Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World / Franziska Koch

Installation view: Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 6, 2017–January 7, 2018. Photo: David Heald

Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York October 6, 2017–January 7, 2018

The uncanny thing about large-scale regional survey exhibitions such as Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World, recently on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, is that they cannot really fail. When you put renowned works from seventy-one artists and artist groups, who represent roughly two generations, and works spanning two decades of production (1989-2008) from Greater China1 in this prestigious institution twenty years after the last Chinese art survey was mounted here,2 it is relatively “new” and “timely” again. For one, the audience has changed and numerous new artworks have been created. Secondly, the economic as well as sociopolitical relevance of “China”3 has increased, as reflected in the exhibition title—Art and China—which connotes China’s relevance for thinking about art today by means of the innocently open conjunction “and.” However, keeping China as epithet of a nation, culture, or geographical region in the title still follows the long-standing feature of Western survey exhibition titles that purport to render images of China rather than—more demurely and factually—a limited range of selected and highly mediated art images from China, i.e. Chinese art.4

In contrast to the wholesale marketing of the title, museum director Richard Armstrong more accurately describes the twofold aim of the exhibition. In his foreword to the associated publication, he writes that the aim of the exhibition is to position the particular achievements of Asian artists or movements in a dynamic and intersecting global art history, thereby expanding our traditional narrative of modern and contemporary art”5 and helping “diverse American audiences better understand the cultural expressions and creative achievements of these critical witnesses to China’s rapid, yet uneven political, social and economic transformation—a geopolitical shift that increasingly defines America’s own global position and identity.”6 Apparently, a relativizing approach lays at the heart of the project: the presupposed “global” art canon is neither to be fundamentally challenged nor deconstructed. The aim is rather to “expand” the American view and to focus on dynamic, intersecting flows as well as the mutually formative identity constructions underscoring these processes.

The lavishly produced catalog of 324 pages largely underlines the mission. It contains three introductory essays, one by each co-curator: Alexandra Munroe, the leading curator and initiator of the project; Philip Tinari, Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art and invited to guest curate as early as 2014; and Hou Hanru, a pioneering Chinese curator of experimental art and Artistic Director of the MAXXI in Rome, who joined the project in 2015. The decision for the curatorial collaboration neatly mirrors the increasing personal and institutional entanglements between major Western protagonists, more recent influential Chinese museums, and border-crossing pioneers, which have overcome the authoritative and often one-sided curatorial set-up of earlier Western survey shows. Brief essays on more than seventy-four objects in the color illustrated work section of the catalog supplement the largely chronological structure of the curators’ essays. The appendix, partially edited by members of the ground-breaking Asia Art Archive Hong Kong, additionally lists information on twenty major exhibitions of modern and contemporary Chinese art between 1989 and 2008, short biographies of the exhibiting artists, and a selective bibliography with a strong focus on English-language scholarship published in the last thirty years.

Overall, the catalog is marked by the same tension as the aim that the curators formulate in their joint preface: On the one side they claim not to propose a new canon or definitive reading . . . [but] rather a set of propositions about how to think about art and China in relation to the cultural times we live in.”7 On the other side, their essay narratives, the thematic and temporal sections of the display, and the selected works strongly reiterate the particular and partial canon of so-called “experimental art” (shiyan yishu) from mainland China8 as chiefly constructed and mediated by the listed previous exhibitions. However, those previous exhibitions tended to mirror the dominantly Western exhibition dispositif that has formed and informed the phenomenon since Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door reforms at the end of the 1970s.9 That means, the chosen representative works are naturally particular and partial when compared to the vast and divers overall artistic production in Greater China. Since the focus on vanguard, critical, experimental—i.e. contemporary—positions has largely excluded more conservative, politically opportune, realist academic positions that were still called official until the end of the 1990s. In addition, it largely excludes “national painting” (guohua), a sort of reformed figurative ink painting, the second prominent pillar of the professional formation at China’s art academies, despite the fact that the latter has successfully conquered a large section of the local art market and increasingly attracts neighboring Asian or Chinese overseas collectors. Similar to definitions applied in the global North, the label “contemporary” Chinese art also excludes so-called folk art as well as mass-produced, decorative works catering primarily to tourism or other kind of mass consumption.

