provincial Art Museum in Tai-chung. A Retrospective of Western-Influenced Art in Taiwan, 1895-1945 (Taiwan zaoqi xiyiang meishu huiqu zhan, 1895-1945) opens at TFAM. Art historian Wang Hsiu-hsiung criticizes this generation of artists as old-fashioned and dominated by Japanese-style modernism in a paper (see bibliography) delivered at the symposium China, Modernity, Art (Zhongguo, xiandai, meishu), held in conjunction with the exhibition; his lecture generates furious debate in the audience.

The CCPD invites artists, scholars, administrators, and representatives of art groups to form the First National Cultural Assembly (Diyijie quanguo wenhua huiyi). The Association of Museums in Taiwan (Zhonghuaminguo bowuguan xuehui) is founded.

The Executive Yuan establishes the Research Committee on the February 28 Incident. The DPP adopts Taiwanese independence as its central doctrine. Senior legislators retire, ending the so-called silver-haired era of Taiwan's National Assembly.

The literary and art communities form the United Front of Intellectuals Against Political Repression (Zhishijie fanzhengzhi lianmeng). Works by members of the Space 2 collective are damaged in an accidental fire at the gallery. China Times sponsors The Fantastic World of Miró (Milo de menghuan shijie) at TFAM. Taipei-New York: Encountering Modernism (Taipei-New York: Xiandaiyishu de yuhe) is held at TFAM. Art Critic Ni Tsai-chin publishes a series of articles in Lion Art (see bibliography), refining and endorsing the notion of Nativism/Bentu; the series generates fierce debate.

CCPD organizes the symposium Artistic Trends in Taiwan (Zhonghuaminguo meishu sichao yantaohui) for TFAM, and opens the Chinese Information and Culture Center in New York with exhibition and performance spaces. The National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the National Palace Museum in Taipei arrange a US tour of eighteen Ming dynasty treasures, the first time in fifty years that works from the museum's collection have left Taiwan.

The Committee to Erect a February 28 Memorial is formally established.

Legislation for the Arts and Culture Award is passed. The Art Gallery Association of Taiwan (Zhonghuaminguo halang xiehui) is founded and charged with organizing Taipei's first International Art Fair (Zhonghuaminguo hualang bolanhui). Taiwanese art critics curate a series of exhibitions on avant-garde art: Victoria Y. Lu organizes New Art, New Tribes: Taiwan Art in the Nineties (Taiwan '90: Xinguannian zuqun) at Hanart Gallery, Taipei; Chen Kai-heng, Exile and Banishment (Liuwang yu fangzhu) at Up Gallery and Kao Kao Gallery (Tainan); and Huang Hai-ming, Dis/Continuity: Religion-Shamanism-Nature (Yanxu yu duanlie: Zongjiao, wushu, ziran), accompanying the conference Eastern Aesthetics and Modern Art (Dongfang meixue yu xiandai meishu yantaohui) at TFAM. The First Taipei Biennial of Contemporary Art (Diyijie Taibei xiandai meishu shuangnian zhan) is held at TFAM. Participating artists include Huang Hai-yun, Ku Shih-yung, Lien Teh-cheng, Lu Hsien-ming, Margaret Shiu Tan, and Tsong Pu, all of whom are selected for awards. The government encourages the export of Taiwan art, and Taiwanese artists increasingly appear in international exhibitions. Chou Pang-ling, Ho Huai-shuo, Huang Chin-ho, Kuo Jen-chang, Grace Yang-tze Tong, Wu Tien-chang, and Yu Peng participate in K-18: Encountering the Other, an exhibition in Kassel, Germany.

Taiwan's foreign reserve reaches US$8.31 billion, ranked highest in the world.

Taiwanese artist Lee Ming-sheng is invited to participate in the 45th Venice Biennale. Taiwan Art, 1945-1993 (Taiwan meishu xinfengmao) opens at TFAM; critics object to the conservative taste of the curatorial staff as evidenced by the selection of works. Artist magazine begins a special monthly column on feminist/women's art issues. Artist/art historian Lin Hsin-yueh curates Toward the Zenith: Taiwan Contemporary Art (Maixiang dianfeng: Taiwan xiandai meishu dazhan), inviting 55 artists to show large-scale works at Ji-chan 50 Art Space in Kao-hsiung. Culture and Identity: Art from Austria (Wenhua yu rentong: Aozhou dangdai yishu zhan) opens at TFAM to positive response and elicits much discussion on identity issues and nationalism.

