Contemporary Chinese art has emerged as one of the liveliest and most creative trends in art today. Many exhibitions have introduced this art to a global audience, yet no systematic introduction has yet been written in any Western language. Nearly all the relevant primary documents have existed only in Chinese and are scattered in hard-to-find publications. Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents remedies this situation by providing a collection of carefully selected texts in English translation.

Edited by Wu Hung, this volume presents key documents such as manifestos of avant-garde groups, prefaces to important exhibitions, writings by representative artists, interviews, critical and analytical essays, and even official documents. Arranged in chronological order and framed by contextual explanations, the texts guide readers through the development of contemporary Chinese art from the late 1970s to the 2000s. A timeline summarizing important art phenomena and related political events is provided.

With bibliography and index.

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About This Volume

1 Contemporary Art as Domestic Movement, 1976-89

I. The Beginning of Contemporary Art: 1979-84


Unofficial Art Groups and Exhibitions

Preface to the First Nature, Society, and Man Exhibition (Ziran, Shehui, Ren) (1979) - WANG Zhiping, 王志平

Preface to the First Stars Art Exhibition (Xingxing Meizhan) (1979) - HUANG Rui, 黃銳

A Letter to the People (1979) - XU Wenli, LIU Qing

About the Stars Art Exhibition (1980) - LI Xianting, 栗憲庭

A Debate on 'Formal Beauty' and Other Issues

Formalist Aesthetics in Painting (1979) - WU Guanzhong, 吳冠中

Emotion, Individuality, Formal Aesthetics (1979) - LIU Shaohui, 劉紹薈

New Directions in Realist Painting

Scar Art

Some Thoughts on Creating the Picture-Story Book Maple (Feng) (1980) - CHEN Yiming, LIU Yulian, LI Bin

Man's Rational Meditation: A Brief Discussion of Cheng Conglin's Thematic Oil Paintings (1970s/1994) - DENG Pingxiang, 鄧平祥

Native Soil Art

A Letter from the Artist of Father Fuqin (1981) - LUO Zhongli, 羅中立

My Seven Paintings (1981) - CHEN Danqing, 陳丹青

Melancholy Youth and 'Contemplative Painting'

Expecting Her to Walk on the Main Road (1981) - WANG Chuan (b. 1953), 王川

'Contemplative Painting' in China and Andrew Wyeth (1985) - RUAN Xudong

II. The Arrival of an Avant-garde Movement: 1985-86

Political and Intellectual Contexts

Enlightenment of a New Era: On In the New Era (Zai Xinshidai) (1985) - ZHANG Qun, 張群, MENG Luding, 孟祿丁

Pioneers of Contemporary Chinese Art — A Critque of the Progressive Young Chinese Artist Exhibition (1985) - ZHAO Jinghuan, 趙經寰

Beijing Theorists' Reactions to the Art of Robert Rauschenberg (1985) - ZHU Ye

Foreword to Fine Arts in China (1985)

Appendix: A Nationwide Forum and Model: Art Magazines and Symposia (2003) - Martina KOEPPEL-YANG, 楊天娜

'85 Art New Wave

General Discussions

The '85 Art Movement (1986) - GAO Minglu, 高名潞

The Significance Is Not the Art (1986) - LI Xianting, 栗憲庭

A Summary of Evaluations of the '85 Art Movement (1986) - GAO Minglu, 高名潞

Appendix: The Landscape of China's Modern Art Movement (1991) - TONG Dian

Writings by Members of Selected Art Groups

We — Participants of the ''85 Art Movement' (1986) - WANG Guangyi, 王廣義

An Explanation of the Northern Art Group (1987) - SHU Qun, 舒群

On New Space and the Pond Society (1987) - Jiu SHI

New Figurative: Manifestation and Transcendence in Figurative Patterns of Life (1987) - MAO Xuhui, 毛旭輝

Red Brigade Precept (1987) - DING Fang, 丁方

Statement on Burning (1986) - HUANG Yong Ping, 黃永砅

Introduction to The Events Exhibition that Took Place at the Exhibition Hall of the Fujian Art Museum (1986) - HUANG Yong Ping, 黃永砅

Toward a Physical State of Contemporary Art Itself (1986) - WANG Du, 王度

III. From Collectivity to Individual Creativity: 1987–89


Rethinking the Movement

Returning to Art Itself (1988) - JIA Fangzhou, 賈方舟

Rethinking Art

Purifying Artistic Language

A Few Thoughts (1988) - ZHU Zude, 朱祖德, LIU Zhenggang, 劉正剛

Absurdity and Irrationality

Non-Expressive Paintings (1986) - HUANG Yong Ping, 黃永砅

Art as Process

Looking for Something Different in a Quiet Place (1989) - XU Bing, 徐冰

Regarding 'Analysis' (1989) - CHEN Shaoping, 陳少平

Challenging Modernism — An Interview with Wenda Gu (1986) - FEI Dawei, 費大為

Against the Public

The Point of Departure for Art Project No. 2 (Yishu Jihua Di Er Hao) (1988/2008) - ZHANG Peili, 張培力

