The Great Wall of China would be the largest wall surface to hang paintings in the world. Its 5500 square miles long of wall could be filled with Chinese ”hand-made” factory reproductions in less than a month. Chairman Mao could have equally stated that ”Art would flow out of the barrel of a gun”. Forty years after the Cultural Revolution authentic art is still equated with ”elitism”. ”Art for Arts Sake” is a remote and abstract idea with an implicit negative connotation in part due to an absence of practicality and assured revenue stream.
Historially, Chinese art had a dominant decorative element whereby decoration served as an artworks main utility. To a large degree China has applied the command economy industrial template to the arts to create an economically viable art ”commodity” sector able to engage art school graduates to produce assembly line style decorative art at low cost and with a respectable technical proficiency. Buying this art is like ordering at a Chinese restaurant, except poo-poo platter no.1 special is for 20000 people at a single serving.
The art graduates are talented and willing to work for 250$ a month. The artists work at warp speed, and can jump from a Warhol to a Cezanne to an Andrew Wyatt and complete multiple copies of each of each before the morning tea pause. Liberalism in China is on an incremental basis only and an acceptance of abstract art is not foreseeable except on mass production basis.
Industrial production technique applied to
art world is based on the ”One Size Fits All” business model.There is division of labour and the painting is viewed within the prism of the accountants cost/volume/profit perspective. The Ziganof Group in Manchester, England purchases up to six 40 foot containers per order mainly for home furnishings and furniture retailers.
In contrast is the 798 Art Zone in the Dashanzi Art District:
Chen Yufei is an avant-garde oil painter who has enjoyed international visibility. He first gained attention in a modern art exhibit just prior to the Tiananmen square massacre and over time has continued to develop technically while refining the protest and rage aspect in his work, in part to avoid scrutiny and permit a given degree of liberty of expression.
Yue Minjun emerged after the Chinese government stopped the China avant-garde movement. There is a progression away from pre-tiananmen idealism and naiveity towards an acceptance that an Orwellian big brother is an element that could be coopted into the art but the centrality of the individual would triumph. One has to question if this type of art promotion has propaganda elements. The State’s need to display shiny happy artists.Is this a Chinese Barbie and Ken art doll; model prisoners wearing designer clothes.
In effect, avant-garde art is a result of urbanization in China and greater concentration of wealth.It is also a reaction to the calligraphic tradition, peasant painting and ink and wash landscapes that put the China of Pearl S. Buck’s ”The Good Earth” at centre stage culturally for many years. Buck’s protagonist, Wang Lung was a victim of the pervasive violence of Chinese rural life and the ensuing poverty, within an epic political and economic crisis of 1920′s China. Wang Lung had no valid exit strategy and the tragic results were inevitable given the author’s frame of reference within the realm of the end days of Imperial China. Lung was like Oliver Twist but without any prospect to emerge from his own obscurity.
The Chinese modern Art movement since 1985 has resulted in expanding interest for art education.The authorities have raised tuition for an art university program to almost twice the cost of an engineering vocation. The artists not able to live professionally upon graduation turn to commodity art for export. Mao had a cast a long shadow and China’s artists are only beginning to see daylight.