Taiwan holds its first democratic elections for provincial governor and the mayors of Taipei and Kao-hsiung. Expanded political activism on the grassroots level leads to the promotion of community cultural development projects by various townships and villages.

The avant-garde group Space 2 disbands. Post-Martial Law Conceptual Art (Jieyanhou de guannian yishu) opens at Dragon Gate Gallery, with works by Chu Chiahua and Wu Mali among others. Art critic J. J. Shih brings together installation art from eight commercial galleries for a show at the Apollo Building (Zhuangzhi abolo) in Taipei. The Kao-hsiung Museum of Art opens, southern Taiwan's first public museum. Tai-chung's Provincial Art Museum organizes an exhibition and symposium entitled Contemporary Chinese Ink Painting (Zhongguo xiandai shuimohua dazhan). Over a hundred artists from the Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan participate, representing the largest cross-straits assembly of artists since 1945. The Taipei International Ceramic Art Exposition (Taibei guojitaoci bolanhui) is held at Taipei World Trade Center. China Times organizes a centennial exhibition of works by Ch'en Ch'eng-p'o and Liu Jin-t'ang, Taiwanese artists under the Japanese occupation, for TFAM. The 1994 Taipei Biennial of Contemporary Art (Taibei xiandai meishu shuangnianzhan), held at TFAM, features works by Wu Tien-chang, Tu She-san, Lai Jun-jun, Ku Shih-yung, and Chien Fu-Shen, all of whom receive the grand awards.

Swen-yi Taiwan Aboriginal Museum opens, the first devoted exclusively to indigenous cultures.

Taiwan's unemployment rate reaches its highest in nine years.

On the occasion of a nationwide arts festival, artists are asked to address the following subjects in their entries: industrial culture, art and urban space, humanity and the environment, and historical nostalgia. Hou Yi-jen curates Observing Women's Culture in Taiwan (Taiwan nuxing wenhua guancha) for New Phase Art Space in Tainan; the exhibition is sponsored by the Women's Awareness Association in conjunction with dance and theater groups. Margaret Shiu Tan establishes Bamboo Curtain Workshop (Zhuyuan gongzuoshi) near Taipei as an alternative exhibition space. Artist celebrates Taiwan's flourishing contemporary art scene with its twentieth-anniversary issue, Artist ¥----¥Taiwanese Art: Survey, 1975-1995. China Times organizes The Human Figure Interpreted: Modern Sculpture from the Hirshhorn Museum (Rentidiaosuxinshi: Hirshhorn Bowuguan xiandai diaosuzhan) for TFAM. Dimensions Art Foundation collaborates with the Louvre on an exhibition of Impressionist painting held at the National Palace Museum in Taipei; the unprecedented exhibit draws waves upon waves of visitors. David Rockefeller, trustee of the American Asian Cultural Council visits Taiwan and announces future grants for Taiwanese artists. The National Palace Museum hosts the first official cross-straits gathering of museum directors from Taiwan and Beijing's Central Academy of Arts, Academy of Chinese Painting, and National Museum; Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts; and Guangzhou Art Museum.

The international currency of Taiwanese art rises with the opening of ArtTaiwan: The Contemporary Art of Taiwan at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Thirty artists participate, including Chu Chiahua, Hou Chun-ming, Huang Chih-yang, Lien Teh-cheng, Margaret Shiu Tan, Wu Mali, Wu Tien-chang, and Yang Mao-lin. Flash Art publishes a Chinese-language edition in Taiwan. Taiwan participates in the 46th Venice Biennale with works by Wu Mali, Lien Teh-cheng, Huang Chin-ho, Huang Chih-yang, and Hou Chun-ming.

Debates over Taiwanese identity, widespread throughout the 1990s, receive official acknowledgment when presidential candidates from both the ruling KMT and the opposition DPP appeal to the Taiwanese people's sense of cultural unity and a shared history. In art, Nativism/Bentu is defined in myriad ways, for instance, as a reflection of family background in the work of Chen Shun-chu, or the recognition of plural identities seen in Chen Hui-chiao's conceptual art. Technique itself may carry the message, as in the work of southern artists like Huang Hong-der and Lin Horn-wen, who use monochromatic ink washes to capture the essence of local traditions.