In this regard, the Guggenheim’s selection is by no means a challenge to the established canon, but accepts and builds on the conditions and limits of the dominant Euro-American reception in the past. Consequently, “more than half the works selected were first exhibited in one or more of these [the listed earlier survey exhibitions or] historic events”10 and the curators did not commission many new works for the show. Rather, the affiliated ten-week-long film program11, co-curated by Ai Weiwei and Wang Fen, is the place  to look for works debuting in the American context. In sum, the display of many renowned and some more recent, often spectacular artworks—predominantly installation, painting, photography, film/video, sculptures, and documented performance—provides a tête-à-tête with canonized works that doubtlessly amaze the visitors given the huge logistical and financial efforts to bring them together in New York. The survey also allows one to (re-)discover some inspiring visual juxtapositions and thematic resonances, which is no small accomplishment. Yet the curatorial narratives largely shun a thematically innovative arrangement and do little to challenge by now established categories, periodizations, and interpretations. Despite or exactly because of the common chronological-cum-sociocultural contextualization, inevitably reinforced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling architecture—which begs for periodical arrangements and provides little space for intersecting setups according to entangled themes, it is a powerful affirmation of the canon—not least because of the generous funding and the institutional prestige of the museum.

China has become a prominent factor in the globalizing art world, as demonstrated by the fact that Alexandra Munroe, pioneering the Guggenheim’s East Asia related shows since 1994 and now Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art as well as Senior Advisor of the Guggenheim’s Global Arts mission,12 was asked to research “iconic artworks” with a focus on conceptualism created since the 1990s for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection. That research eventually triggered her wish to undertake the latest Chinese survey show.13 She was surely also instrumental in establishing The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation’s Chinese Art Initiative of the Guggenheim in 2013 that supports Art and China after 1989.14 Such remarkable engagement of private and corporate museum sponsors might not surprise, but it actually expresses the changing relevance of China—or the idea of China—in the world and the responding cultural (self-)positioning of the US in particular. It is seconded by American public interest as evident in a major grant of the National Endowments for the Humanities15 that the show obtained. The urgency with which Munroe dedicates her work on Art and China after 1989 to the NEH hints at the shifting political approval that such global cultural-cum-educational missions currently meet in the US.16

The most innovate part of the exhibition as presented in New York, which indeed “expands” the standard narrative, is surely the unusual focus on conceptual, often serial works of several artists and artists group active during the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. There is also an attempt to present some of the more recent socially engaged or outright activist works from the People’s Republic. The exhibition opens with the section “No U-Turn: 1989” that hints at the crucial year of the Tiananmen Uprising in 1989 as well as the date of the pioneering show Zhongguo xiandai yishuzhan. China/Avant-garde taking place shortly before the military suppression of the Chinese students’ movement. With its motto “No U-Turn” this show, hosted by Beijing’s National Fine Arts Gallery (Zhongguo meishuguan), was initially conceived as a large retrospective of post-Mao works, mostly recent painting trends, by a joint committee of critics/artists-cum-curators. However, it quickly became famous for the daring display of experimental new art forms, such as performances, installations, and conceptual works.

View of the opening section of the Art and China after 1989 exhibition at the Guggenheim New York with Huang Yong Ping’s The History of Chinese Painting and A Concise History of Modern Painting Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes, ink on wooden crate, paper pulp, and glass, 76.8 x 48.3 x 69.9 cm, reconstructed 1993 (1987), on the right. Photograph: Franziska Koch.
View of the “No U-turn: 1989” section with Huang Yong Ping’s Bridge (1995) and Theater of the World (1993), both mixed media installations, in the foreground. Background: Qiu Zhijie’s Map of ‘Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World’ (2017), ink on paper. Photograph: Franziska Koch.

The Guggenheim show refrains from restaging a lot of the works of the milestone exhibition—many of which haven’t survived or are only captured in the form of performance photographs and later reconstructions—and opens instead with signature works of those “China/Avant-garde” veterans, who left the country shortly afterwards to either temporarily exhibit abroad or to emigrate for good. Thus, Huang Yong Ping’s The History of Chinese Painting and A Concise History of Modern Painting Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes (1987) [fig. 1] and his title giving Theater of the World (1993) [figs. 2 and 3] as well as Gu Dexin’s deformed waste-based Plastic Pieces–287 (1983-85) prominently welcome the visitors. Huang’s amalgamation of Eastern and Western art historical master narratives asks a globally oriented epistemological and taxonomical question: Is washing the books a “cleaning” act or a messy business? Such a question resonates very well with the large, five-panel ink painting Map of ‘Art and China After 1989. Theatre of the World’ (2017) by Qiu Zhijie [figs. 2 and 4]. The commissioned map charts the history between the “No U-turn” of 1989 and the international spectacle of Beijing Olympics in 2008 shortly before the economic crisis hit the world. The artist humorously maps and relates particular political, aesthetic, and philosophical concepts as well as artistic events in a creative topography that show not only resonances and entanglements, but also differences between by now common Chinese and international views on the field. We can read it as a productive way out of Huang’s iconoclastic paper bulb, offering a complex, multi-layered overview of the last decades that demonstrates how artists can and do make sense while also cleverly navigating the rapid changes of China in the world. Qiu’s position is less radical than Huang’s earlier “brain washing” of essentialist and binary understandings of East and West, but it is not necessarily less thought provoking.

