academic research

Around Leonardo. Pupils, followers, imitators...

2019-09-10 1170 read

This is an exhibition that— in the year of the celebrations of the five-hundred-year anniversary of the death of the Renaissance genius — focuses on the artistic and cultural climate generated by him in his time that from today (and until August 25) proposes in Venice the Levi Foundation in Palazzo GiustinianLolin. “Leonardo e la sua grande scuola” (“Leonardo and his great school”)— this is the title of the exhibition curated by Nicola Barbatelli— exhibits in fact 24 works that illustrate above all the personality of the so-called “leonardeschi”(“Leonardesques”), some of who attended his workshop in Lombardy, when he was in the service of Lodovico il Moro, and the works by the “leonardeschi” largely crystallized on the master’s style, remaining at a sidereal distance from him. However, they had the great merit of spreading, through their travels, the innovative style of Leonardo also in areas outside from his journeys, like Giovanni Agostino da Lodi (not present in the exhibition) in Venice, Bernardino Luini in Switzerland or Cesare daSesto in southern Italy and Rome.This is also remembered by a historian of Venetian art such as Giovanna NepiScirèin one of the essays accompanying the exhibition’s catalogue (still in print).The works of some of them, from Bernardino Luini to Cesare da Sesto, to the beloved pupil Salaì, to Giampietrino to Marco d'Oggiono, are precisely in the Venice exhibition. In some cases, with works of high level such as “Marta e Maria Maddalena” (“Martha and Mary Magdalene”)or “Maddalena con vaso d’unguento” (“Magdalene with an ointment vase”)of Luini, in particular for his ability to combine Leonardo’s sfumatowith a kind of metaphysical rigour that pervades his figures. And  exactly Magdalene herself is represented in one of the symbol-pictures of the exposition, the “Maddalena discinta” (“Bare-Breasted Magdalene”),that next to the preponderant hand of one of the Leonardesques — perhaps Marco d’Oggiono for the curator, perhaps Giampietrino for a great Leonardo scholar suchas Carlo Pedretti, recently passed away — could also see the hand of the master. Peculiar also a large “San Gerolamo in penitenza” (“Saint Hieronymus Penitent”)by Cesare da Sesto, who enriched Leonardo’s language with revivals from the classical art and from Raphael.The Leonardesques’ distinguishing feature remains — variously declined — the compositional smoothness, the use of sfumato, the diffuse illumination, the melancholic beauty of the subjects, the ambiguity of the faces. Leonardo’s sure presence in the exhibition is however represented by a fragment of a study drawing for the lost fresco, “Battaglia di Anghiari” (“Battle of Anghiari”)— of which the Gallerie dell’Accademia exhibit in this period several sheets — and by that of a “Testa di uomo” (“Man’s Head”), gone over again by the hand of a pupil of the artist. The director of the Levi Foundation, Giorgio Busetto, the president of the cooperative party Venice 2000 Foundation, Giuliano Segre and Francesco Stochino Weissof the Beijing Music Festival Arts Foundation yesterday presented in the opening ceremony. As a matter of fact, the exhibition, after Venice, will fly to China, to be shown first in Beijing starting from the early September, and then in other cities in China. In line also with the musical vocation of the Levi Foundation, in the Chinese stages it will also see musical interludes with the Ugo and Olga Levi Venice Ensemble with students of the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory, that will perform Renaissance music with vintage instrumentsand also passages of Chinese tradition.Enrico Tantucci

To Hold a “Knowledgeable” Exhibition - Taking “Exhibition of Selected Works from the National Beiping Art School Period” as an Example...