Lion Art organizes the symposium Modern Taiwan Art: Searching for Cultural Identity (Hewei Taiwan: Jindai Taiwan meishu yu wenhua rentong), sponsored by the CCPD and held at the National Library; several months later, the magazine suspends publication after twenty-five years of achievement. A group of artists charges TFAM's director with misconduct and demands an investigation; the director is eventually removed by the mayor of Taipei.

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Palace Museum in Taipei arrange a US tour of 476 works from the Palace collection. Concern over the fragile condition of some works, as well as anger that the Taiwan government has agreed to commit NT$80 million to the exhibition, prompts a demonstration by hundreds of citizens in Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Square. In response, the museum organizing committee eliminates the most sensitive works from the show.

Kao-hsiung Museum of Art sponsors the International Symposium on Public Art (Gongzhong yishu guojixueshu yantaohui). Sadness Transformed: The February 28 Commemorative Exhibition (Beiqing shenghua 2.28 meizhan) is held at TFAM, featuring works by Chen Shun-chu and Wu Mali, among others. Jia-yi Cultural Center organizes an outdoor exhibition of installation art (Taiwan zhuangzhi yishu zhan). River: New Asian Art--A Dialogue in Taipei is organized by J. J. Shih for the Taipei County Cultural Center, Dimension Art Foundation, and Bamboo Curtain Studio. Feminist art is featured in Lord of the Rim: In Herself/For Herself (Penbian zhuren: Zizai ziwei) at the Hsin-chuang Cultural Center, with works by Judy Chicago, Yoshiko Shimada, Wu Mali, Maggie Wei Hsu, Lin Chun-ju, and Pil Yun Ahn. TFAM organizes Facing Faces (Mianmu quanfei) for the 47th Venice Biennale, with works by Wu Tien-chang, Yao Jui-chung, Wang Jun Jieh, Lee Ming-tse, and Chen Chien-pei. 17 Naifs de Taiwan, organized by TFAM, travels to Halle Saint-Pierre in France and Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium. Taiwan: Kunst Heute opens at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, with Chen Shun-chu, Chu Chiahia, and Wu Tien-chang, among others. Compiled by Kao Chien-hui, Victoria Y. Lu, and Philomena Mariani.


Labor disputes between factory management and workers erupt into riots, looting, strikes, and terrorist bombings throughout Hong Kong. Newspaper agencies regarded as Communist sympathizers are banned. The unrest lasts for eight months, finally subsiding in December. Hereafter, the government of the British colony of Hong Kong is eager to appear concerned with the welfare of its citizens, which includes being receptive to cultural and artistic activities.

Four Hong Kong Artists opens at City Hall Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition features the work of Douglas Bland, Cheung Yee, Kwong Yeu-ting, and Lui Shou-kwan, representing the first wave of modernism that began in the 1950s. All of the artists work in abstract and Surrealist modes.

Students of Lui Shou-kwan form the One Art Group, which becomes the leading proponent of the New Ink Painting. Artists in the movement--many of whom were born in Mainland China--include Wucius Wong, Laurence Tam, Cheng Wei-kwok, Irene Chou, Chui Tze-hung, Kan Tai-keung, and Ng Yiu-chung. The movement links classical Chinese ink painting and modernity, steering traditional ink painting toward abstraction.

Hong Kong Technical College is upgraded to Hong Kong Polytechnic and offers a program in design. Many visual artists who are to become prominent in the 1980s and '90s either are trained or teach there.

Beset by a stock market crash, record inflation, corruption, and an influx of refugees from Mainland China, the Hong Kong government begins a campaign to restore confidence among residents as well as foreign and domestic investors. The institutional and policy changes initiated at this time inaugurate an era of political stability and rapid economic growth.

The Urban Council organizes the first Hong Kong Arts Festival, reflecting a new interest in government-sponsored cultural and entertainment activities. The festival brings international and local artists, musicians, and performers to the annual event.

The Visual Art Society is founded by graduates of an art and design certificate course organized by the Hong Kong University Extramural Studies Department, the only academic institution that offers the systematic study of contemporary art. Members of the Society include Gaylord Chan, Ben Lee, Frank Po, Natasha Yu, Aser But, Cheng Ming, Chung Tai-Fu, Kwok Mang-ho, and others. These artists dominate the art scene for almost a decade. Like the artists of the New Ink Painting movement, they adapt their art to contemporary trends but retain some "Chinese" characteristics.