The China / Avant-garde Exhibition

The Exhibition

Background Material on the China / Avant-garde Exhibition (1989) - ZHOU Yan, 周彥

Confessions of a China / Avant-garde Curator (1989) - LI Xianting, 栗憲庭

A Brief Account of China / Avant-garde (1989) - HANG Jian, CAO Xiaoou

The 'End' of the New Wave

Facing the End of the New Wave: An Interview with Fine Arts of China (1989) - PENG De, 彭德

The Modernist Dilemma and Our Options (1989) - YI Ying, 易英

2 Globalization and a Domestic Turn, 1990-2000


I. Intrinsic Perspectives

Artistic Trends in the Early 1990s (1990-93)

New Generation and Close up Artists (1992) - YIN Jinan, 尹吉男

Apathy and Deconstruction in Post-'89 Art: Analyzing the Trends of 'Cynical Realism' and 'Political Pop' (1992) - LI Xianting, 栗憲庭

Appendix: The Misread Great Criticism (Da Pipan) (2008) - HUANG Zhuan, 黃專

Tendencies in Chinese Pop (1996) - GU Chengfeng, 顧丞峰

A Survey of Contemporary Chinese Performance Art (1999) - GAO Ling, 高嶺

Major Trends in Contemporary Chinese Art of the Mid- to Late 1990s

Identity and Experience


A Personal Account of 65 Kg (1994/2000) - ZHANG Huan, 張洹

Four Notes (1994) - MA Liuming, 馬六明

The Boundary of Freedom: A Personal Statement on Assignment No. 1 (Zuoye Yihao) (1994/2003) - QIU Zhijie, 邱志傑

Report from the Artist's Studio (1996) Interview with Zhang Xiaogang - HUANG Zhuan, 黃專

Preface to It's Me! (Shi Wo!) (1998/2000) - LENG Lin, 冷林

Feminism and Women's Art

Walking out of the Abyss: My Feminist Critique (1994) - XU Hong

Toward a Female Initiative (1996/2003) - TAO Yongbai, 陶詠白

Wrapping and Severing (1997) - LIN Tianmiao, 林天苗

Clothes Chest (Yixiang) (1995) - YIN Xiuzhen, 尹秀珍

Engagement with Social Transformation

Gaudy Art

Living in Kitsch — The Critical 'Irony' of Gaudy Art (1999) - LIAO Wen, 廖雯

Urban Destruction and Construction

'Changchun, China': A Report on a Performance of Making Rubbings from Buildings Slated for Demolition (1994) - HUANG Yan

'94 Action Plan for Debris Salvage Schemes for Implementation and Results (1994) - ZHAN Wang, 展望

New Map of Beijing: Today and Tomorrow's Capital — Rockery Remolding Plan (1995) - ZHAN Wang, 展望

One Hour Game (Youxi Yi Xiaoshi) (1996/1997) - LIANG Juhui, 梁鉅輝

Report on Zhang Dali's Dialogue (2000) - JIANG Tao

A Dialogue on Dialogue (2000) - GOU Hongbing, 苟紅冰, ZHANG Dali, 張大力

Sociality in Contemporary Art

State of Existence (1994) - ZHU Fadong, 朱發東

12 Square Meters (12 Pingfang Mi) (1994) - ZHANG Huan, 張洹

Ice · '96 Central Plains (Bing · 96 Zhongyuan) (1996/2000) - WANG Jin, 王晉

On Painted Sculptures (1995/1997) - LIU Jianhua, 劉建華

Standard Family (Biaozhun Jiating) (1996/1997) - WANG Jinsong, 王勁松

Why Do I Want to Photograph the Streets of Guangzhou? (2002) - CHEN Shaoxiong, 陳劭雄

Experimental Photography and Video Art


Trends and Stages of Photography's Development in Mainland China Since 1976 (1994) - LI Mei, 李媚, YANG Xiaoyan, 楊小彥

Appendix: Zero to Infinity: The Nascence of Photography in Contemporary Chinese Art of the 1990s (2002) - Karen SMITH

I Only Chose the 'Group Portrait' (1997) - ZHUANG Hui, 莊輝

Fragments (1998/2004) - Rong Rong, 榮榮

A Few Words on the Photos (2002) - HAI Bo, 海波

Video Art

Appendix: The Rise and Development of Video Art and the Maturity of New Media Art (2002) - WU Meichun, 吳美純, QIU Zhijie, 邱志傑