2019-08-07 1156 read

The “CAFA Art Museum (CAFAM) Collection Series: Exhibition of Selected Works from the National Beiping Art School Period” (“National Beiping Art School Exhibition” or “the Exhibition”) is a trademark CAFAM collection exhibition since 2012. It has received good response and acclamations from the society. The Exhibition is one of the few monographic collection series in the domestic art museum world. It is a program worth exploration and reference, in the aspects of its selected topics, exhibitions, academic research, publicity and exhibition period. The article will analyze the intellectual and academic qualities of the exhibition’s content and structure.Living in a world filled with thousands of various exhibitions, including the collection exhibitions, we are still struggling to find meaningful ones in them. It is partly due to the limited level of exhibited artworks, but is further because of the out-of-date curatorial ideas and the result of which, lack of exhibitions with substance and reason. In an era of information explosion, when the information people receive increases greatly, the audience are no longer satisfied with the superficial image of artworks. They have more need for the cultural concept and creative intentions behind the world. The quality of the exhibition’s effect lies in the curatorial team’s ideas, which decide every detail of an exhibition. CAFAM is one of the earliest to raise the idea of producing knowledge in art museums in China. It views the art museums as a public space that produces and provides knowledge, and regards “knowledge production” as the historical responsibility and profession of art museums: “Art museums should be a synthesis of ‘knowledge production’. Every action related to art and culture that happens in an art museum can build up the meanings and values of ‘knowledge’; Art museums should take the production of ‘knowledge’ as its starting point and core meaning.” Art museums have historical responsibility in social education. Its exhibitions represent the professional institutions’ perspectives and attitudes. Through exhibitions they lead to discussions about the artworks, promote research on relevant art history research and the dissemination of artistic concepts, for the public to acquire knowledge and new perspectives on art. This is an important channel for the art museums to practice its function. In this sense, when we hold exhibitions in an art museum, we need to consider what the audience need and what we need to show them.Under the guidance of such concept, every step during the preparation of the National Beiping Art School Exhibition is centered around how to study the collection, how to make the audience understand the artworks, the theme of “Beiping Art School” and how to help the audience understand the exhibition and learn knowledge. This is a common goal for all the collection exhibitions - with real content and attitude, to “study history and collection profoundly and structurally and form an ‘art history’ writing.” 1.  Cultural Responsibilities and Knowledge Production from the Perspective of the Selected Topics of the National Beiping Art School ExhibitionThe topics of collection exhibitions are very important. The topic is the guideline of an exhibition. A good exhibition’s topic must have high academic level, historical sense, and contain social thinkings about the history and modern time, so that it is fresh instead of cliche and powerless; so that new possibilities could generate from the historical collections, while new academic viewpoint and research result can be passed on to the audience; so that the audience could truly learn things and further push forward the art cause.Why choosing the topic of the National Beiping Art School Exhibition? CAFAM has given to it thorough thinking: First, National Beiping Art School is a miniature and milestone of the development of modern art education in China. In the foreword of the first series exhibition it says: “The National Beiping Art School will was not only the fine art education shrine that gathered the best teachers and students and represented modern Chinese art, but also a cultural front that advocated spirits such as art education for all and the combination of art and science.” Many important thinkings, events and figures of modern Chinese art history are interwoven with the history of the National Beiping Art School, especially in Beijing, without the knowledge of the School would make it difficult to understand art during the Republic of China period. Moreover, as the predecessor of CAFA, the School is the foundation of many of CAFA’s heritage. During its 30-year development in Beijing, it had established close relationship with Beijing’s cultural scene, and was one of a significant aspect of Beijing culture. Thus, the National Beiping Art School is an utterly important and meaningful topic in terms of modern art history. Meanwhile, it is also a paradox: As the first national art school of modern China, a nursery ground for a large number of talents, it is still perceived vaguely, shatteredly, and inadequately by the public and even the academic world. In a long period of time, knowledge and research on the Beiping National Art School was in its primary stage. Its historical meaning is still far from well dug into. In this sense, this topic has filled in the gap of Chinese art history, as well as the gap in most audience’s cognition of art. This is exactly the responsibility of art museums. In the early stage of preparation for the Exhibition, CAFAM took the angle of art history research, and tried to bring in a macroscopical and historic thinking. What the museum needs to do is more than the display of artworks, but more importantly to tell a history, to fill the gap in the audience’s knowledge as well as art history research.2. Knowledge Production and Communication of Collection Exhibition from the Perspective of Organization and Execution of the National Beiping Art School ExhibitionThe successful selection of topic has solved an important problem, but why curating such an exhibition? How would the museum hold such an exhibition and will it be able to successfully hold the exhibition? The answers lie in adequate preparation. Only with adequate preparation the exhibition will naturally happen.In the foreword for the first series exhibition that focuses on western paintings, it mentioned four fundamental works regarding the National Beiping Art School: First, the discovery of important artists and artworks; second, organization and protection; third, featured researches on the collections and the National Beiping Art School; digital archiving. It was because these works have made progress that CAFAM was able to begin the exhibition series. Regarding the execution of the exhibition, the curators hope every part of the exhibition could offer adequate information and effective knowledge for the audience, so that they could understand the exhibition in multiple perspectives and levels, and make new discoveries through the exhibition. To achieve this goal, the curators put great effort in the selection, writing and organization of the exhibition, with the hope that the audience could comprehend the essence of the art during the National Beiping Art School period, and construct a succinct but complete image of the School. (1) Choose angles and accurate positioning of the exhibition according to the practical contentThe National Beiping Art School displayed by the Exhibition almost has no trace in most people’s memory, and that’s why a great deal of image archives and researches are needed to enrich the School’s picture. It is a fine art school with comprehensive disciplines, including painting, music, theater and architecture; in its 30 some years history, there were numerous disciplines and complex staff and student groups, which makes it especially important to choose what content the exhibition would display. In recent years, paintings by the first west painting professors Wu Fading and Li Yishi, like Wu’s Portrait of Woman Wearing Qipao and Li’s Portrait of Chen Shizeng (Picture 9), and works by teachers of the later period such as Sun Zongwei, Qi Zhenqi, Wang Linyi are gradually discovered and organized. Adding the original collection of masterpieces by Xu Beihong, Zhang Daqian, Qi Baishi, Huang Binhong, Chen Banding, Chang Shuhong, Wu Zuoren, Ai Zhongxin, Li Keran and Li Kuchan, CAFAM is equipped with a fundamental collection of the National Beiping Art School period. However, the collection is mainly composed of oil painting, Chinese painting, sketches and pastel painting, which is limited in categories and not able to reflect a complete picture of the School. Even so, another research on teachings during the Naitonal Beiping Art School period indicates that these categories exactly echo with the two most important and longest-established departments - western paintings and Chinese paintings. It is based on this fact that the curation of the Exhibition highlights these two departments, in order to show the main image and artistic characters of the School. In order to fully present the highly distinguished conditions and developments of western paintings and Chinese paintings in that period, the exhibition took the form of series exhibition, and held two feature exhibitions separately for western and Chinese paintings.Exhibitions with a specialized angle might not be comprehensive or grand, but they have more advantage in offering effective knowledge and information to the audience. This is a very important function of collection exhibitions. (2) Select exhibited works by academic standard and professional knowledgeExhibited works are traditionally the main body and most important component of an exhibition. The richest and most emphasized content of any exhibition is the exhibited works. To curate a fruitful exhibition for the audience, we must select works with high artistic value. Many of the exhibited works at the National Beiping Art School Exhibition are very precious works with high academic and artistic value, most of which are exhibited for the first time; some have even filled the gap of academic studies, such as Wu Fading’s Portrait of Woman Wearing Qipao, Li Yishi’s Portrait of Chen Shizeng, Portrait of Wang Mengbai in the western painting sector; and Zheng Jin’s Fox, Magnolia and Peacock, and Chen Shizeng’s album in the Chinese painting. With these precious works once again entered the public sphere through the Exhibition, neglected masters such as Yao Manfu, Xiao Qianzhong, Wang Mengbai, Tang Dingzhi, Yu Shaosong, Yan Bolong, Qi Zhenqi, Fang Bowu were also discovered. In the academic world, these works provide more complete materials for research on art history and construction of fine art memory of the Republic of China era; in the social realm, the public enjoy the opportunity of gaining a more complete, honest and richer knowledge of the art of the National Beiping Art School.These works themselves were not labeled with “National Beiping Art School”, neither were they from the same source, so how did we select and gather them up? It was thanks to the extensive effort of exhibition organizers. Every search and categorization of a work is a transmit of knowledge. A especially good point of the National Beiping Art School Exhibition is the serious-minded organization of works based on fact checks. Each and every artwork selected for the exhibition conformed to the exhibition’s standards, and could reflect the message the exhibition would like to pass on. When the exhibition was first organized, CAFAM has clear and strict rules for the works to be selected: First, as the theme is National Beiping Art School, the works must be related with the School - works from the School’s teachers or students, with its date and information clearly recorded, though because of the immature development of researches on the School, we encountered a lot of difficulties in the fact check works. Moreover, the National Beiping Art School people usually generally refer to was founded in 1918 and merged into Central Academy of  Fine Arts in 1949. Since it stopped existing since 1950, with a lot of academic changes happening since then, the works by the right authors must also be created during circa. 