City Museum and Art Gallery is restructured as the Museum of Art and Museum of History. The Museum of Art becomes one of the principle exhibition venues in Hong Kong, organizing the first Contemporary Hong Kong Art Biennial Exhibition. Distinguishing between "western" and "Chinese" art, the Biennial is one of the first major open art competitions for local artists.

An internal study by the Hong Kong government defines the role of government in developing the arts to include the provision of infrastructure and nurturing of new aesthetic ideas and forms. Subsequently, the government increases support for art education in the schools.

The building for the Hong Kong Arts Centre is completed. The Centre's Pao Galleries become a leading exhibition space in Hong Kong. An independent and not-for-profit arts organization, the Centre aims at bringing drama, dance, music, film, video, visual, literary, and applied arts to a wider public. Curated by Alan Wong and Tao Ho, the inaugural exhibition features works by a group of local artists and by western artists borrowed from various European museums.

Hong Kong University opens a fine arts department, focusing on the history of art.

Deng Xiaoping makes public statements about the PRC recovering control over Hong Kong. Margaret Thatcher visits Beijing to discuss Hong Kong's future. Meanwhile, various proposals are floated in policy circles and the media, including the idea of "one country, two systems" and the designation of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as Special Administrative Regions. The Hong Kong government establishes eighteen district boards, and holds elections. Young people riot in the central business district on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, protesting the widening gap between rich and poor.

A small group of western-trained artists begins to return to Hong Kong after studying overseas, representing a new generation. Many of these artists were born after World War II and work in western mediums. Overall, they are less burdened than the previous generation by the need to bridge Chinese tradition and modernism.

The Chinese government launches a hearts-and-minds campaign in Hong Kong on the basis of Chinese compatriotism, promising to leave its capitalist economy and social system virtually intact. Meanwhile, the press frequently reports the outflow of professional and managerial talent to North America and neighboring countries in anticipation of the territory's return to the PRC (100,000 emigrate during 1982-84).

Beijing and London continue talks on Hong Kong's future; the focal point shifts from China's or Britain's sovereignty to a more Hong Kong-centered outlook, principally, Painting what is to be done for the 5 million people in the territory.

The first Fringe Festival, inspired by Edinburgh's exhibition of the same name, opens at Chater Garden as an alternative to the government-sponsored Hong Kong Arts Festival. The Fringe Festival becomes an annual event and provides an open platform for local amateur and emerging artists to launch events and installations.

Video art begins to receive attention with the First Hong Kong International Video Art Exhibition, jointly organized by the Arts Centre and Göethe Institut Hong Kong. A performing arts collective, Zuni Icosahedron (founded in 1982), presents a video art workshop in cooperation with the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Britain and the PRC sign the Joint Declaration, which states that Hong Kong will become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China as of 1997. It also provides that for the first fifty years of PRC control, Hong Kong's economic and social structure will remain unchanged: the territory will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs. At the same time, Mainland officials in Hong Kong look askance at what they consider the overpoliticization of the Hong Kong people, as evidenced by calls for direct elections and the formation of political parties.

Luis Chan: Fifty Years of His Artistic Career, 1935-1985 opens at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. This exhibition is one of the first retrospectives of a nontraditional artist held by the museum. Luis Chan (1905-1995) was a seminal figure of the Hong Kong art scene from the 1930s onward. Unlike traditional Lingnan School and New Ink movement painters, Chan was the only major artist of the older generation to break free of a traditional-modern style and to create a highly personal aesthetic language that reflected contemporary urban life.

The Arts Centre inaugurates an education program, offering courses on film, visual, literary, and applied arts. The Urban Council and the Hong Kong Arts Festival sponsor a symposium on 20th-century Chinese painting, which brings together international and local scholars for the first time to explore issues of tradition and modernity in the Mainland, in Hong Kong, and on Taiwan. Major exhibitions are held in conjunction with the symposium at the Museum of Art, the Arts Centre, Fung Ping Shan Museum at the University of Hong Kong, and the Art Gallery of Chinese University.

The proposed building of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant incites controversy and raises objections from prominent politicians such as Martin Lee and Szeto Wah, legislative councilors, district board members, and over a hundred community groups convened for a conference on the subject. The opposition focuses on environmental issues and the rights of Hong Kong residents.

