“China’s Female Artists Quietly Emerge”

Xiao Lu


If you find the title above (from the NY Times) ominous, you’re right.  First of all, though, it is puzzling.   Why?  Because this is their first anecdote:

On a February day in 1989, a young woman walked into a show at the National Gallery of Art here, whipped out a pellet gun and fired two shots into a mirrored sculpture in an exhibition called “China/Avant-Garde.” Police officers swarmed into the museum. The show, the country’s first government-sponsored exhibition of experimental art, was shut down for days.

The woman, Xiao Lu, is an artist. The sculpture she fired on was her own, or rather a collaborative piece she had made with another artist, Tang Song, her boyfriend at the time.
The international press saw a rebellion story. China’s political and cultural vanguard claimed a hero. The government reacted as if attacked. The renowned art critic Li Xianting has described the incident as a precursor to the Tiananmen Square crackdown four months later. Whatever the truth, Ms. Xiao made the history books. She was a star.

That’s not exactly quiet, is it?
In fact, the women artists are “emerging quietly” in so far as they are just not heard or seen:

She is the first and last Chinese female artist so far to achieve that status. Contemporary art in China is a man’s world. While the art market, all but nonexistent in 1989, has become a powerhouse industry and produced a pantheon of multimillionaire artist-celebrities, there are no women in that pantheon.

The new museums created to display contemporary art rarely give women solo shows. Among the hundreds of commercial galleries competing for attention in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere, art by women is hard to find.

Yet the art is there, and it is some of the most innovative work around, even as visibility remains a problem.

Rather like a long advertisement for the Olympics, the NY Times is discovering China these days.  Or perhaps it has become a primer for all those parties.  Still, many of its pieces are usefully interesting, and the one about artists is too, even if too much about their exclusion is dismally familiar.  The women are also all, it seems, ambivalent about feminism and what they see as a very Western slant to it.

And the print above, in a private collection in China, will cost you between $25,000-$35,000.

One thought on ““China’s Female Artists Quietly Emerge”

  1. At least they put a picture of Cui Xiuwen — an interesting choice indeed. She’s a rising star in contemporary art, and I must say I’m not certain whether that confirms or denies their thesis, as it’s muddled to say the least.

    But reading “women’s issues” defined as “family and home” in that article was a very cringe-worthy moment, so I guess I was indeed moved by their fish-wrap.

    That’s not related to the actual article, but rather to jj’s comment about “discovering” China, but I went to a show about Chinese cities that turned out to be about Chinese culture as a whole. At least that was the stated ambition. Except that trying to shoebox so many thousand years across such a big place in a small exhibition told much more about the curator’s cultural hubris than about China itself.

Comments are closed.