1918-1950. This is to guarantee the original presentation of the School’s art styles and to reduce historical misreadings. In order to find most comprehensive collection of works by the National Beiping Art School’s artists, we on the one hand search for names in the School’s staff and student rosters; on the other hand, we went through resumes of artists collected by CAFAM, and located those who were related to the School. After strict screening of works, we selected works that accord with the exhibition standards. But even though, they were not the final selections (all of them were included in the exhibition catalogue for future academic studies). Only the most precious and wonderful artworks were eventually exhibited according to requirements of the exhibition standards and space. The exhibited works could most directly tell the audience what the National Beiping Art School was, and what are the works that could most represent the School. The process of selecting works were also a process of clarifying truth, a process of showing the real picture of works from the National Beiping Art School period. Furthermore, as exhibited works were strictly organized according to the chronological order of the artists’ birth date, it could clearly present the change of era, and make the audience understand more clearly the School’s development in different stages. (3) Organize history and academic background behind works from the perspective of academic research and audience’s acceptabilityAlthough the National Beiping Art School Exhibition was divided into two themes: western painting and Chinese painting, due to the lack of the public’s knowledge of the School, it would confuse the audience if we directly entered narration about the two genres. In this sense, it is particularly important to have a basic research and introduction of the history and development of the School.  Only when the audience understood that part of information that they would understand the artworks’ cultural meaning, historical and artistic value. So firstly, facing the problems of the School’s complicated history of being established and re-established by different governments during the Republic of China period, its confusing naming in different stages and even today, curators conducted basic but clear organization of the history of the School. In the opening exhibition (Western Painting), the curators set up several blocks that provide introduction of the School in text and pictures, to form a vivid, graphic memory of the School. I now list a few of the blocks below: 1) The National Beiping Art School Chronology organized by Cao Qinghui (Picture 14 & 15), which presents detailed time of every change of the School’s name, directors, administrative affiliations, and addresses; 2) Table of the Corresponding Relationships between CAFAM Western Painting Collection’s Authors and the National Beiping Art School History, made by CAFAM, which organizes the exhibited artists’ time of study or teaching at the School, linking abstract history events with concrete paintings and creating a whole piece of picture with the two separate parts; 3) Archives, photos, seals and part of the books collected by the National Beiping Art School Library (Picture 16 - 20), such as the sketch portfolio sent by Zhang Xian to the School in 1936, articles by Xu Beihong and others to mourn Qi Zhenqi’s death, reports on Qi Zhenqi’s death, the School’s 1928 yearbook, archives of all phases of the School collected by CAFA, and “Artworks in Overseas Collections” at the “Realignment” exhibition, etc. These precious and vivid materials carry a great deal of historical message  and traces, bringing the audience to the time of the School, and passing on abundant historical codes to the audience. Meanwhile, the first systematic exhibition of these precious archives further provide materials and fuels to the development of academic research. For instance, in the following “The National Beiping Art School and Art of Republic of China” symposium, a scholar spoke about the Line between the North and the South issue of the Republic of China art based on Zhang Xian’s sketch portfolio.As many artists of this exhibition were unknown to the public, the Exhibition also sorted out complete resume of each artist (Picture 21), including the artist’s photo, birth date and death date, birthplace, alias, education and work experience, and major academic propositions, and mostly importantly, their teaching time and positions at the National Beiping Art School. Through this resume, the audience would know the artists’ achievements, their relationship with the School, and the important roles these people played in the Republic of China art world. In both the western painting and Chinese painting sectors, the artists’ signs and inscriptions were recognized; especially in the case of the seals, preface and postscripts on Chinese paintings, we especially displayed the text recognized by professional scholars alongside the original artworks, so that the audience could compare the text with that in the paintings, to help themselves better understand the works’ intentions.Except for the above mentioned works and archives, the Exhibition also collected, and displayed relevant research materials of the National Beiping Art School, to provide academic researches with more clues and questions, which makes it a good practice of pushing forward research with exhibition. In order to explain the special characters of the School’s period, especially the relationship between teachers’ creative practices and theoretical research (painting studies), the Chinese painting sector of the Exhibition collected and exhibited the first editions of important essays and articles by the exhibited artists published in the Republic of China period. Some of these materials are already academic classics, but there were hardly any chance for them to be gathered together, especially their first edition; in this case, the Exhibition presented a special scenery by linking these articles together with the thread of the National Beiping Art School. Meanwhile, the organization of these materials also provide systematic clue to Chinese paintings created during the National Beiping Art School period and even the Republic of China period (Picture 22). CAFAM saw this exhibition as a platform to gather materials of value in all layers, and through categorization and organization it hopes to see chemical reactions in thinking and research.The Exhibition’s introduction and presentation of history and academic background shows CAFAM’s academic level and vision. Only when the historical relations of the artworks are organized and the stories behind artworks are well told, that the audience would find it easier to understand the exhibition and the knowledge behind it, so as for the effective communication of knowledge. (4) Conduct systematic and focused academic researches and guide the audience through the exhibitionOnly putting good artworks together won’t make a good exhibition. The real value of a work is the historical value and artistic value it carries. Thus the Exhibition proposes to conduct analyses on artworks not from the superficial and isolated angles of their content, techniques, but from their (art) historical background and development, and to appreciate different works and discover their charisma via comparison. Guiding the audience to appreciate artworks is both the museum’s responsibility and requirement for knowledge circulation. Feature research became the partly hidden and partly visible kite string behind, as well as the academic core of the exhibition. It is exactly this idea that the Exhibition would like to affirm, that we should show the audience content and clues through art historical researches, and tell the audience what to see and how to see. All the research of the Exhibition series was centered around the National Beiping Art School’s history from the perspectives that the audience could easily understand, to re-organize the chaotic and complicated history events, and provide the audience with essence of artistic development below the surface.The academic focus of the exhibitions are clearly set according to the paintings’ genre and time. All three exhibitions include Associate Professor Cao Qinghui’s simple but profound feature research. Such a significant research body, tailored specially for an exhibition, is a rare case. In the western painting sector, Professor Cao Qinghui wrote an essay titled “Mainstream, main thread and others”, in which he conducted analyses on collected works and their authors, while linking them to the development of western art in China in the 20th century, so as to organize the main thread of the introduction and practice of western paintings in the first half of 20th century with the National Beiping Art School as an example. Research found out that most of the western painting teachers of the early National Beiping Art School period have studied abroad, so have the teachers from the late period, that’s why their works are closely related to Japan and Europe and involve complicated teacher-student relationships. To put it simply, the main thread of western painting’s development is linked by overseas students and their students; the main stream is the introduction of realistic paintings and the formation of realistic trend and school in 1940s. The main thread of Chinese painting’s development, on the other hand, was narrated by Prof. Cao Qinghui in his essay “The Transformation of Painting Studies Through Broken Shadows of Chinese Painting”. He analyzed main issues the Chinese Painting Department of the National Beiping Art School faced in the 30 some years history, such as the conflicts between western pedagogy and traditional Chinese painting study, conflicts between officers with overseas study background and Chinese faculties, and ups and downs of logic methodologies of painting study, the evolution of Chinese painting and the development of realism. The two essays not only provided distinctive organization and study of the history of western painting and Chinese painting disciplines of the National Beiping Art School, but also clarified the two disciplines’ faculty background, development process and art styles, narrated the major history events of western painting and Chinese painting, and divided the School’s history into clear phases. Based on this solid research result, the exhibition was curated from the two unique angles of overseas study and painting study, which reveals to the point the core question in changes of faculty and art styles during the School’s development. The exhibition thus offered special viewpoints and clues.The practice of the National Beiping Art School Exhibition indicates that except for good artworks, collection exhibitions must also have profound study and systematic organization of collected works. This kind of study should avoid pinning a meaningless academic label on works or exhibitions, which would only confuse the audience. Such study should go through detailed and accurate academic research and organization, should target certain aspects, while also considering the audience’s acceptability. (5)  Set up the museum’s educational responsibility in historical narration through collection exhibitionsThe Exhibition advocates an academic attitude of restoring and envisaging history. This accords with CAFAM’s educational responsibility to restore history and conduct historical narration.The history is full of variety and causal relationships, but it is also hypercritical and forgetful. Many hidden historical events are equally important in their days, and are an important node in the study of