Students at Chinese University's fine arts department organize an exhibition at the Arts Centre entitled Outside the Fearful Wall to protest the department's conservative approach to interpreting and teaching art. Several Hong Kong video artists found Videotage (combining "video" and "montage"), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing local independent video production and international artists exchanges. Members include Ellen Pau, May Fung, Wong Chi-fai, and Mo Man-yu.

The Art of Henry Moore, jointly organized by the Arts Centre, the British Council, and the Urban Council, sets attendance records for a Hong Kong art exhibition. The Moore show fills every public venue save one, the Rotunda Exhibition Hall, which features an exhibition of sculpture by the Taiwanese artist Ju Ming, organized by the Hong Kong Land Company and Hanart T Z Gallery.

Sir David Wilson is appointed governor of Hong Kong. The government rejects calls for a referendum on whether direct elections should be introduced in 1988. In Beijing, Deng Xiaoping is quoted as saying that universal suffrage might not be beneficial for Hong Kong. The exodus of professionals from Hong Kong continues, although during the previous year more than 8,000 former residents returned holding foreign passports.

Out of Context, a weekend alternative exhibition by young avant-garde artists at the "Ghost House" on Kennedy Road, is organized to protest the stranglehold of established art institutions. Participating artists include Antonio Mak, Yank Wong, Josh Hon, Oscar Ho, Ricky Yeung, Ringo Lee, Wong Wo-bik, Holly Lee, Choi Yan-chi, and the New York City-Chinese artist group EPOXY. Such projects set the tone for future art production. Curatorial creativity and experimental exhibitions become the driving forces behind defining and promoting avant-garde art. Meanwhile, institutions like the Museum of Art and the Urban Council are increasingly regarded as conservative, upholding the tradition of the Lingnan School and the modernism propagated by the New Ink Painting movement.

Made in Hong Kong: A History of Export Design, 1900-1960, curated by Matthew Turner of the Hong Kong Polytechnic's School of Design, opens at the Museum of History. The exhibition contributes to a search for a distinctive Hong Kong cultural identity. Icons of the Imagination, curated by Chang Tsong-zung for his Hanart T Z Gallery, brings together a group of Hong Kong painters from diverse backgrounds--including Luis Chan, Hon Chi-fun, Irene Chou, Gaylord Chan--whose work reveals common spiritual inclinations. This exhibition is one of a series that aims to identify the cultural sensibilities of Hong Kong, and is followed by Private Notes, with Oscar Ho, Rex Chan, and Yu Peng. Chang Tsong-zung argues that the work of each of these artists attempts to escape public discourse and reflects a private, diarist-like imagination.

The Arts Centre organizes a public art project entitled the Mobile Art Show, curated by Oscar Ho, Christine Loh, and David Clarke and featuring many artists from Out of Context.

In January, the first major show of Mainland China's avant-garde is held in Hong Kong at the Hanart T Z Gallery. Stars: 10 Years features the work of thirteen members of the Star group, which launched a protest march in Beijing in 1979.

An ad hoc group called Arts Support is formed in response to the student movement in Beijing, along with a fax-art propaganda campaign and art fair. A declaration of solidarity by artists and organizations is published in Ming Pao Daily. A massive demonstration is organized by Hong Kong people to protest the imposition of martial law in Beijing in late May. The outpouring of sorrow and anger escalates with the crackdown and shootings in Tiananmen Square on June 4, and over a million Hong Kong people gather for rallies across the territory. Artists organize to reproduce the statue of the Goddess of Liberty at the Academy of Performing Arts. The Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui (Jianshazui) opens at the site of the historic railway station, a scenic spot in Hong Kong overlooking Victoria Harbor. The arts community criticizes the Centre's planners for ignoring the local landscape and constructing a building with no windows.

The PRC's National People's Congress drafts the Basic Law, intended to become Hong Kong's constitution. The Hong Kong government informs the PRC via a secret letter that it has no intention of "allowing Hong Kong to be used as a base for subversive activities against the People's Republic of China," referring to the rallies protesting the events of June 4. Furthermore, it notes that "the Hong Kong government has recently rejected a proposal for a permanent site for a replica statue of democracy." The letter's contents are publicized.

In June, artists organize an exhibition at the Arts Centre commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre, entitled June Fourth Memorial Exhibition. The Fringe Club contributes by inaugurating its annual June Art Show, and Arts Support curates a traveling commemorative exhibition sponsored by the Asian-American Art Center in New York City.

