TAIWAN | HONG
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Compiled by Gao Minglu, with contributions
by Qian Zhijian.
MAINLAND CHINA | HONG
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
MAINLAND CHINA | TAIWAN
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
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
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
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