Zhang Zikang on the Chinese Art Market
The Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business has just posted a video of Today Art Museum Director Zhang Zikang talking about the state of the Chinese contemporary art market. Zhang is the director of the Today Art Museum, the first independent contemporary art museum in China. He has played a very active role in the development of art institutions in China, promoting patronage, philanthropy and standards among independent museums. It’s always good to hear from a primary source.
Many outside observers condemn Chinese artists for catering to Western collector tastes by producing too much political pop and other art focused on the Cultural Revolution. Zhang spins this around by saying that Western interest in the political dimensions of artistic expression under the Chinese regime skewed the Western perspective from the beginning. This rings true to me. This focus on political themes in the West has led to many misconceptions about Chinese art. For instance, many Western critics believe that Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline series, depicting portraits of a single child family, is a commentary on China’s one child policy, despite the fact that the artist has refuted this frequently and publicly over the years. The funny thing is that Zhang Xiaogang is one of the more prolific writers in the Chinese art scene, having published reams of his personal journals and writings over the years that quite clearly lay out the evolving ideas behind his art. I guess a willingness to read primary sources is not a requirement for art criticism these days.