Cultural differences and stereotypes still inform the ongoing dialogue between China and the US. For instance, mass protests of animal rights activists before the opening17 have led to Huang’s Theatre of the World and the affiliated caged Bridge (1995) remaining empty. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s video of Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other (2003) and Xu Bing’s video of A Case Study of Transference (1994) went unscreened. Snakes and turtles are meant to crawl through faux-bronze figurines in Huang Yong Ping’s Bridge, which overarches the smaller, turtle-shell-shaped wooden and metal cage called Theater of the World (1993)—formally reminiscent of the Daoist deity Xuanwu, part snake, part tortoise. It was to be inhabited by spiders, scorpions, crickets, cockroaches, black beetles, etc. left to devour each other. Suggesting a broad range of interpretations such as “a cross between a panopticon and the shamanistic practice of keeping insects,” “a metaphor for the conflict among different peoples and cultures,” or “a modern representation of the ancient Chinese character gu [chaos],”18 it not only speaks of violent devouring as a terminal, one-sided act of killing, but also highlights the empowering aspects of fight and struggle in a circular and relational understanding of life and death.19 [fig. 3] Yet, such complex, well-studied readings are lost on activists that shun the violent reality created by an installation.20 However, we might need to ask ourselves why such artfully composed confrontations lead to more heated reactions than the permanently present, vast scope of our global consumption, the radical exploitation of natural resources, or the working conditions of those who work for technological companies in China that produce our various devices.

Publication with Huang Yong Ping’s sketches and various documents contextualizing Theater of the World and Bridge. On display at Art and China after 1989 in the Guggenheim New York. Photograph: Franziska Koch.
Detail of Qiu Zhijie’s Map of ‘Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World’ (2017), ink on paper. Photograph: Franziska Koch.

Indeed, the political scandal caused by some of the animal-related works on display demonstrates some of the urgency of Munroe’s question “Whose art history?”21. The five sections after “No U-turn”—chronologically centering on conceptual approaches at the beginning of the 1990s (section 2), responses to capitalism, urbanism and realism (section 3), “Acts of Sensation” (section 4), “Travels Through the In-Between” (section 5) and “Activism and Alternatives circa 2008” (section 5)—attempt to introduce important events, players, and conceptual movements by means of iconic artworks, supported by helpful wall labels and tables with archival documents. The latter offer glimpses into the richly documented artist publications and media coverage supporting the formation of contemporary Chinese art. It becomes clear that the question of how and who is allowed to write global art history is by no means a past inquiry or apolitical scholarly concern. Writing this history entails painful power struggles and necessitates confrontations and provocations such as Huang’s or Sun and Peng’s contributions.

In a way, the presented materials and artworks question Alexandra Munroe’s bold initial claim that “recent Chinese art history has been written more as a China story than as a China-in-the-world story,”22 because they attest that the Chinese protagonists of experimental art are very much focused on relating to the world. They go beyond their immediate Chinese locale and (politically fraught) past practices, as visible in historical national and international media reports. International scholarship as well as border-crossing curators such as Hou Hanru, Fei Dawei, Li Xianting, Chang Tsong-zung, and Hans van Dijk have acknowledged the phenomenon already as early as the mid-1990s. In this respect, the limited Anglo-American perspective on the discourse as presented by the three essays and reference bibliography is at least partially misleading. Philip Tinari, however, does an excellent job in showing the complex transcultural discursive developments in his essay “Between palimpsest and teleology: the problem of ‘Chinese contemporary art’.” Echoing Munroe’s global observations, Tinari comments that “far from being duped by curators and dealers, artists knew how their works were being presented and interpreted”23 and increasingly found ways to balance the precarious push-and-pull of foreign expectations and the urgency to respond to the local discourse. He shows how the canonization and dating of experimental art practices in the People’s Republic and the affiliated as well as conflicted larger terms “contemporary Chinese art” and “Chinese contemporary art” have been debated and revised by Chinese and foreign players alike. The challenge, he rightly observes, is that “despite attempts to complicate and deepen our readings, it becomes difficult to understand this process as separate from the larger geopolitical ‘rise of China.’”24

