The New York Times reports on the opening of another major exhibition of Chinese Classical-style painting as a way of introducing the topic of Chinese museum building. Wu Guanzhong has been burning up the auctions just behind Qi Baishi and Zhang Daqian:
The boom in museum construction, which some Chinese art experts liken to the expansion of museums in the United States at the end of the 19th century, has much to do with national pride. It comes with the full support of the national government as part of a cultural strategy known as “Going Out, Inviting In,” under which the government is giving its blessing to museums’ taking the initiative in offering an array of modern Chinese art for show abroad, including in the United States.
At the same time, the tone has changed from what used to be fairly blatant use of Chinese culture as state propaganda to a more sophisticated approach, Chinese and American museum directors say. In this spirit, individual museums in China, particularly art museums, are exerting more of their own leadership and relying less on central authorities to approve what they can send and show abroad.
Thus a collaboration between the Shanghai Art Museum and Asia Society in New York is behind a show of 54 ink-on-paper works by Wu Guanzhong that opens in New York on Tuesday. A Chinese artist who trained in Paris after World War II, Wu then turned to using ancient techniques of brush and ink on a large scale and in a contemporary manner.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal provided a more market-centered look at the painter:
Wu’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout China, as well as in Singapore, Paris, London and Cologne, Germany. Christie’s director of 20th-century and contemporary Asian art, Eric Chang, says the artist’s prices have risen 20-fold in the last decade or so.
So far, buyers remain largely Asian, but Mr. Chang says that the market is poised to change, as interest in 20th-century Asian artists burgeons—particularly with a platform like this show.
Wu always had strong bonds to the West, spending his most formative years at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the late 1940s. The Western-style nudes and oil paintings he made upon his return to China in 1950 were rare at the time—and, in part, the reason why Chairman Mao’s officials zeroed in on him during the Cultural Revolution.
Wu is said to have destroyed much of his early work as the Red Army approached his home in 1966. They seized his belongings and forbade him to paint or write. He then spent several years serving hard labor in a rural town. Publicly chided, he was forced to condemn his own work and ideas.
China Extends Reach Into International Art (New York Times)
A Master’s Riffs on Centuries of Chinese Art (Wall Street Journal)