Walls to Fall

‘You see here? It’s part of a graffiti work,’ explained my friend while showing me her collection of fridge magnets from around the world. ‘A shame it isn’t the entire piece and I can’t tell what the message was sprayed on the wall. But I imagine it’s something to do with freedom and taking down the wall.’ She was holding a piece of concrete with faded paint on one side and mounted to a magnet on the other. A small plaque attached underneath says ‘Berlin Wall fragment’, indicating its origin and history.

How apt, I thought, that a genre born out of the countercultural movement to dismantle the wall between art institutions and popular culture becomes the face of a wall whose symbolic power resides in its demolition. And how interesting, that despite the historic fall, the wall’s power to separate still defines the existence of street art today.

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Eat, Play and Paint like a True Epicurean

For Li Jin, it’s either food or woman, and such devotion to sensual pleasure makes him a devout epicurean. His love for good food is well documented in his often diaristic works, depicting again and again all sorts of gastronomic delight: enticing seafood, fat-reeking meat, sashimi platter, grill on sticks, plump peaches, grapes on vines or big round turnips. When he doesn’t paint food, he paints himself and other people, mostly women, and all manner of them: naked, scantily clad, fully dressed, posing like Olympia, dancing Matissesque, picnicking sur l’herbe, fornicating or simply being. Continue reading →

Ideological Clean Slate – China and the New Generation

‘Cenozoic’ – a geological term referring to a new era where mammals prevail. It comes from Greek kainos + zōion, meaning ‘new animals’, because the extinction of many other organisms allowed mammals to greatly diversify and populate during that period.

Perhaps it was this annihilation of the old and the birth of the new that critic Yin Jinan had in mind when he coined the term xin sheng dai (the New Generation) to describe a group of Beijing-based artists born in the 1960s. Their departure from the then predominant mode of contemporary art was evidenced in the ‘China/Avant-Garde’ exhibition. Continue reading →

Valuing Art in China

Auctioneers in China may have reasons to be jubilant. The recent years have seen paintings and antique prices rocketing up to empyrean levels. Last year’s spring sale saw a Qi Baishi’s work selling at RMB 425.5m (USD 66.9m), while a masterpiece by Wang Meng (1308–1385) was hammered at RMB 402.5m (USD 63.3m).

More recently, Le Keran’s landscape painting in red fetched a no-less staggering RMB 293m (USD 46m) from an anonymous bidder. It seems that China’s awakening to her economic power has also brought cultural patriotism out of the affluent. Continue reading →