What is Chinese?

The Chinese economy has been growning on a fast pace since. Even as growth has started to slow down last year, China remains the second largest economy in the world.

Chinese artists, based in China or abroad, are getting more attention than ever. Does this help China to sell us a picture of what being Chinese means today?

In the Chinese language, the world copying does not exists. Hence, explaining that what the Western world understands as copying does not necessary need to have the same meaning to the Chinese. One could see it this way: We are importing technology, adding productivity to it, and sell a new product.

This phenomenon has been seen in way how some of the Chinese economy works. How does it work in the arts world?

London, the financial centre in Europe, has recently been showing Chinese contemporary art. This should give the rest of the world a better understanding of what can be considered as being Chinese. But, due to globalization many Chinese artists have left the country. They are still producing art, but have tried to free their minds from the political and social norms with which they were coined.

Some London galleries, such as the HUA Gallery, the Hai Gallery and the Hayward Gallery, are exhibiting works of Chinese artists who are living in Europe and China. They are expanding on our cultural understanding of what being Chinese means.

However, Ai WeiWei, the Chinese revolutionary artist, wrote in the Guardian: “The Chinese art world does not exist. In a society that restricts individual freedoms and violates human rights, anything that calls itself creative or independent is a pretence. It is impossible for a totalitarian society to create anything with passion and imagination.”

So, can we consider that what is presented to us on a Chinese blue and white porcelain plate as Chinese? Which sources can be trusted if we want to find more out about it? Is China’s reputation to change by showing off art make by Chinese artists place in China and elsewhere?


4 thoughts on “What is Chinese?

  1. Surly art is in the eye of the beholder? There are many great artists here in China that manage to produce works that astound people every day without the need for propaganda and hype to promote their works to anti Chinese buyers in the west that primarily buy for investment. I love art for art’s sake and wish more people could view and buy with unbiased eyes!



    1. Thank you for your comment. A nice piece about Ai Weiwei on your blog. Trying to judge China’s politics and the way people are treated there by the government is not possible for an outside, but even for an insider it might not be. Is Ai Weiwei able to do so? Or is he full of a preformed opinion, and tries to challenge it on an everyday basis, without noticing that China is (slowly) transforming?

      1. Thanks for your thought! I think, Ai Weiwei can see, or witnesses, and improves that China is transforming, gradually, since he was young until now. He is not an outsider but always keep himself out of restriction. It is a way to see clearly and with objective perspective about China, I suppose. And it is also very similar as a performer’s mindset.

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