history. The lack of avoidance from history will lead to many misreadings, and thus the lost of vitality. In face of these significant problems, CAFAM should present objective exhibitions. The National Beiping Art School Exhibition, when dealing with the National Beiping Art School during the enemy occupation of Beiping  (it was named National Beijing Art School at the moment), gave that history objective positioning and evaluation.A museum’s display and narration of art history should be systematic and consistent, which is an important embodiment of the museum’s educational function. The National Beiping Art School Exhibition boldly experimented on this aspect, and made some achievements in the two exhibitions on western and Chinese painting. It seems that the question of the National Beiping Art School has been answered after systematic organization of the two painting disciplines, but following them CAFAM releases the third exhibition, named “Realignment: From National Beiping Art School, Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts to China Central Academy of Fine Arts” (Picture 23). In the foreword of the exhibition it says: “The museum narration of the National Beiping Art School, CAFA and the evolution of 20th century Chinese art, based on museum collection, has reflected the teachers and students’ creative trends, ups and downs in styles at the School and CAFA in different historical phases of 20th century. It starts to touch upon the relationship between the academy and the society, teachers and students and creative trends. In order for the narration to be more inherently logical, and to establish and dig deep into the historical relations between collected works, our museum believes that it is necessary to conduct specialized organization of the establishment of CAFA by merging the National Beiping Art School and the Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts through collection and archives.” The exhibition will further complete the  narration of the National Beiping Art School Exhibition series, and in the meanwhile facilitate explicit expression of CAFA’s relationship with its two predecessors, to form a “comparatively complete thematic museum narration”. The thinking is based upon a macroscopic narration and sincere attitude towards academic studies, and demonstrates CAFAM’s systematicness and sense of responsibility in terms of its public education function.3. Exhibition as a Component of Museum Knowledge CirculationThe National Beiping Art School Exhibition also went through profound and serious academic discussions about other topics relevant to the School. It expands the exhibition’s influence, generates more research subjects, and truly promotes research in this aspect. The Exhibition is no longer isolated, but has become a component of museum knowledge circulation. During the exhibition, two important symposium and semniar were settled: “The National Beiping Art School and Art of Republic of China” symposium (Picture 24) and “High as Mountains and Long as Rivers: Masters of the National Beiping Art School” seminar (Picture 25). The symposium invited over 40 experts from relevant academic field to speak, the content of which was later edited and published as a book. The seminar includes over ten lectures, each of them was unfolded around an old master from the National Beiping Art School. We have also combined seminars with master and doctor courses, encouraged the students to participate in the seminars and write essays based on the issues and their interested points mentioned in the seminars and the exhibitions. Throughout the development of relevant events, the three exhibitions of the National Beiping Art School Exhibition also continuously brewed and formed a positive cycle.Meanwhile, the Exhibition also practiced CAFAM’s good archiving tradition, editing and publishing the Exhibition’s data and research results. The Exhibition’s publication is not only an exhibition catalogue - it also adds in many works that weren’t exhibited, and significant academic materials that cannot be presented at the exhibition, to make the exhibition’s academic and archival quality more complete. The successive release of the publications also helps preserve and circulate the Exhibition’s research fruits, with they themselves become important research books of the field. It is worth mentioning that CAFAM also produced digital exhibition room for the Exhibition using digital technologies. It recorded the exhibition venue with 360-degree cameras, and linked the exhibition’s information to the visual footage, so that the exhibition’s visual effects could be preserved permanently, and the audience could revisit real site of the exhibition on their computers.A good exhibition shouldn’t be a lecture out of a textbook, but should contain rich thinkings of the curators. It’s like creating an unknown world for the audience to discover themselves. The audience could either achieve something following the route designated by the curators, or discover their own interests and inspirations freely. A good exhibition is not the end point of a research or an isolated event, but should be a transmission shaft that passes on more abundant resources, or a fermenter that incubates more fresh matters.The feature collection exhibition in Chinese museums is only at its beginning stage, and the National Beiping Art School Exhibition is a beneficial experiment. It sturdily completed a thematic series research, pushed forward development of relevant academic fields, and enhanced the public’s knowledge of art in the National Beiping Art School period to a certain extent. In this process, the museum’s curatorial idea was also well represented. Although the content is about works and archives of nearly a century ago, the curatorial idea and approach, as well as the ultimate effect of the exhibition, are new. Picture 1: Poster of the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 2: Bus stop light box advertisement design of the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 3: Large printing of the photo of the Auditorium of the National Beiping Art School and previous names of the School at all stages, put at the entrance of the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 4: Photo wall, archive presentation and seal background at the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 5: Entrance of the “Selected Works of Chinese Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” Exhibition (3rd Floor). A scroll painting of the National Beiping Art School collected by CAFAM is used as the main image of the exhibitionPicture 6: On-site photo of the “Selected Works of Chinese Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 7: At the entrance (3rd Floor) of the “Realignment: From National Beiping Art School, Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts to China Central Academy of Fine Arts (1946-1953)”  exhibition. The Chinese inscription of “National Fine Art Academy” by Mao Zedong is used as the main imagePicture 8: On-site photo of the “Realignment: From National Beiping Art School, Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts to China Central Academy of Fine Arts (1946-1953)”  exhibitionPicture 9: Li Yishi, Portrait of Chen Shizeng, Oil on Canvas, 70x130cm, 1920, Collection of CAFAM (This work is one of the two portrait works of Li Yishi from the 1920s that are known to be left to date. It is a very precious artwork and research material)Picture 10: On-site photo of the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 11: On-site photo of the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” Exhibition. The reading table and provided materials at the exhibition are spoken highly of by the audiencePicture 12: On-site photo of the “Selected Works of Chinese Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 13: On-site photo of the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 14: The National Beiping Art School Chronology compiled by Professor Cao Qinghui, displayed at the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 15: Seals of the names of CAFA since its establishment in 1918Picture 16: Photo wall of the valuable photos throughout the history of the National Beiping Art School at the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 17: Books collected by the National Beiping Art School Library, displayed at the “Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” Exhibition; displayed on the upper right corner is the sketch portfolio donated by Zhang Xian in 1936Picture 18: Photo of the “Selected Works of Chinese Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” Exhibition. The painting in the photo is Qi Baishi’s Eagle donated by the artist to the School in 1935. Displayed on the shelf on the left is Ling Wenyuan’s Discussions on Chinese PaintingsPicture 19: Yu Shaosong’s Fu Tang Lei Gao, displayed at the “Selected Works of Chinese Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” ExhibitionPicture 20: The National Beiping Art School Chronology compiled by Professor Cao Qinghui, once again displayed at the “Realignment: From National Beiping Art School, Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts to China Central Academy of Fine Arts (1946-1953)” ExhibitionPicture 21: The “Selected Works of Chinese Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School” Exhibition collected and collated detailed resume of the artists. Many materials are made public for the first time. All the 34 resumes were shown in the exhibition area for the audience to quickly enter the atmosphere of the National Beiping Art SchoolPicture 22: The “Realignment: From National Beiping Art School, Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts to China Central Academy of Fine Arts (1946-1953)” Exhibition organized the representative artworks which were created in the early years after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and cannot be exhibited on site, and displayed them as a video titled “Artworks in Overseas Collections”.Picture 23: The “Realignment: From National Beiping Art School, Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts to China Central Academy of Fine Arts (1946-1953)” Exhibition displayed Mao Zedong’s inscription of “National Fine Art Academy” in 1949 for the first time as a piece of workPicture 24: “The National Beiping Art School and Art of Republic of China” symposium was co-held by CAFAM and School of Humanities on April 6, 2013. A group photo was taken after the symposiumPicture 25: “High as Mountains and Long as Rivers: Masters of the National Beiping Art School” seminar was held by CAFAM and School of Humanities in Autumn 2013. It invited renowned scholars in China to conduct lectures on important figures in the history of the National Beiping Art School. The seminar has 10 lectures, and stirred heated discussions.Written by Li Yaochen, Director of Department of Collection, CAFA Art MuseumOriginally published in Issue 6 of University and Art MuseumEdited by Zheng Lijun1. The National Beiping Art School Exhibition has three parts: 1) CAFA Art Museum Collection Series: Selected Works of Western Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School (November 27, 2012 - April 25, 2013); 2) CAFA Art Museum Collection Series: Selected Works of Chinese Painting Created in the Period of National Beiping Art School (June 6, 2013 - December 1, 2013); 3) Realignment: From National Beiping Art School, Yan’an Luxun College of Fine Arts to China Central Academy of Fine Arts (1946-1953) (November 4, 2014 - March 1, 2015).2. The National Beiping Art School Exhibition was listed as one of the Outstanding Exhibitions of National Exhibition Season of Brilliant Collection Works from Art Museums in China by the Ministry of Culture.3. Wang Huangsheng (2012), Art Museum as Knowledge Production, p.13, Central Compilation and Translation Press4. Wang Huangsheng (2012), Art Museum as Knowledge Production, p.14, Central Compilation and Translation Press