The decision to publish the debate of (American) junior scholars, who were invited to discuss the topic at NYU—a discussion then published in Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art25 rather than in the catalogue—undoubtedly serves the popular outreach of the event and book. But it does not represent the differentiated, multi-vocal international research on the topic nor does it result in an adequate “new kind of text on the subject”26 as claimed by the curators. Sadly, it seems still too early or overly optimistic to expect the Guggenheim and Chinese survey shows to create displays exploring the intriguing range of pressing questions posed by Philip Tinari at the end of his essay.27 Rather, earlier innovative and experimental thematic exhibitions such as those outlined in Hou Hanru’s  engaging curatorial memories28 and the cutting edge of current international scholarly debate remain a post-scriptum to survey exhibitions. Consequently, such exhibitions need to contend with the popular, but short-lived outreach caused by superficial media scandals juxtaposing animal rights versus artist rights, while—in reality—there is so much more at stake when asking “whose art history?”

View of the “New Measurement: Analyzing the Situation” section of Art and China after 1989 on display at the Guggenheim Museum New York. Photograph: Franziska Koch.
Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing, Wu Street (1993-94), mock-up for World Art magazine article “Jason Jones: Paintings in Paintings,” exhibition brochure featuring Melissa Feldman text, and Chinese translation.

The decision to dedicate a whole section to “New Measurement: Analyzing the Situation” [fig. 5] is where the Guggenheim’s own ongoing contribution to and interest in rendering conceptual art in a global perspective actually expands the canon. Although it is hard for Western audiences to imagine the sociopolitical and art historical contexts that have let Chinese artists express themselves in very formal, analytical and serial ways—reminding one for example of Hanne Darboven’s diaristic notes— the space given to the numerous diagrams, questionnaires, and artist books of Chen Shaoping, Gu Dexin, and Wang Luyan, who formed the New Measurement Group (1989-95) in Beijing, or of Geng Jianyi and video pioneer Zhang Peili, both active in Huangzhou, present a novelty for Chinese survey shows. The non-expert reader, however, needs to consult Alexandra Munroe’s and Philip Tinari’s introductory essays29 as well as their astute catalogue entries in order to grasp the dissent, humor, and critical awareness of the formative language and ideologies of the Mao era that these artists so cleverly deconstructed. It is not in the hundredfold display of icons such as Ai Weiwei’s Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), but in more subtle conceptual collaborations such as Xu Bing and Ai Weiwei’s Wu Street (1993-94) that the particularity and productivity of global conceptual flows inside and outside of China becomes visible. These “travels through the in-between,” as the corresponding section is aptly called, were clever ways for (temporarily) emigrated artists to respond and build on the critical “new measurements” when confronted with their new environments. In this case, Xu and Ai used found discarded oil paintings from the streets of New York, paired them with an existing text by critic Melissa Feldman that described the work of another artist, changed the author’s and artist’s names and published the translated essay together with the works in the Chinese magazine “World Art” (Shijie Meishu), revealing the prank only years later [fig. 6].

In the best constellations of the exhibition, the joint individual expertise of the three curators allows for such inspiring resonances as those of Wu Street with the New Measurement works. Such resonances take shape collectively around Munroe’s dedication to tell a global art history with special focus on East Asia that also highlights a particular American take, Hou’s deconstructivist and postcolonial approach and long-term advocacy of experimental artists from the Pearl River Delta, the Euro-American diaspora, and other centers outside of Beijing, and Tinari’s attempt to institutionalize the early experimental veterans and discover resonating socially engaged and cross-disciplinary recent positions in what is still a politically unstable local environment. Regarding the rest of the display, the visitors will definitely enjoy the array of iconic works. They do not foster a new reading in favor of “pluri-versal canons,”30 but they still leave one amazed, amused, and affected by the great achievement of more than seventy artists of two generations who (in)formed and keep (in)forming international and local audiences about the theatre that is “China” [fig. 7]. Ultimately, it is the artists who insist on their powerful role in the exhibition dispositif and provide good reasons for the scholarly visitor of survey exhibitions to hope for yet more sophisticated versions of China-worlding to come.31

One of the archival tables of Art and China after 1989 on display at the Guggenheim Museum New York, documenting “International Exposure.” On top, two early survey exhibition catalogs (Berlin and Hong Kong, 1993).