Avant-garde activities continue with two experimental exhibitions curated by David Clarke and Oscar Ho for the Arts Centre. Members of the public are asked to contribute items to In Search of Art, which showcases cultural tastes rarely acknowledged in established institutions. One Day in Hong Kong invites "nonprofessional image makers" to display photographs taken on a designated day in an attempt to create a collective self-portrait of Hong Kong.

The Quart Society is founded by Yeung Tung-loong, Choi Yi-yuan, Frederick Fung, Yank Wong, Fung Kwok-leung, Choi He-chuen, and Hui Ching-shun. Although short-lived, the Society is the first independent, artist-run co-op, and functions as a space for exhibition and informal artist meetings.

Hong Kong expresses its ties to China during terrible floods in Mainland China. A charity concert held at the Happy Valley racetrack attracts more than 80,000 people and raises over HK$100 million for the flood victims.

The Hong Kong Museum of Art opens its new building next to the Cultural Centre with the exhibition Too French, featuring contemporary French art and design. The new museum space includes four permanent galleries: Contemporary Hong Kong Art, Historical Pictures, Chinese Antiquities, and Chinese Fine Art. For the first time, an exhibit of local art is permanently on view.

The Arts Centre launches its Hong Kong Culture Series with The Art of Li Tie Fu, curated by Oscar Ho. The series takes on the ambitious task of defining a Hong Kong cultural identity through research and exhibition, a project viewed by some as an aggressive bid for cultural--thus political--autonomy. Zuni Icosahedron's Cultural Policy Study Group coordinates an extensive survey of candidates for the Legislative Council (Legco) and cultural committee members for their opinions on cultural issues. Zuni's active role in policy discussions reflects the art community's active engagement and contribution to the formation of government policy. Christie's Hong Kong holds the first sale by any auction house devoted exclusively to contemporary Chinese academic-style oil painting. A painting by Mainland artist Chen Yifei fetches a record HK$1,375,000 (close to US$200,000).

Britain appoints Christopher Patten, a career politician, the governor of Hong Kong. As a response to criticism that it does not represent the avant-garde, the Museum of Art organizes City Vibrance: Recent Works in Western Media by Hong Kong Artists, an eclectic exhibition featuring 49 artists of different generations and artistic training. The older generation is represented by Gaylord Chan, Hon Chi-fun, and Van Lau. Included from the generation of younger artists who began working in the 1980s are Annie Chan Chi-ling, Chan Wai-bong, Chan Yuk-keung, Choi Yan-chi, Antonio Mak, Oscar Ho, Josh Hon, Wong Shun-kit, Danny Ning Tsun Yung, Wong Wo-bik, Ellen Pau, Yank Wong, and Ricky Yeung.

The PRC announces that on July 1, 1997, it will replace Hong Kong's Legislative Council with a Provisional Council that will remain in office until the next election in July 1998. The Hong Kong government releases its review of art policy conducted in 1992, leading to much debate within the art community. The government is criticized for ignoring local cultural identity in the report.

The feature exhibition of the January Hong Kong Arts Festival, China's New Art: Post-1989, organized by Hanart T Z Gallery and co-presented with the Arts Centre, provides the Hong Kong public with its first large survey of avant-garde art from the Mainland. The success of this exhibition, which features over 150 artworks and reveals the highly articulate agenda of artists in the PRC, challenges local artists to define the role of the avant-garde in Hong Kong. The Arts Centre's exploration of cultural identity is continued in King of Calendar: The Art of Kwan Wai Nung, an exhibition featuring the work of a pre-World War II graphic designer. Like Made in Hong Kong, this show is one of the first of its kind to showcase local Hong Kong culture and history, and generates tremendous public response.

Art and Space: From Sculpture to Installation, an inaugural installation of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Arts Endowment Committee curated by Oscar Ho, argues that new developments in installation art should replace traditional sculptural practices in Hong Kong.

Academics, students, and activists in Hong Kong protest Beijing's prosecution of Xi Yang, a Shanghai-born journalist accused of "spying on state financial and economic secrets and causing great economic losses to the state." Meanwhile, political activists lobby for the creation of a human rights commission to safeguard individual rights after 1997.

In response to criticism of its art policy report, the government establishes the Hong Kong Arts Development Council to replace the Council for Performing Arts, with the Arts Development Council scheduled to commence operation in June 1995 as an independent statutory body with public and private funding. For the first time, the visual arts come under the purview of a government entity.

