China refuses to lend art to Asia Society New York show 2008

SURVEY CHINESE ART NEW YORK September 5 2008 to January 11 2009
China has reversed its decision to lend Asia Society nearly 100 objects from Chinese museums for an exhibition that focuses on revolutionary Chinese art from the 1950s through the ’70s, scheduled to open on Sept. 5 in Manhattan, the society’s president said.

The Chinese Ministry of Culture had originally agreed to allow the society to borrow works for the show, “Art and China’s Revolution,” promoted as among the first comprehensive exhibitions devoted to that era and one that will examine the effects of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution on artists and art production in China.

Despite the Chinese government’s decision, Asia Society has decided to proceed with the show by seeking loans from private collectors.

The approach of the Olympics seemed to have been the deal breaker. “Initially, they said, ‘Any loans you want; no problem,’ ” said Vishakha N. Desai, the society’s president. “The closer it got to the Olympics, they changed their policy.”

“It has more to do with China’s desire and aspiration to be seen in a new light,” Ms. Desai added. “This is a time for celebration. They don’t want to be reminded of a difficult past.”

“To some extent, it’s better,” she said. “We don’t want ever to be seen as being sanctioned by the government.”

“Even though this is a period many would prefer to forget, it is nevertheless one that produced a visual culture that continues to permeate contemporary Chinese art,” Mr. Zheng said in a news release.

One section of the exhibition addresses artists who went against the prevailing style, including Pan Tianshou, Lin Fengmian, Zhao Yannian, Li Keran and Shi Lu, some of whom were persecuted and called “black artists.”

The show also includes works by a younger generation of contemporary artists, like Xu Bing, Chen Danqing and Zhang Hongtu, who attribute many of their artistic influences to their years spent in the countryside as part of their “re-education.”

Mao started the Cultural Revolution in 1966 to purge China of its bourgeoise elements and to advance class struggle. The revolution also represented Mao’s effort to regain control of the Communist Party from his rivals Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping after the Great Leap Forward. The conflict eventually devolved into a decade-long period of power struggles and political instability.

During the revolution, art was often used as propaganda to deliver a political message to a mass audience. Older artists sometimes adopted revolutionary themes; many others had their works destroyed and were persecuted. At the same time, some younger artists aspired to have their paintings become “model works,” mass-produced in posters and newspapers. The Asia Society exhibition seeks to capture the varied artistic ramifications of this political turmoil.

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Wang Huaiqing - Long live Gutian spirit 1967

Wang Huaiqing - Long live Gutian spirit 1967


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