The Adventure of Leandro Erlich...

2019-07-19 1321 read

Fram Kitakawa, founder of Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale and Setouchi Triennale Leandro Erlich is an artist that aims to jump out of the generic space of galleries and art museums. He tries to break through the space embodied by the 20th-century urban high-rise architectural complex. It is a bold challenge, from which we can comprehend his role in the contemporary era, and the reason behind his popularity.Some people hang themselves upside down on the wall; some cling to the wall; some hang on the wall with one hand; some completely free up their hands. It is in fact an illusion reflected on a glass board set in a 45-degree elevation angle. People are only lying down on the facade placed on the floor. —BuildingThe reflecting mirror placed in front of the real corridor creates an effect that the corridor is endless. — The CorridorThe clouds in the shape of France, Britain and Japanese Archipelago is the aggregation of irregular patterns formed by multi-layered glasses. - The CloudThe elevator is tightly packed, yet meanwhile there’s a strange man standing in it. — Elevator PitchIn the classroom next door, phantom-like people are looking at this side smiling. — The ClassroomI look through the window at the window of the house across the garden, only to see people standing in front of the window looking at a different direction, just like myself. — Lost GardenThe rolling coin operated laundry machine is only an illusionary image. — LaundryEvery room in the opposite building is changing slowly. — The Room (Surveillance II)When I believe I am looking down at the apartment buildings from high above, I am actually only standing on the floor. — La veredaThe wall of an old architecture is floating in the air. — Window & LadderA few boats are floating on the water surface without water, showing the ripples. — Port of ReflectionsAll walks of life can be seen walking under water from above the pool. — Swimming PoolThe changing rooms, originally single rooms, are connected by multiple rooms. The inside can be seen very clearly. — Changing RoomsLight is leaking from beneath the rooms, but as you enter them you will find that they are only walls. — The DoorsOn a sunny day, you look outside the window only to discover violent storms. — RainIn a hair salon, the mirror in front of my reflects a person behind me who shouldn’t exist. — Hair SalonWalking outside, you’ll see a house hanged up in the air. — Pulled by the RootsGeneric space is a predominant idea of the 20th century, or the modern time.  Mies van der Rohe believes that the capital and labor are congregated in the urban area, which leads to a metropolis full of high-rise buildings and composed of steel and glass walls. In fact, cities that develop around high-rise building complex are appearing all over the world, in China, Europe, America and Africa. This kind of space is detached from the multiplex characteristics of life and historical experience, and becomes a void space like laboratory. By changing the dividing wall of a room, a building can be easily transformed into a residency, office or restaurant. There is no more convenient building than the ones with well-adjusted indoor air. People in such space is counted and manipulated as a quantifiable figure.The space has lost the history and culture peculiar to the land, while people are defined by demographic statistics -  this is exactly the viewpoint that shroud the whole world impacted by the global market economy. Art is also developing under the same background. The ‘white box’ exhibition space encircled by white high walls is the space incised from the surrounding, having the same appearance in all countries and regions. This is called spatial balance. In such space, works can purely show their core concept, like in a science laboratory. In here we can clearly understand the jumping thoughts of the artists.However, here lies a big question.Does the ideal abstract space really exist?The problem we are truly facing is the constant deterioration of global environment, the increasing wealth gap one-sidedly created by the market economy controlled by transnational capitalists, and the capitalist moral degeneration resulted from it, leading to the loss of individual sensibility, mechanization and the disappearance of local culture. Since ancient times, artists have been gradually disclosing the relationship between human and nature, and civilization in the midst of the crisis of civilization and at the dawn of new eras. During this process, they use a technique mastered by human.The cave paintings in Altamira and Lascaux are on the one side pray for human’s toil in risking their life capturing middle-sized beasts, and on the other side pray for the pain the captured animals suffered. They embody the united relationship between human and nature. In any subsequent era, art has been the reflection of the relations between nature, society and human. In the vast universe formed accidentally, for the human race born at one moment of the universe, art is the only index of our self-cognition. Without that index human race won’t exist. Like language and literature, art is an index with universal meaning (a very good example is the paintings by the aboriginals). Leandro Erlich tries to break the boundaries by making use of the difference between materials such as glass boards, glass and water, and create boundaries in intangible generic space by using high-quality materials produced in modern industry. This is his creative practice.Everyone is at the terminal point of global information, drowned in all kinds of information, signs and rumors, while believing that we can freely choose and collect certain information. However, they are only the information manipulated within the limit permitted by power, capital and the Internet.These information is fixed in a specific image, and leads to a time that art stops progressing. It seems that we can freely choose from endless information, but the composition and thought pattern are becoming stereotyped.At this time, Leandro Erlich emerged.Either a work is put in Beijing, Johannesburg or London, people can appreciate and understand it in the same way. This is the exhibition standard of 20th century art in white boxes such as galleries and art museums, as well as the 20th century philosophy. Such generic space shares the same character with market economy, international finance and the Internet, and is the most influential (best) idea of the 20th century. It is fair to say that art develops based on generic space.— To judge a thing with the same viewpoint no matter where. —So, in order to transcend the generic space, how does Leandro consider it? Let us take a look at the meaning of Chinese characters, an ancient pictograph.移す (utsusu) →To copy, transcribe, keep and record.映す (utsusu) →To reflect an item’s original look as the light illuminate other items.映す (utsusu) →To duplicate, reprint and copy the original.The three words, with the same etymological origin, changed gradually and form the modern usage of “utsusu” (They share the same Japanese katakana and pronunciation).The different kinds of works by Leandro Erlich, to speak about them in Japanese or write about them in Chinese characters, are to show the context of “utsusu” in a brief and one-time-only place.He seals the space’s time here, like the time sealed in a movie. In his perspective, generic space has become an exceptionally indifferent space without accumulation of time. Thus, his method is to break through his own generic space by transferring a generic space.Modern space is only a thing without the concept of time. Leandro Erlich raised here a theory to generate space by transferring, duplicating and moving the subject. The object changes according to the human (subjects)’s behaviors. This is also the relationship between man and nature since ancient times. In Chinese characters there are homonyms that show turning points. I try to explore this relationship with the different meanings contained in these words. This is what Ernst Mach talked about “”, and the world described in synoptic gospels since ancient time. To simply put it, it is because I have sympathy for the word “stand”, that my reflection in the mirror is standing.I want to talk about the certainty in Leandro Erlich’s creative practice. As he is having his exhibition in Beijing, I would like to elaborate with the “Six Principles of Chinese Painting”, written by Chinese painter and critic Xie He, who lived in the fifth and sixth century, in the preface to his book The Record of the Classification of Old Painters. This is a time that Buddhism was introduced to China from India, as well as a time that ‘art’ itself is questioned as for how it can understand and reflect the nature and society human feel about. At least in Japan, the final destination of Asian culture, ‘Six Principles of Chinese Painting’ is regarded as an important art theory.The basic elements of painting it raised have also been applied outstandingly in modern art.Correspondence to the Object: the modeling abilitySuitability to Type: color perceptionDivision and Planning: space compositionThese elements are what Leandro Erlich, who was born in an architects’ family, best at, and the reasons why his works are vivid and easy to understand.Transmission by Copying: mastering of the classic, or the forefathers’ achievementSuch learning pattern could ensure the modernity of his works. In other words, it offers the audience a new spatial experience. From here we can see Leandro Erlich’s knowledgeability.Bone Method: the unique technique and feeling of the artistBased on the above-mentioned, as I talked about Leandro Erlich’s personal art concept earlier, he is creating a void in homogeneous space by “transferring, copying and reflecting”, and thus creating a new and rich space. The aforementioned five principles can be obtained with practice, except for the last one which is Spirit Resonance.This is the conversation between the work and the audience. In other words, it  points to the realization of a new spatial experience. What Xie He believes is that the overall energy of a work of art may impact the audience. It is full of vitality as if it has the power to shake mountains and rivers. And to judge if a work has that energy, we should see if it has the overall vitality. It seems that Leandro Erlich has such works with spirit resonance.In Buenos Aires, Leandro Erlich’s hometown, there’s a public work named The Democracy of the Symbol. The work covered the top of the city’s iconic monument, and showcased the duplicate of the top in front of the museum. The work seems to be “hidden” before “transferred”, but it is actually made separately after the original was hidden. Although I haven’t been to Buenos Aires, but I heard that it’s a popular place for dating lovebirds and protesting people. Society, politics and power co-exist in this place. Since ancient Greece, squares have been a place for people to voice themselves, sometimes they could also be place of suppression. What does the embodiment mean here? Leandro Erlich lives in South America, but his thought penetrates the whole modern time. It reminds people of Christo’s  artwork ‘Wrapped Reichstag’, or Eisenstein’s movie Battleship Potemkin. Homogeneous city also rises with the support of power. For modern people, can the art museums completely be a place of freedom? This remains to be questioned.Moreover, in Japanese countryside Echigo-Tsumari, in an exchange museum designed by Hiroshi Hara that reminds people of oasis in a desert, Leandro Erlich created a building similar to the structure of urban architecture in the wading pool, as if he was criticizing the modern civilization by “transferring, duplicating and reflecting” the constantly extending modern generic space. People can see the building reflected on the water from the balcony, and can also go into the pool to have fun. He started to move his creative place to squares and countryside, one step closer to the nature which is suffering from destructions.20th century is filled with symbolized information, programmed human and stereotyped space, while Leandro Erlich initiated a bold adventure, trying to break through the leading generic space with the power of art. He’s like Don Quixote who longs to time travel to the Middle Ages, or a modern-time warrior. Leandro Erlich was born in the middle of South America of the old time. Just like Garcia Marquez trying to create a world that overthrows European and North American values with literature, he tries to create a world with his artworks - from the white cubic of galleries and museums to squares that stand for civil society, his footsteps extend to the gradually degenerating, formalizing cities. Let us keep an eye on his adventures.Written by Fram Kitakawa, founder of Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale and Setouchi Triennale Translated by Liu YanchaoProofread by Lu YufanEdited by Zheng Lijun

