Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Another weekend trip took us to the Nanjing Fine Arts Museum.
So far Chinese art has been a mixed bag. The 798 District and a few smaller areas in Beijing were immense, but that is where the most interesting and creative people come together and in relative freedom. More typically we visited a exhibition in Wuhan which was pretty depressing. It was the results of a national fine arts competition and it was everything you'd expect of Chinese art...

I'd like to think this was ironic....but the prevalence of similar pieces would indicate otherwise.

There were lots of happy poor people represented. Because the poor people in China are happy being poor.

There were some highlights, like this 'American Man'

And there were other interesting ones, but overall the artworks seemed so safe. Technically they were beautifully executed, but in a country so diverse and with so many big big problems having lots and lots of pictures of smiley minority groups was pointless and boring.

So I did not have high hopes for Nanjing. Luckily it turned out to be awesome. Hosted was the Nanjing Arts Institute graduates show. Straight from the start it was innovative and funny and covered so so many more aspects of modern Chinese life.

Some were a bit mental.

The fashion section was a surreal cross between the Queen Amidala-esque and princess prom gowns.

One of my favourites, this was so technically competent but understated.

In what we decided was a 'Mum' moment on entering the fine art gallery me and beth both breathed a 'Well, thank heavens they can actually draw'.

Another favourite for sheer surrealism this was what I like to think of as 'Attack of the lizards'. I'm not sure what the message was but it was fun.

Always good for a laugh was finding our mates Jess (top) and Sophie (bottom). The arts students are forever looking for white people to star in their works, unfortunately it's unpaid so not so popular.

There were some low points. Although very nicely painted I thought this was fairly uninspired. Taking a traditional Chinese scroll and whacking some modern women on top just seemed a bit obvious. It reminded me of in high school when we had to take a text and transform it into another genre. One of the girls in class took Pride and Prejudice and made it bollywood...like that hadn't been thought of before. On the other hand I hold originality in surreally high regard so I probably shouldn't be trusted.

This being China there was also the weird bit we totally couldn't understand. A group of security guards and random people fishing fish out of a sculpture and popping them in a bucket. A terribly interactive attempt at modern art? Cleaning up after sabotage? Taking them out for feeding? Who knows...

Overall a jolly good show that made me rather optimistic for the future of Chinese art.


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