  1. The exhibition includes some works from Chinese artists living in Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as some diasporic artists living outside Greater China. However, the focus is on artists educated and/or still living in the People’s Republic of China. Alexandra Munroe with Philip Tinari and Hou Hanru (eds.), Art and China after 1989: Theater of the world, exh. cat. (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2017). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York: October 6, 2017 – January 7, 2018; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao: May 11 – September 23, 2018; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, November 20, 2018 – February 24, 2019.
  2. The show, titled A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China, ran from February 6 to May 24, 1998 at the Guggenheim SoHo (now closed) and was curated by Julia F. Andrews and Shen Kuiyi, two renowned American art historians of modern Chinese art. It constituted both, the modern and the contemporary sections of the large-scale exhibition China: 5,000 Years, which was co-organized with the Ministry of Culture and the National Administration for Cultural Heritage of the PRC, a pioneering bilateral endeavor. About 500 works were borrowed from over fifty institutional lenders in seventeen provinces and regions in China. These included major recent archaeological discoveries and ranged in date from the Neolithic period to the present. The third section on traditional arts of China was hosted by the Guggenheim’s main uptown venue. The show subsequently travelled to the Guggenheim Bilbao, July 17 – October 15, 1998. Julia F. Andrews and Shen Kuiyi (eds.), A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China, exh. cat. (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1998).
  3. As any other geographical-cum-cultural construct “China” has been the subject of continuous art historical reflections and redefinitions. The modern use of the term in combinations such as “Chinese art” is particularly complex in Western debates given the entangled, but also differing histories of modernism across East and West that often failed to consider the epistemological burden of traditionally regionally or nationally confined disciplines such as art history. For an exemplary case study see Craig Clunas, “China in Britain: The Imperial Collections,” in Grasping the World. The Idea of the Museum (Histories of Vision), ed. by Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago (Aldershot/Burlington: Ashgate, 2004), 461-472.
  4. See my discussion of twenty pioneering Western group exhibitions in: Franziska Koch, Die ‘chinesische Avantgarde’ und das Dispositiv der Ausstellung. Konstruktionen chinesischer Gegenwartskunst im Spannungsfeld der Globalisierung (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2016). The appendix of the monograph additionally lists more than 140 survey exhibitions with short summaries.
  5. Richard Armstrong, “Director’s Foreword,” in Art and China after 1989, 9 ̶ 10, here 9. Italics by F. Koch.
  6. Ibid., 10. Italics by F. Koch.
  7. Alexandra Munroe, “Preface and Acknowledgements,” in Art and China after 1989, 11–15, here 12.
  8. Alexandra Munroe shortly explains the category “experimental art” in her essay with reference to Wu Hung, who prominently coined the term in 1999 and 2000, while Philip Tinari discusses in some detail the problems of the categories “contemporary”(dangdai), “modern” (xiandai), and “early modern” (jindai) in relation to “Chinese” art: Alexandra Munroe, “ A Test Site,” in Art and China after 1989, 21 ̶ 49, 25; Philip Tinari, “Between Palimpsest and Teleology. The Problem of ‘Chinese Contemporary Art’,” in Art and China after 1989, 51 ̶ 67, 52.
  9. A sample of 60 exhibitions with metadata taken from the database “Group Exhibitions of Contemporary Chinese Art” (GECCA) – containing more than 700 entries – can be viewed using a Google Earth embedded file and shows the considerable scope, but also the uneven geographical distribution of influential group exhibitions outside the PRC between the early 1980s and 2009: Franziska Koch and Heidelberg Research Architecture (eds.), GECCAmapped (Heidelberg: Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context,” 2011). Accessed February 2, 2018. http://www.asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de/de/forschung/heidelberg-research-architecture/detail/m/franziska-koch-projekt-exhibition-map.html.
  10. Alexandra Munroe, “Preface and Acknowledgements,” in Art and China after 1989, 11–15, here 13.
  11. Turn It On: China on Film, 2000–2017 was a film festival encompassing twice-weekly daytime screenings and three featured evening events from October 13, 2017, through January 5, 2018, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. “Guggenheim Museum Presents.” Accessed March 2, 2018. https://www.guggenheim.org/press-release/guggenheim-museum-presents-documentary-film-series-turn-it-on-china-on-film-2000-2017.