Zhang Zikang: Leandro Erlich - --Begin from Amazementing, the Game of Seeing and Believinge...

2019-07-19 1198 read

Zhang Zikang, Director of the Art Museum of the Central Academy of Fine ArtsCAFA Art MuseumThe Art Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts(CAFAM) held a solo exhibition for the well-respected artist Leandro Erlich. The exhibition, titled ‘Leandro Erlich: The Confines of the Great Void’, is, which is the mostanother important onesolo exhibition of the artist’s after the onehis solo exhibition in Karlsruhe Art and Media CenterZKM in, 2015in Germany, and anotherthe one in MoriArt Museum, 2017 in Tokyo Japan. in 2017.Prior to this, Leandro’s artworks has attracted massive attention of manytheaudiences all over the world. Through the fermentation of the Internet and social media, his work has reached a wider audience, inspired them to produce numerous photos and interactions on social media. In some sense, the concept of Leandro’s artwork ishas been betterfinished by the participation of the audience. His work also makes people realize that the form of art is being changed by both the audience and the artists, in such a deep interaction with the public. I think this is where the unique charm of Leandro’s art work lies. Through his art work, we get the chance to think about contemporary art and its exhibitions, and about how to form a new viewing relationship with the audience under the catalysis of the new media culture. Losst, vagueness, perceptual confusion---these are the feelings that Leandro’s artworks often brings to the audience. As Leandro said, there is a wide experimental field between seeing and believing. With the spatialpsychologicalsubversion of the ordinary space, such as spatial displacement and architectural illusion, Leandro explores the misplaced problem of the existence ofthe fuzzy boundary betweenexistential reality and consciousness, creates a situation in which the reality and the illusory overlap, and triggers the audience to rethinkthe perception andits diversity.  In order to best express the concepts he wants to elaborate, media and visual forms such as installations, ready-made products, sculptures, videos and even paintings have been adopted by Leandro, and he has successfully created many cultural landscapes that challenge our perception ofperceptual inertia. In Chinese proverbs, thereThere is a sayingin Chinese called “Seeing is believinge”, but Leandro’s artworks makes us feel that “seeing might not be believing”, because this visual artist who was born on the South American continent has made usnaturallymade us wonder ifthink thatthe South American’s magical realistm cultural genes have deeply influenced him. His works have provided a possibility that what we see might not be real.In Leandro’s work, there are many places without clear boundaries--- a Pool that seems to descend from the skyappear out of nowhere, a house that is Pulled up by the RootsUprootedfrom the ground, a closed DoorThe Doors with light leaking from the crackbeneath,a few boats that float on the water that looks like mirror etc. These daily scenes evoke the viewer’s’ sense of reality, like an entrance to “heterotopia”. It echoes tois similar towhat Lao TzuLaozi said, “There is something concrete in the emptiness and there is something real in the ambiguity.”, across two distant cultural time and space. The combination of reality and representation brings illusion to the audience, confusing the direct perception of the human eyes, bringing the audience into the imaginary world which is full of mirroring images.Wherever Leandro Ehrlich’s work goes, there will always be a carnival that embraces visual art. His humor is sharp, and the surprise is just a prelude.In the process of slowly unfoldingAs the storyslowly unfolds, the many pendulumshints he has buriedleft for us are worthy of ourcareful subtle taste.pondering.Written by Co-curator: Zhang Zikang, Director of the Art Museum of the Central Academy of Fine ArtsCAFA Art MuseumTranslated by Liu YanchaoProofread by Lu YufanEdited by Zheng Lijun

The Art of Liberation: Curating as a Script for Action ...

2019-06-26 1160 read

Why act? We should act to move ourselves and society, which would allow individuals locked into social classes, historical stages, and relationships to show off their lived potential, giving birth to new possibilities for re-imagining themselves and society, and for renewing themselves and society. This is not the art of worship; it is the art of liberation, and curating is a script for turmoil, a script for action.

The Political Rationality of the Art Institution and its Criticism Practice...

2019-06-25 82 read

The “new world” and “new humans” have been “taken sample” before the late arrival of modernity, and modern art and its core idea “autonomy” have already been overwhelmed by the more aggressive market and ambitions for a catch-up prior to its flourishment could be made by those creative individuals in China (and Asia).

The Blind Leading the Blind: Notes and Meditation on the Transfer of Curatorial Knowledge...

2019-06-24 983 read

If we want to find our way in what is out of focus, blurred and shrouded in nebula, groping around and feeling our way through to the "knowing" and"learned ignorance" rather than knowledge, the blind might be the best guide to direct and lead the blind.

Speak for Yourself - Interview with Xi Chuan...

2019-06-20 146 read

As a teacher, at a certain stage and age, you need to cleanse your knowledge structure. If you have this ability, you are a person who is "on the road", you are still growing - the growth of the soul; you are able to look at things from more angles. Of course it is difficult. If you want to be a really creative person, that's all you can be. I don't have any more expectations of my students than I have of the teachers at CAFA. Students are a blank piece of paper, some are capable and clever, some are a little slower, but it is the face of a school's teachers that determines the quality of the school.

Two Narrative Patterns of Chinese Artistic Modernity in the First Half of the Twentieth Century —— A Case Study of “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art (1911-1949)”...