Selected Video Works of the 1990s (1992–97/2008) - ZHANG Peili, 張培力

Six Video Works (1997) - WANG Jianwei, 汪建偉

An Arrangement of a Few Ideas and Some Work (2002) - ZHOU Xiaohu, 周嘯虎

Overseas Chinese Artists

Entropy, Chinese Artists, Western Art Institutions: A New Internationalism (1994) - HOU Hanru, 侯瀚如

Does a Culture in Exile Necessarily Wither? — A Letter to Li Xianting (1991/2003) - FEI Dawei, 費大為

On Words (1999/2000) - XU Bing, 徐冰

face the new millennium: the divine comedy of our times; a thesis on the united nations art project and its time and environment (1995/2003) - GU Wenda, 谷文達

Wild Flights of Fancy (1998) - CAI Guoqiang, 蔡國強

Ai Weiwei Dialogue with Zhuang Hui (1995)

Statement (1989) - Hung LIU, 劉虹

About Resident Alien (2000) - Hung LIU, 劉虹

Debates over Using Animals and the Human Body in Making Art

Post-Sense Sensibility: Distorted Bodies and Delusion (1999) - QIU Zhijie, 邱志傑, WU Meichun, 吳美純

Reflections on Performance Art (2002) - CHEN Lusheng, 陳履生

Ministry of Culture Notice (2001)

Zhu Yu's Skin Graft (Zhi Pi) (2000/2003) - ZHU Yu, 朱昱, WU Hung, 巫鴻

II. Extrinsic Perspectives


Establishing an Infrastructure for Contemporary Art

Contemporary Art and the Market

Heading Toward the Market (1992) - LV Peng, 呂澎

Who Is Going to Sponsor the History? (1991) Interview with Huang Zhuan

The First 1990s Biennial Art Fair

Catalogue Preface: Opening up the 1990s (1992) - LV Peng, 呂澎

Notes on the Selection Process (1992) - CHEN Xiaoxin, 陳孝信

Reflections and Questions Raised After the First 1990s Biennial Art Fair (1993) - LV Peng, 呂澎

The 'System' of 1990s Contemporary Chinese Art

From 'System' to 'Circle': An Analysis of the State of Avant-garde Art in the Late 1990s (2003) - WU Hong, 巫鴻

Art Medium and Criticism

Contemporary Chinese Art Media in the 1990s (1999) - PI Daojian, 皮道堅, PI Li, 皮力

Criticism on Chinese Experimental Art in the 1990s (2002) - YI Ying, 易英

My Outlook on Criticism (2003) - YIN Shuangxi, 殷雙喜

My View of Art and Criticism (2003) - HUANG Du, 黃篤

Experimental Art Exhibitions and the 2000 Shanghai Biennale

Experimental Exhibitions

'Experimental Exhibitions' of the 1990s (2002) - WU Hung, 巫鴻

Supermarket (Chaoshi Zhan): Information for Sponsors (1999) - XU Zhen, 徐震, YANG Zhenzhong, 楊振中, Alexander BRANDT, 飛蘋果

The Path to Trace of Existence (Shengcun Henji): A Private Showing of Contemporary Chinese Art (1998) - FENG Boyi, 馮博一

Post-Sense Sensibility (Hou Ganxing): A Memorandum (2000) - QIU Zhijie, 邱志傑

The 2000 Shanghai Biennale

Transcending Left and Right: The Shanghai Biennale Amid Transitions (2000) - ZHANG Qing, 張晴

China's First Legitimate Modern Art Exhibition: The 2000 Shanghai Biennale (2000/2003) - ZHU Qingsheng, 朱青生

The Shanghai Art Museum Should Not Become a Market Stall in China for Western Hegemony — A Paper Delivered at the 2000 Shanghai Biennale (2000) - WANG Nanming, 王南溟

Preface to Fuck Off (Buhezuo Fangshi) (2000) - AI Weiwei, 艾未未, FENG Boyi, 馮博一

Contemporary Chinese Art in the Global Context

Contemporary Chinese Art in the West

The Reception in the West of Experimental Mainland Chinese Art of the 1990s (2002) - Britta ERICKSON, 林似竹

Entropy, Chinese Artists, Western Art Institutions: A New Internationalism (1994) - HOU Hanru, 侯瀚如

Questions about the 'International Identity' of Contemporary Chinese Art

Oliva Is Not the Savior of Chinese Art (1993) - WANG Lin, 王林

The Rent Collection Courtyard Controversy

The Rent Collection Courtyard Copyright Breached Overseas: Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Sues Venice Biennale (2001) - Britta ERICKSON, 林似竹

The Reproduction of Rent Collection Courtyard and Postmodernism (2000) - DAO Zi, 島子

Quoting Does Not Equal Plagiarism (2000) - LIU Xiaochun, 劉驍純

Coda: Entering the New Millennium (2000–2008)

Chronicle 1976–2006

Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents
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Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents


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