News from China

Here’s an interesting article confirming the strength of the art buying market in China that Bob Rose was telling me about:

Go here for the News from Thailand post:

Zeng Fanzhi has a picture in the article I couldn’t capture, but I was able to grab this one:

The feel is slightly reminiscent of  the  great American painter Alice Neel:

Neel was all but ignored by this country, as most good painters were. Neel was one of the fortunate ones, in that the Whitney finally saw fit to give her a retrospective. She was quite old and I think died soon afterwards.

She was one of the figurative painters whose careers were killed off by the totatitarian aspects of abstract painting in the 50s.

How much more ironic can it get. Now China is marching ahead with booming sales, as US art with its commitment to Jasper Johns type nothingness looks increasingly lame and here is a Chinese painting like Alice Neel! The work at auction sold for 1.3 million. These are still low figures compared to the Contemporary American masters of the Warhol stripe…. but I can foretell the future. The trite and trendy will be replaced by the soulful and deeply human. Fang’s work is also very much in feeling like early figurative Moderns like Meidner.

Again, my sense is that if there is an art history that is going to continue into the future, the dead nihilism of American contemporary painting with it’s pseudo-intellectual and sterile cerebral approach will look increasingly weak and empty. Certain American artists are waking up to that. But most of them still have their dadaist smart ass thing going, too gutless to show any real genuine feeling. They’d be too unhip for the critics who demand irony and detachment. That’s what critics are… detached.  Artists are hurting themselves if they try to to emulate stupid critics. It’s the stupidity of following these critics that has largely polluted and crushed American painting and art in general for decades….

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7 Responses to News from China

  1. trueoutsider says:

    This is what strikes me as most interesting in the above mentioned article.

    “Most crucial among ArtTactic’s findings is that the Chinese contemporary art market is currently entering a new, uncharted phase, distinct from the first market boom that began in 2005, wherein the dominant buyers are Asian, rather than Western. The study projects that this trend is likely to continue, and will in all likelihood only widen the valuation gap between Chinese artists who appeal more to Western collectors — such as Ai Weiwei and Zhang Huan — and those who represent a more “Asian taste,” such as Zeng Fanzhi, Liu Ye, and Zhang Xiaogang. This echoes findings from ArtTactic’s last report on confidence levels in the Chinese contemporary art market, covered by Jing Daily in September.”

    Chinese Artists most appealing to Chinese collectors:
    Liu Ye

    Zhang Xiaogang:

    Zeng Fanzhi:

    Chinese artists appealing more to Western Collectors:

    Ai WeWi:

    Zhang Huan:

    Cai Guo-Qiang:

    • Steve says:

      It is very telling that Bob Dylan is playing in China & Vietnam this week. China has refused to allow him to perform, ever, before now, because they were afraid he would “…hurt Chinese feelings….” So, the question is being asked: “what will he sing?” I don’t think it matters what he sings. The very fact that Dylan, one of America’s greatest truth-speaking troubadours and most insightful poets is being allowed into mainstream Chinese consciousness. It’s one more example, I think anyway, of how art and creativity can’t be forever stopped, if it appeals to the human spirit. The ongoing unfolding of art can be postponed though. And it’s also my belief that it can be thwarted as much by artists as by society. It’s up to each individual painter , sculptor, film maker, musician, etc. to delve as deeply as we can into our own hearts and minds and bring up to the light of day what we find to be true and real. If it’s good it will live and last, if it’s bad it won’t. Decades ago Dylan sang: ” Good and bad, I define those terms…quite clear no doubt somehow…ah but I was so much older then…I’m younger than that now….” So it is us artists who really decide what is good or bad, regardless of what critics, gallery owners, or even the public say. We either see or we don’t, find something real or not, uncover beauty & truth or leave it buried,and move with the current of life or flop around on the shore. Culture is born this way, from pregnant idea to the birth of form, and not by those outside the creative process controlling the result. What happens to our work, after we make it, really isn’t any of our business when it comes down to it. We can try to make it our business, that’s fine and understandable, in the hopes of turning our efforts into a livelihood so that we can live and continue to create, and also to ensure that society sees what we do. But really, that’s after-the-fact stuff, and if we get too bogged-down in promoting and explaining it we can easily lose sight of the goal, which is, for each of us to dig into our own reality and mine whatever is of value there. For me this is as true when I look at other artist’s work, as we are doing here in this thread with Chinese painting, as it is for my own work. And the question I always ask is : what does this one work say and do? I don’t try to analyze it beyond one work-at-a-time, because I get lost doing that. Works of art are like people for me, I can address the humanity in each one ( the one in the many ) but I can’t honestly survey & categorize the infinite variety of expressions in a sweeping context ( the many in the one ). This is just my own personal process of evaluating, and not meant as a rule for anybody else to adhere to.

      • trueoutsider says:

        Fellini said something to the effect that he doesn’t think that too much self-consciousness is helpful for an artist. I’ll go along with that.

    • Steve says:

      Bart…Fang’s painting also reminds me very much of another European painter from the early 1900’s, I think it might be Kokoshka. Here’s a portrait of Adolf Loos 1909, The brooding feeling, dark blue colors, and even the paint handling are very much alike. And another Viennese painter from that time period, Egon Schiele has portraits that are very akin to Fang’s. I wonder if Fang studied these artists and felt a strong kinship with them.

  2. trueoutsider says:

    It’s difficult to do more than just conjecture from the limited anecdotal information above on what differentiates Chinese from Western collectors. But it’s certainly striking that the three Chinese artists Western collectors prefer are straight conceptualists. Whereas the three Chinese favorites are straight pop-influenced painting, much more satisfying visually. And while pop, they’re far more hands on sophisticated painting POP than the Lichtenstein/Warhol variety. The Liu Yei I don’t care for at all, reminding me of the kindergarten/Nara school of work. But Xiaogang and Fanzhi are much more interesting to me than any of the American pop artists. They’re just better painted than Wesselman, Rosenquist, or you name it.

    They’re more on the level of the British Pop artist Peter Blake, whose work I like. But just like Hockney, I don’t consider them so much pop artists, as artists whose beginnings were associated with Pop art.

    One of my favorite American artists was also associated with Pop art. That was my first introduction to the work of Jess. His Tricky Cad collages were included in one of the Pop Art anthologies. It was about the only thing I liked in the whole book. Oyvind Fahlstrom was the other. If I had the book still there were no doubt other exceptions. But those are the two artists whose work I’ve always admired and I think have been mislabeled as Pop Artists. I also consider Blake and Hockney mislabeled as such. That’s why labels are so problematic and while they have to be used, it’s good to keep in mind they’re only vague generalizations.


    Jess (the magnificent):

    • Steve says:

      I like the standing portrait displayed above. It’s simple , straight forward and honest-looking to my eye. I don’t feel any pretense in the way the artist portrays the figure , in fact it doesn’t feel like a portrayal at all but an introduction to a friend or neighbor. For me, words and writing used in a painting usually disturb the ‘relationship’ I am having ( or trying to have ) with it, but for some reason the buttons on the figure’s coat and especially the blatant brightly painted book feels good and natural, not like a message. And I also like the way the painter diffused some parts of the man in the blue suit, rather than making it all hard-edged and cartoon like. One shoe is clean and crisp, the other is smudgy and blends in with the dirt. This is the way my own shoes are, so it feels human to me and makes me want to relate, want to care, want to know. All very nice, just an open ‘hello’ to some guy in the back yard. No big deal, no formal meeting, no uncomfortable weirdness, and no glaring painting technique to ruin the moment.

  3. trueoutsider says:

    Oh, and this is another Peter Blake we’re all familiar with:

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