2019-06-04 1203 read

ABSTRACTAs a deepening of the curatorial theory of the exhibition “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art (1911-1949)”, this thesis aims to investigate the artists who studied abroad in France and chose to develop Chinese art from the traditional to the modern at the historical juncture for Chinese art in the first half of the twentieth century. Both pioneering artists who explored “scientific” pursuit of modernity by Western academic Classicalism,Naturalism,Realism and those who held more closely to various Western modernistic schools with “democratic” pursuit of modernity have collectively facilitated the modernization of Chinese art in the first half of the twentieth century, shaped and developed the basic aspect of the twentieth-century Chinese art. Key wordsChinese artists abroad in France;Modernity;Twentieth-century Chinese artStudying abroad(including study tour)was one of the most notable phenomena in Chinese history, particularly cultural history, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. China’s modern study abroad movement began at the end of the nineteenth century targeting at Japan. Around the year 1906, Qing government started to officially send a few young people to study in Europe and America. After this, from the late Qing dynasty to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, there were many students who traveled abroad on government scholarships or their own funds. They energetically studied political, economic, military, intellectual, cultural, and artistic subjects. After they returned to China, they dedicated their immense energies and made great contributions, becoming pioneers and founders in many fields.In the field of fine arts, the core destination of the study abroad wave was Paris, France. Wang Jiuru and Wu Fading [1] both transferred to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 1911, marking the pioneering journey of artists who studied in France [2]. Following their steps, a few self-funded young students such as Li Chaoshi [3] and Fang Junbi [4] went to France. In 1915, Cai Yuanpei founded the “Work-Study Program” in France with Wu Zhihui, Li Shizeng and Wu Yuzhang to organize and advocate studying in Europe and America. After that, the number of students studying in France surged including self and public-funded, half-work-half-study students. Lin Fengmian was one of the first wave of half-work-half-study artists in France. In 1919 the Beiyang Government specifically allocated one government-funded quota to overseas study in the major of fine arts for the first time. Xu Beihong obtained the quota and became the first government-funded overseas student - although this quota was obtained with the help of Cai Yuanpei.  With historical mission endued by the times and himself, Xu Beihong began his “art for life's sake” pursuit in France. He believed Southern School painting was the reason of the decadence of Chinese painting, and the way to improve and save the declining Chinese painting [5] is realistic painting, which can be expected as a way out from traditional to modern art.  The “realistic painting” Xu Beihong promoted was the “realism” in Chen Duxiu’s “Art Revolution ( an answer to Lu Cheng’s letter )” ( Lu Cheng’s letter was published in the journal New Youth on 15th [1] December 1918) issued in New Youth’s Volume 6, No. 1 edition on 15th January 1919, which may be the first appeal to improve Chinese painting with Western Realism. [6]In October the same year, a little earlier than Chen Duxiu’s article, Cai Yuanpei emphasized at the speech of the second class of the just founded Society of Painting in Peking University: “ I have two hopes for painting, one is to practice painting from life, the other is to keep on painting. Chinese and Western painting are different from the beginning. One starts Chinese painting by copying the previous, while Western painting by drawing from life…now our generation should use scientific methods…to create art.” [7]Xu Beihong was invited to be the teacher of watercolor painting at Society of Painting in Peking University at that time. To grasp the "the techniques already invented” mentioned in his article, which is the “scientific methods” in Cai Yuanpei’s words, Xu Beihong sailed across the seas to study Academic Realism at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts for eight years.[8] After returning in September 1927, he actively participated in creating oil paintings of history theme in great scale in response to Cai Yuanpei’s urge of using “scientific method” to create China’s own history paintings; on the other hand, he devoted his life to aesthetic education, teaching young students in public and private art schools all around the country to promote realistic pedagogy. At the same time, following the example of Cai Yuanpei’s recommendation, he recommended repeatedly multiple young students to the Republic of China Government for chances to study art in France, England, and America. Besides, with his personal impact and influential activities, a large number of like-minded people were engaged to rally around him, forming the “Xu Beihong system”. The academic realism he pursued can be seen as the response of the art circle to the beliefs in “Science” and “Democracy” in the New Culture Movement.During the New Culture Movements that began in 1915, Chen Duxiu brought forward: “Chinese people who want to get rid of ignorance…should attach equal importance to science and human rights.”[9] He vividly personified “Democracy” and “Science” as “Mr. De” and “Mr. Sai”, [10] and strengthened “ Only these two gentlemen, can dispel all the darkness in politics, academia and thought.” [11] Thus a group of social elites represented by Chen Duxiu not only raised the concept of “Democracy” and “Science” since the Revolution of 1911 to a self-conscious value, but also related it to the rise and fall of the country. In particular, “Democracy”is about resisting despotism and monarchy, to enlighten the people to be their own masters instead of physical or mental slaves, and to realize individual liberation and spiritual freedom. “Science” is about revolving against old moral and ethic values, against blind feudal obedience, to promote positivist and empirical philosophy, which is “Shi Li”in Chen Duxiu’s words whose focus is on rationality.As China's historical choice after its abandoning of the traditional society, the beliefs in “Science” and “Democracy” signaled the revolutionary change in the first half of the twentieth century, which is regarded as the symbol of modernization in China. In face of the time of turmoil, Xu Beihong chose the path of “saving the nation by science” to be the guiding ideology of his artistic exploration. However, although he said that he was “firmly going on a lonely path”, there is a large number of companions that went with him. There were some artists who were also inclined to academic naturalism like Xu Beihong, such as Li Jinfa, Li Fengbai, Lu Sibai, Wu Zuoren, Wang Linyi, Liu Kaiqu, Xiao Shufang, Han Leran, Xie Touba, Qin Xuanfu, Tang Yihe, Lu Xiaguang, Hu Shanyu, Zeng Zhushao, Wang Ziyun, Hua Tianyou, Zhang Chongren, Li Ruinian, Liao Xinxue, Huang Juesi; and Wu Fading who had practiced naturalism before Xu Beihong; and other artists who were inclined to academic neo-classicism, such as Wang Rujiu, Guo Yinglin, Chang Shuhong and so on. These artists who studied abroad followed precise, rational, and “Scientific” academic realistic plastic arts system, to explore the language of oil painting while experiencing new painterly representation of the world that differs from traditional Chinese painting, which was to reflect the reality with comparative precision and objectivity, rather than only “expressing feelings” in Southern School painting. To some extent they achieved the vision brought forward by Kang Youwei, Cai Yuanpei, Xu Beihong and Chen Duxiu in the first decade of the twentieth century to improve traditional Chinese painting with western naturalism. The artists that followed the western systematic naturalist modeling languages such as scientific proportion, perspective, spatial effect, volume, materiality, color tone, and representation of details to improve traditional Chinese painting, was represented by Xu Beihong, whose “ink and color painting” and “nocturne” concepts , revival of traditional Chinese figure painting, transformation of traditional mountains and waters painting to modern landscape painting and exploration of the naturalist modeling language  of traditional bird-and-flower paintings and animal paintings provided various possibilities and practicalities for the transformation of traditional Chinese painting into modern art in the first half of the twentieth century.In comparison, Xu Beihong’s classmate at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts Lin Fengmian [12], responding to the call of the time and himself, favored the value “art for art’s sake”. He was not obsessed with the “Science” of academic naturalism. Instead, He was more interested in “Democracy”: He was obsessed with Western modernist genres outside the academy. In his opinion, these genres enabled artists to fully communicate human emotions, which is the core of his obsession with art. Through his whole life, he had been pursuing the ideas that “ Art is the expression of emotions”. This is owing to the education of his tutor Yancesse in Dijon, [14] and his first German wife Roda[2] , his education concept inherited from Cai Yuanpei which highlights “academic freedom and diversity”, and his own characters. Because these genres valued artists’ unique life experiences and artistic expressions, the absolute respect for individuality and the freedom in expressing personality were the keys to the artists’ fascination with modernism genres. The respect and the freedom also illustrated the value “democracy” perfectly. [3] According to the black-and-white pictures in early literature, Lin Fengmian created some large oil paintings from 1924 to 1927, such as Exploration , The History of Mankind, Humanity, The Folk, and so on. The themes and subjects were filled with a sense of poignant history, ardent care for reality, wild strokes