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Chinese art | John McDonald

Chinese art

German idols

November 5, 2011

In Germany, Ai Weiwei is the new Joseph Beuys. I arrived at this conclusion in Berlin, after seeing an exhibition of film footage of Joseph Beuys in Japan, at the Hamburger Bahnhof; and a show of 220 photos by Ai Weiwei, at the Martin-Gropius Bau. I’ve been in Deutschland for a conference on the Chinese … More


Guanxi

October 15, 2011

Guanxi is a curious word. It is usually translated as  “contacts”, but there is no single English-language term that captures all the connotations it has for a Chinese speaker. Guanxi refers to a special kind of relationship between people whereby one may always be counted on to help the other. Such relationships are long-term and … More


White Rabbit: Beyond the Frame

October 8, 2011

Back again is Ai Weiwei’s Oil spill (2007) – a series of shiny black porcelain discs that sit flat on the floor, mimicking drops of black gold. In typical fashion, Ai Weiwei takes a substance associated with toxic pollution and transforms it into an aesthetic delicacy. Such ironic turnarounds and dislocations are characteristic of his … More


Yang Fudong

April 23, 2011

Q: When is a film not a film? A: When it’s a work of contemporary art. Of all the current crop of Chinese artists who have become stars of the Biennale circuit, Yang Fudong (b.1971) is one of the most difficult to categorise. Having studied painting at the Academy of Art in Hangzhou, he has … More


Decade of the Rabbit

March 26, 2011

As a second Art Month winds towards a conclusion, it’s still not clear that this initiative is winning new audiences for the visual arts. For 2010’s first-ever Art Month the program was even more packed, but the season that followed was a mortifying experience for most of the commercial galleries. It seems that all the … More


The First Emperor

December 11, 2010

For two thousand years the safest place for China’s cultural heritage has been underground. The Chinese may be proud of having the world’s oldest civilisation but they have also been the greatest destroyers and iconoclasts. In China the present has frequently been at war with the past, as the ruler of the day attempted to … More


White Rabbit: The Big Bang

December 4, 2010

As a squad of entombed warriors takes up temporary residence at the Art Gallery of NSW this may be an opportune time to look at the state of Chinese art two thousand years down the track. White Rabbit, the Neilson family’s privately funded museum of contemporary Chinese art, is currently holding its third exhibition. Like … More


Shen Jiawei: From Mao to Now

November 13, 2010

It’s a sign of our ignorance about China that the term “Cultural Revolution” is used so promiscuously in the mass media. Art exhibitions, fashion shows, almost anything may be described by this catchphrase, which obviously seems ‘cool’ to a lot of people. But as Mao Zedong famously said: “a revolution is not a tea party.” … More


Australian artists tour China

October 9, 2010

With each year China is exerting a greater attraction for Australian artists. This is not simply a reflection of the country’s status as this century’s coming super power, or the fact that the Australian economy is riding on the back of China’s insatiable appetite for resources. There is a pervasive energy in contemporary Chinese art … More


Shen Jiawei: the Art of Politics

August 1, 2010

Shen Jiawei became an artist during the Cultural Revolution, making his first major works in the service of the state, embodied in the figure of the Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong. For roughly a decade, from 1966 onwards, every aspect of daily life in China was politicised in a way that seems to defy logic. It … More