FINE ART EDUCATION IN CHINA
A comprehensive study of art education in China is the focus of the April 2011 issue of LEAP, a free bilingual magazine that covers Chinese contemporary art and culture. We have, of course, read the whole issue and pull out (and link to) the best parts below.
LEAP magazine’s April 2011 edition is a richly illustrated treasure trove of China’s art education system, covering the broad spectrum of arts education and throwing a spotlight on cram schools, leading artist-educators, new campus buildings and much more. The strength of this special issue lies in its diversity and thought-provoking content, which ranges from in-depth features and first-hand narratives to sector overviews and reports.
Click here to read the issue in its entirety on the LEAP website.
Art Radar takes you through some of the highlights, summarising what is said by LEAP and linking you to each article so you can read more.
Art, artist and educator
Art becomes all the more powerful in the hands of educators. This article explores the dynamic issues related to the teaching of art in China, a country now in the throes of rapid transition, a result of its booming globalising economy.
Currently, there are six schools and one college under the umbrella of Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA): the School of Fine Art, the School of Chinese Painting, the School of Design, the School of Architecture, the School of Humanities and the College of City Design, as well as the School of Continuing Education and the Affiliated High School of Fine Art.
Professor Pan Gongkai, director of CAFA, opines that the art teaching programmes have to keep pace internationally. “We now have every major that exists at mainstream art schools in Europe and the United States. In the Nineties, we were doing ten to twenty percent of what the West was doing, but now it’s ninety percent.”
Anxiety, oppression and cram schools
Art education in China undergoing an upheaval. According to online magazine The Tyee, “In less than a generation, China could be turning out the brightest, most original thinkers on the globe, with 200 million students and 12 million teachers leading the way.”
Art education in China has gained tremendous momentum over the years, resulting in a mushrooming of cram schools: specialised schools that focus on a single subject and aim to aid students in passing entrance examinations for high schools and universities. These much-sought-after “testprep” schools are fast turning into a big business. For about 1,500 US dollars (RMB 10,000), one can easily enroll in a six-month course in Hangzhou aimed at getting you through all of the general exams and entrance tests that you would need to get into a good university.
If you assumed that the students at cram schools learn the fundamentals of art, and related intellectual attainments, you are sadly mistaken. Rather than developing enthusiasm about art, the overburdened pupils in these cram schools are taught how to ace the examinations and impress the examiner. There are even pigments that are specially designed for students taking university entrance examinations, the colours of which are tailored to the perceived tastes of various academies, notes LEAP.
Should China be preparing pupils for a test without developing their deeper understanding?
What is in a name?
What is more important: the quality of art education or the name of the art department? Art academies in China have traditionally been organised according to the medium they specialise in, but of late they seem to be picking up the prefix “studio” or “mixed” in an attempt to showcase a streak of innovation.
As art departments across China are being rechristened, what do the experts have to say about the new wave nomenclature?
Reflections on new beginnings
The pioneering work of young art graduates of the 1980’s was the driving force behind the ’85 New Wave Movement that brought Chinese contemporary art into the international arena. These artists, present at the moment when China first began to open its gates and its mind to the world, bridged trends in Western modernism with Chinese traditions of Zen and Taoism.
These early 1980s graduates of art academies were the driving force behind the ’85 Movement, and they mounted a major attack on the history of Chinese contemporary art.
Written from first-hand experience and with great enthusiasm by Fei Dawei, who was admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) just after the Cultural Revolution, this article explores some of the factors that brought non-Chinese theories, philosophies and practices into art academies across the country. While much of China and its education system remained conservative, the ideas being discussed in lectures and read about in university libraries were not.
Our curriculum was quite comprehensive: ‘History of Chinese Art’, ‘History of Western Art’, and ‘Art Theory’ were the three main components, and we had three years of each. ‘History of Western Art’ continued up to the pop art [movement] of the 1970s, which counted as quite ‘advanced’ in comparison to art history educations in other countries at the time.
Some of the Chinese art world’s most influential artists are mentioned, Huang Yong Ping, Gu Dexin and Yang Jiechang. Huang in particular stands tall as the founder of the Xiamen Dada movement – a collective of avant-garde groups of artists interested in creating a new Chinese cultural identity and artistic practices.
The business of art education is a serious one in this booming economy. For anyone interested in learning more about China’s art education system, the April 2011 issue of LEAP is a must-read.
- Hong Kong art fair ART HK 11: Chinese contemporary art market to outgrow US and European press release – May 2011 – all that art market buzz made easy
- 3 contemporary Chinese painters make Artprice report top 10 – December 2010 – click through to find out who
- Chinese auction houses climb worldwide revenue rankings – Artprice – December 2010 – offers an interesting profile of Chinese auction houses
- A testimonial for Chinese contemporary art – Art Radar speaks with Weng Lin – August 2010 – insight into new trends in the Chinese art scene
- Top 5 books on Chinese art by Chinese art specialist, Pippa Dennis – October 2008 – essential browsing for anyone interested in Chinese art
Subscribe to Art Radar for more independent contemporary art news from Asia and beyond