Ninety-two percent of the entries to the Museum of Art's Biennial Exhibition are rejected, including all of the installation works. One of the overseas adjudicators suggests that the exhibition should be left as an empty space to protest the poor quality of the entries. The incident sparks a controversy over local art and cultural authority.

All 60 seats of the Legislative Council are up for election. Voter turnout reaches 36 percent. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, the so-called China camp, wins 16 seats, while the so-called democracy parties, led by the Democratic Party (DP), win 26 seats. The rest of the 18 moderate members are regarded as sympathetic to the DP.

A 1984 bronze sculpture of a standing male nude by the British artist Elizabeth Frink, entitled New Man, originally on display in a commercial building lobby, is classified an "indecent article" by the Obscene Articles Tribunal. According to the Tribunal, the sculpture can only be displayed in a museum or gallery, which, it states, are not "public" spaces. In response, the Arts Centre arranges an impromptu exhibition of the sculpture and holds a forum on freedom of artistic expression. Both the Arts Development Council and members of Legco denounce the Tribunal's ruling. The case generates a strong response from the press and public, and the Hong Kong Young Artists Association organizes the Penis Exhibition. (The association is also engaged in political commentary on the 1997 handover of Hong Kong.) The Tribunal's verdict is subsequently dismissed on technical grounds by the High Court and the sculpture returned to its original location.

Hong Kong Sixties: Designing Identity, curated by Matthew Turner for the Arts Centre, becomes controversial for its assertion that Hong Kong's adoption of modernism in the 1960s was propelled by economic and political interests. This show marks the high point of the debate over cultural identity in the increasingly politicized climate prior to the transfer of Hong Kong to the PRC.

The Museum of Art and the Urban Council jointly sponsor Twentieth Century Chinese Painting: Tradition and Innovation, which features 137 works by 110 artists. A dozen Hong Kong artists are represented, including Luis Chan, Wucius Wong, and Lui Shou-kwan of the New Ink Painting movement. The exhibition is accompanied by an international symposium.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology formally establishes the Center for the Arts, initiating a series of projects and exhibitions on urban culture, contemporary art, and media art. It also provides a forum for local and international artists, scholars, and policy makers.

Tung Chee-hwa is chosen by a 400-member selection committee (nominated by the PRC) to be Hong Kong's chief executive after June 30, 1997. The committee also appoints 60 officials to the Provisional Legislative Council, 33 of whom are members of the current Legco, elected in 1995.

Para/Site, an alternative nonprofit art space, is founded by Leung Chi Wo and Kith Tsang. Due to the high cost of renting commercial exhibition space, the group intends to position itself "tactically" vis-a-vis the dominant art scene in Hong Kong. Its first show, Artist-in-Western, is held at an abandoned shop in Kennedy Town. The group later opens a branch, Para/Site Central, the smallest exhibition space in Hong Kong, hosted by Hanart T Z Gallery. Para/Site includes members of the youngest generation of avant-garde artists--Lisa Cheung, Leung Mee-ping, Patrick Lee, Phoebe Man (Man Ching Ying), and Sara Wong--who promote internationalist perspectives in their work.

In March, Outside the White Cube, curated by Oscar Ho, opens at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, bringing together work by artists from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan, following the precedent set in 1994 by the Arts Centre's Contemporary Photography in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Discussion of the future accelerates as 1997 and Hong Kong's transfer to the PRC approaches. Journey to the East, 1997, part of the Hong Kong International Conference on Urban Culture, includes exhibitions and cultural policy forums. Intended to open channels of dialogue between the Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, curator Danny Ning Tsun Yung structures the events around "one table and two chairs"--a reference to "one country, two systems"--and invites artists from the Mainland (Chen Yanyin, Wang Jianwai), Hong Kong (Choi Yan-chi, Wong Shun-kit), and Taiwan (Margaret Shiu Tan, Tsong Pu). Hanart T Z Gallery invites different generations of local artists to reflect on the countdown to July 1, 1997 in the 6.30 Show, including Wucius Wong and Gaylord Chan of the 1960s-70s generation; Lucia Cheung, Wong Shun-kit, Yank Wong, and Oscar Ho, who emerged in the 1980s; and Eric Wear, Ho Siu-kee, Leung Chi Wo, Lo Yin-shan, and Lisa Cheung, artists of the 1990s. At the opening, the ribbon is cut by Christine Loh, a pro-democracy Legco councilor.

