Mar 22, 2010

Cinical Realism and Modern Chinese Art

In 1985, Chinese art saw the emergence of a new set of rebelling artists led by Xu Bing. Between 1985 to 1988 China produced many good artists and many new ways of looking at art. But this movement was very short lived. The 1985 Movemet soon gave place to the phase of Cynical Realism which continues to afflict the Chinese Art.

Xu Bings Scroll depicting 4000 senseless Chinese characters heralded the begining of New Wave in Chinese Art

Liberalization of Chinese Economy had brought in a lot of western attention to Chinese Art and soon Chinese art galleries started to cater to the needs of this new set of buyers. Most of these art works showed cynicism about Chinese administration. This apparent rebelling style started with a lot of promise and appeared that it would soon surpass the popularity of the previous 85 Movement.

Cynical Realism started with a bang, but very soon lost all its steam. It always sold, but it lost all its charge. They painted predominantly for the west and west wanted to buy only such art that was critical of Chinese Political establishment. The art of this type never tried to get deeper into any of the pressing concerns of society and only remained cynical. Infact the art now had become so deliberately critical, repetitive that it lost its connect with the local people.

Normally Fang Lihun’s first solo show in Mainland China is considered the first show of this genre. But later Yue Minjun (born 1962), Yang Shaobin (born 1963), Wang Jinsong (born 1963), and Song Yonghong (born 1966) joined together.

Yue Minjun had come to prominence with laughing man. But following commercial success, Minjun never changed his style and continued to paint the same thing. It became boring. But Chinese artists are today only bothered about money.

According to Aldous Huxley, "Cynical Realism is the intelligent man's best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation." For China however, this excuse is the new golden pig. The market for Cynical Realism is thriving and ever growing. The commercial appeal for these paintings is rising. Cynical Realism today, enjoys the reputation as an identifying tangent of Chinese Contemporary Art. They fetch the highest of prices globally.

The 85 Movement artists always had large followings but very few buyers. But now the new generation had many buyers but no followers. Chinese were now not interested as how to look at things, but how to make money. Artists also catered less to art loving people but more to the tastes of art-buying people.

The question that was in everybody's mind was that how long was this bubble of Cynical realism to last. The answer was found in the 2010 when none of the cynical realists sold anything at all. Cynical realism is on its way out as newer Chinese artists are coming with stronger resolve and higher commitments and this has become possible partly because of the fall in the reputation of the western art houses.

Art all over Asia is now likely to undergo a sea change. In India, China, Japan and Malaysia, newer artists with original content, brave approaches and newer styles are gaining popularity independent of art houses which had all mushroomed in these countries when the economies were opened up to western market.

Rashid Rana is a Pakistani Artist who makes images of Veils from milions of thumbnail size images of other things. The resulting work tends to provoke human imagination.

But even though Cynical realism is on it way out, it would remained an important chapter in the history of 21st century Chinese contemporary art.

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