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Chinese Contemporary Art and Criticism in the Era of Globalization: Wu Hung’s Experimental Art vs. Gao Minglu’s Transnational Avant-garde

Dong-Yeon Koh 1

1한국예술종합학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

As Chinese contemporary art, especially what is called “Political Pop Art”, became the center of attention at international biennialsand exhibitions during the early 1990s, critics of Chinese art faced a number of important challenges. They had to ‘explain’ not only the distinctive historical and artistic contents of individual art works and artists, but also Chinese contemporary art within the history of the international contemporary art. The critics and curators on Chinese contemporary art had to fight against the dominant approach toward Chinese contemporary art in the West; to bring the balanced view between artistic tradition in China and the development of contemporary artistic language; to examine Chinese art relative to the concept of avant-garde, based on the “critical” tradition of contemporary art in west. This study concentrates on Wu Hung and Gao Minglu, the two influential art critics and art historians on contemporary Chinese art and culture. As both were educated in China and western academia, they can serve as useful cases for understanding the challenges that art critics of the non-western world should face. I will particularly highlight Wu Hung’s attempt to “decontexturalize” as well as “recontexturalize” Chinese contemporary art relative to Chinese literary and artistic tradition on the one hand, and the development of conceptual and books art in the west on the other. Unlike Wu Hung, who became extremely reserved in using western theories, Gao Minglu applied the concept of avantgarde in order to introduce a series of critical and rebellious arts in China from the late 1980s and onwards. For Minglu, western theories and concept enable him, in a way, to criticizethe repressive Chinese government and advocated Chinese avant-garde art “outside”of China. By looking at the key example of Wu Hung’s and Gao Minglu’s art criticism, this study aims to touch upon the problem, limitation, and possibilities that art critics on nonwestern arts have to deal with in the globalized art world context; how international artistic languages or theories can be used, appropriated by critics on non-western art world to maneuver between non-western and western, or between the outside and inside of the tradition and society from which the given art works derived.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.