Artists Test Limits as China Lets (a Few) Flowers Bloom

The Wall Street Journal looks at the state of contemporary visual art in China, which enjoys relative freedom compared to other cultural mediums:

First forced to glorify the state, artists across genres were once ostracized. More recently, their work has emerged as one of the few bright lights in China’s otherwise staid cultural scene. The National Day celebrations are highlighting China’s artistic successes — its sparkling new concert houses and theaters, cinemas and prolific publishing houses.

Even now, though, few artists actually produce works that reflect the issues of the day or can compete on the international stage. And most are still limited by censorship. Every movie studio, theater, music house, publisher and publication in China is either directly owned by the state or subject to state guidelines.

Contemporary art — paintings, installations and other works produced in the present day — is a bright exception. The sector has thrived in part because it almost by definition reaches only an elite few. Yet its success is also due to the persistence of a handful of artists — and to the party’s willingness to let at least some flowers bloom.

The article also includes an interactive timeline of art in China.

October 2, 2009 11:08 AM
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