  12. For a summary of her impressive career and curatorial achievements see: “Guggenheim Staff.” Accessed February 20, 2018. https://www.guggenheim.org/staff/alexandra-munroe
  13. Armstrong, 9. Munroe, “Preface and Acknowledgements,” 11–12.
  14. Munroe, “Preface and Acknowledgements,” 11.
  15. See list of funding partners/sponsors in the catalogue imprint, unpaginated p. 6 and Ibid.
  16. Ibid., 14.
  17. Robin Pogrebin and Sopan Deb, “Guggenheim Museum Is Criticized for Pulling Animal Artworks,” in The New York Times, online edition September 26, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/arts/design/guggenheim-art-and-china-after-1989-animal-welfare.html. For a very comprehensive and profound critique of the show see: Geremie Barmé, “China’s Art of Containment,” in The New York Review of Books, November 27, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2018. http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/11/27/chinas-art-of-containment/?printpage=true. For a detailed gender critique of one of the exhibits on display that only included works of nine female artists, see David Borgonjon, “Can We Talk about Dialogue? A Pre-script to Art and China after 1989,” in MCLC Resource Center Publication. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (Columbus: The Ohio State University, Dec. 2017). Accessed March 2, 2018. http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/borgonjon/.
  18. Huang Yong Ping, Theater of the World, in Hou Hanru, “Change is the Rule,” in House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective, ed. by Philipp Vergne and Doryun Chong, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2005), part 2, 12.
  19. Alexandra Munroe, “Huang Yong Ping,” in Art and China after 1989, 82.
  20. Cheng Meiling, “Animalworks in China,” in The Drama Review 1/51, 63–91. Paul Gladston, “Bloody Animals!: Reinterpreting Acts of Violence against Animals as Part of Contemporary Chinese Artistic Practice,” in Crossing Cultural Boundaries:Taboo, Bodies and Identities, ed. by Lili Hernández and Sabine Krajewski (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 93–104.
  21. Munroe, “A Test Site,” 45.
  22. Ibid., 26.
  23. Philip Tinari, “Between Palimpsest and Teleology. The Problem of ‘Chinese Contemporary Art’,” 51–67, 61.
  24. Ibid., 64.
  25. Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 6/16, November/December 2017. Accessed March 2, 2017. http://yishu-online.com/back-issues/view/?89.
  26. Munroe, “Preface and Acknowledgements,” 13.
  27. Tinari, 65–66: “Is it viable, useful, or necessary to deploy the filter of a shared national—not ethnic, not cultural—history to view the wok of artists [such as Huang Yongping or Gu Dexin] who share it? Does artists’ common experience of the institutions and practices of their specific polity imbue their art with a layer of reference and meaning, one among many others, to be unpacked or ignored at the viewer’s will? Does this layer operate any differently from the systems of shared reference at work in other, particularly Western, contexts? How do the complicating factors of globalization (after1989) and informational connectivity (since 2008) clarify and obscure its importance? In relation to the work of these two artists, and the generations from which they come, these all seem like important questions. Meanwhile, new generations of artists have emerged who have begun to render some of these questions obsolete. …The tension throughout this long story is not between local and global, nor East and West, but between two competing ideas of this historically and socially articulated field of cultural practice and its stakes. Either it is a palimpsest, onto which external desire may be projected, and from which artists like Gu Dexin may flee, or it is a coherent movement with a defined agenda, from which an artist like Huang Yongping may emerge, critical and victorious. Or, more likely, a little bit of each.”
  28. Hou Hanru, “Théâtre due monde: to be unthought,” in Art and China after 1989, 69–77.
  29. Munroe, “A test site,” 29–32. Tinari, “Between Palimpsest and Teleology. The Problem of ‘Chinese Contemporary Art’,” 57–60.
  30. Ruth E. Iskin, “Introduction: Re-envisioning the Canon. Are pluriversal canons possible?,” in Re-envisioning the Contemporary Art Canon: Perspectives in a Global World, ed. by Ruth E. Iskin (Oxford: Routledge, 2016), 1–42.
  31. I would like to warmly thank the “Elite-Programm für Postdoktoranden und Postdoktorandinnen” of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung for their generous support of my research and the visit of Art and China after 1989 in New York, Birgit Hopfener for inviting my contribution, and Abram Foley for his editorial support.