As an alternative to the rise of "patriotic" sentiment toward the Mainland, the Arts Centre organizes the exhibition Being China (Being Hong Kong), which features visions of "China" by 30 local artists from different generations, including Danny Ning Tsun Yung, Law Kun-chiu, and Kan Tai-keung. The works range from evocations of a timeless ancient China to touristic images of an exotic land to souvenirs of fashionable 1930s Shanghai. The exhibition represents a significant conceptual move from defining Hong Kong culture to questioning issues of nationhood and nationalism. Related issues are addressed in Era of Awakening: Reflections on Cultural Colonialism in Hong Kong, an exhibition of mixed-media works and installations organized by the University of Science and Technology Center for the Arts and the Hong Kong Young Artists Association. The participants--led by Wong Shun-kit, a Shanghai artist who moved to Hong Kong in the 1980s--examine Hong Kong's colonial history and local identity.

Political commentary is also showcased in the work of cartoonist Zunzi in a ten-year retrospective of his work at the Arts Centre. The extremely popular exhibition prompts public discussion of the potential danger of self-censorship in the arts community post-1997.

In response to its first invitation to an international biennial, Hong Kong represented by video/installation artist Ho Siu-kee in the 23rd Bienal of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Preparatory Committee--a 150-person China-Hong Kong body created to oversee the transfer of sovereignty--recommends the repeal of Hong Kong's 1991 Bill of Rights and other civil liberties legislation passed in recent years. The PRC's National People's Congress claims these rights are covered in the Basic Law and repeals the Hong Kong legislation.

On June 30, the sovereignty of Hong Kong is transferred from Britain to the People's Republic of China in an elaborate ceremony, which includes a citywide celebration followed by a five-day public holiday.

The Arts Centre marks the event with a series of performing arts programs and art exhibitions entitled Hong Kong Incarnated. The exhibition section, curated by Oscar Ho and entitled Museum 97: History, Community, Individual, includes The Prehistoric Hong Kong Museum, a fabricated ancient history of Hong Kong by Kith Tsang, Phoebe Man, and Sze Yuan, among others. In response to the propaganda campaign enjoining the people of Hong Kong to become "new persons" in the "new Special Administrative Region," the Centre organizes Festival Now around the satirical theme "New Life Movement." Hanart T Z Gallery sponsors a second 6.30 Show. Artists from the 1996 show are joined by Ellen Pau, Kith Tsang, Hay Young, Rex Chan, and Chan Yuk-Keung; the only artist to directly address transitional politics is Eric Wear. Again, Christine Loh presides over the opening ceremony.

The exploration of nationalism continues with the exhibition Being Minorities: Contemporary Asian Art, organized by Oscar Ho and featuring eight artists from the Asia region.

The Pillar of Shame, a bronze conical-shaped sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschoit commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre, is displayed in Victoria Park during the annual June 4 memorial rally. Permission for a longer display period is denied by the Urban Council, which owns the park, provoking a debate on political censorship and freedom of expression. After the rally, students from the University of Hong Kong arrange to have the sculpture moved to their campus. Over the next few months, it makes the rounds of other campuses.

The Hong Kong SAR government announces its plan to reexamine the infrastructure of the arts in Hong Kong. The Provisional Legislative Council formally requests the government to produce a comprehensive cultural policy that respects Chinese tradition while maintaining cultural diversity. Meanwhile, the Urban Council plans to build a museum devoted entirely to contemporary art. The Council is also criticized for poor management of its museums.

Discussion of the 1997 handover and its repercussions continues unabated in the arts community. Danny Ning Tsun Yung curates Journey to the East, 1998, an exhibition and performance art program featuring international and local artists. The event is sponsored by the University of Science and Technology Center for the Arts, Zuni Icosahedron, the Arts Centre, the Institute for Contemporary Culture (founded in 1996), and the International Association of Theatre Critics. Hong Kong Reincarnated opens at the Arts Centre, and the Hanart T Z Gallery invites local artists to participate in the third 6.30 Show.

New Voices, at the Arts Centre, brings together artists from the Mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The show includes work by Kith Tsang, Chan Yuk-keung, Yank Wong, and Ellen Pau (all Hong Kong), Li Shan (Shanghai), and Wu Mali (Taipei).

Compiled by Irene S. Leung and Michael S. K. Siu, with contributions by Oscar Ho, Eric Wear, Chang Tsong-zung, and David Clarke.