and fauvist colors, the form of cubism, [15] the expressiveness and representation of German Expressionism. Plus Lin Fengmian’s unique tremendous momentum and honest emotions,  his works had impressed Cai Yuanpei greatly. Cai Yuanpei spoke highly of Lin Fengmian. It should be noted that only on Lin Fengmian Cai saw the perfect practitioner of his “replacing religion with aesthetic education” theory. Cai eagerly invited 25-year-old Lin Fengmian, who at the time was still pursuing his study, back to be the the director of the Beiping Art School, and entrusted him with important posts one after another. During his period at the Hangzhou Art School, Lin adhered to Cai Yuanpei’s “academic freedom and diversity” educational concept, gathered and cultivated numerous artistic talents, making Hangzhou the key position for communicating and practicing Western modernist genres. Those who shared a close relationship with Lin Fengmian and the Hangzhou Art School include Wu Dayu and Zhao Wuji who were inclined to abstract art, Wu Guanzhong who pursued formal aesthetics, Lei Guiyuan who was after the École de Paris, and Hu Shanyu and Dong Xiwen [16] who sought after excellence in the purity of the language of oil painting.As mentioned above, on the second class of the Society of Painting in Peking University, Cai Yuanpei emphasized the ideal of creating art with scientific approach of western naturalism, which was achieved by a group of academic neo-classicist and naturalist artists represented by Xu Beihong. Cai Yuanpei believed that “The most popular expressionism today is close to the Chinese expressionism.” [17] The expressionism here mainly referred to Post Impressionism, Fauvism, École de Paris and German Expressionism. Besides Lin Fengmian, Liu Haisu also highly agreed with with Cai Yuanpei’s art view.After founding the first ever private art school in China in 1912, Liu Haisu had made a dramatic and lasting impact in Shanghai through art education, artistic creation and social activities. To some extent, Shanghai in 1920s and 1930s can be named as Liu Haisu’s time, or more accurately speaking, the time of Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism promoted by Liu Haisu. At that time Liu Haisu had only done a brief research on Japanese modern art and had not yet been to France. However, he had read extensive art journals and came in contact with the most popular and the most avant-garde schools of painting, including Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism. Cai Yuanpei had a deep understanding of Liu Haisu’s work. In 1922, he complimented that “Mr. Liu’s work was inclined to Post-impressionism. He was particularly obsessed with depicting outdoor light. His art was intuitive and natural,” and “profoundly expressing his unique characters,” which is “very strong”, and he “always expressed himself subjectively”. [18] Ni Yide shared the same opinions.In February 1929, Cai Yuanpei won over a chance for Liu Haisu to go on a research tour in Europe in the name of Researcher for the Ministry of Education. Unlike other artists on tour, Liu Haisu went for art exchanges as an accomplished master-grade “visiting scholar” instead of a student. His landscape oil paintings from 1929 to 1931 had obvious Impressionist, Post-impressionist and Fauvist style; many of which were sketches from life in the perspective some of his favorite modernist artists. [19]After returning from Europe, Liu Haisu devoted himself to writing Xi Hua Yuan, which systematically introduced western modernist genres and especially spoke highly of Post-impressionism and Fauvism. The book was good at comparing western modernist genres with ancient traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting. Such comparison was also frequently used by Cai Yuanpei. Through the entire decade of the 1930s, Liu Haisu gained a larger variety of followers in Shanghai, further promoting the development and acceptance of the modernist genres that went popular outside the French academy in Shanghai.Pang Xunqin, who was keen on cubism, the “Storm Society” that focused on the exploration of formal language, Zhang Xian who was passionate about the École de Paris, Pan Yuliang and Tang Yunyu who explored impressionism, Li Chaoshi who mastered pastel picture, and Zhou Bichu who was obsessed with Divisionism, all had a close relationship with Liu Haisu and the city of Shanghai.In general, Chinese artists abroad in France in the first half of the twentieth century, had not only accepted “scientific” western education on neo-classicism, naturalism, and realism, but also brought back “democratic” western modernist genres. They had brought new categories and ideas such as oil paintings (western paintings), sculptures, sketches, toner paintings and watercolor paintings to the Chinese art of the early twentieth century, and even new lifestyles connected with these ideas, thereby becoming one of the most important groups active in China, and laying a great foundation to the development Chinese art in the first half of the twentieth century.As mentioned above, at this historical juncture for Chinese art in the first half of the twentieth century, the artists who studied abroad in France chose to develop Chinese art from the traditional to the modern, thereby becoming the pioneers and practitioners of modernist culture in twentieth-century Chinese art. They were the founders and predecessors of Chinese art’s shift from tradition to modernity. Both the artists who explored the “Scientific” approach of western classicism, realism, and naturalism and the artists who held more closely to the western “Democratic" modernism ended up at the same destination, successfully pushed forward the development of modernism of Chinese art of the first half of the twentieth century, and the shaping and transformation of the twentieth-century Chinese art. Notes:[1] In 1906, Wang Rujiu was sent to study the army as one of the first officials sent by the Beiyang Accelerated Military Academy of the Qing government. In 1911, he gave up military studies and transferred to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the Burdell Sculpture Studio to study oil painting and sculpture. Wu Fading was sent to France to study law in 1911, and in the same year transferred to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts to study oil painting.[2] This is why the year in the exhibition title “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art (1911-1949)” (hereinafter referred to as the Exhibition) is 1911, rather than the first year of the Republic of China, which was 1912. Of course, from the perspective of history, 1911 is also very important due to the Revolution of 1911, especially the concept of “democracy” and “science” inspired by the the Revolution of 1911 is closely related to this exhibition and this article. To the author’s delight, the division of history and art history into periods coincide with each other perfectly in the monographic study of this exhibition.[3] In 1912, Li Chaoshi enrolled in the Sellman School of Painting[4]  in Paris, France, and then transferred to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts.[4] In 1912, Fang Junbi was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux in France. In 1919, she was admitted to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts together with Xu Beihong.[5] Xu Beihong gave a speech on “The Method of Improving Chinese Painting” on May 14, 1918 at the Society of Painting in Peking University. Xu Beihong's speech was shown in the Journal of Peking University on May 23, 24 and 25 consecutively with appendix added. [6] At the beginning of his article, Chen Duxiu said: “If we want to improve Chinese painting, we must first revolutionize the Four Wangs. In order to improve Chinese painting, the realistic spirit of foreign paintings could not be left aside.” At the end of the paper, Chen put forward “...if you do not overthrow it (here referred to the Four Wangs), it would be the greatest obstacle to introducing realism and improving Chinese painting.”[7] Quoted from: Zhao Li, Yu Ding (ed.), “Chinese Oil Painting Literature”, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, 2002, p. 413. [8] Xu Beihong's works such as “Family Portrait of Yang Zhongzi” and “Sound of the Flute” in this exhibition are typical examples.[9] Quoted from the first volume of Selected Works of Chen Duxiu, Shanghai People's Publishing House, 2009, p.162.[10] Mr. De: abbreviation of “Democratic” in Chinese; Mr. Sai: Abbreviation of “Science” in Chinese.[11] Selected Works of Chen Duxiu, vol. 2, p. 10.[12] At the end of 1918, Lin Fengmian came to Paris with the half-work-half-study group. In February 1920, he entered the École nationale supérieure d'art de Dijon in France. In September 1920, he transferred to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and was in Fernand Cormon[5] 's studio with Xu Beihong.[13] Lin Fengmian believes in Tolstoy's theory that “art is the expression of human emotions”, and Cai Yuanpei's theory that “replacing religion with aesthetic education”, which constituted his basic artistic view. This is elaborated in his long article  “To the National Art Circle” published in 1927. [14] In 1920, Lin Fengmian entered the École nationale supérieure d'art de Dijon to study oil painting. The academy’s director Yancesse appreciated him, told him not to learn only the academic way, especially not to become a member of the academism. [15] In terms of color application and tone processing, it can be seen from the “Thought”, which is also known as “Grief thought”in the exhibition of “ Chinese Artists Abroad in France” in 1926. This painting depicts the first wife of Lin Fengmian, Roda, a German girl. They met in Germany in 1924 and soon fell in love and got married. However, Roda died of puerperal fever in 1925. Lin Fengmian was very sad for a long time. This work should be created by Lin Fengmian based on his memory shortly after Roda's death. In the painting, Roda closed her eyes, implying that she had passed away. The black and white version of the work was included in the second edition of Chen Baoyi’s  The Beauty of the Human Body in 1929, which is a rare early oil painting of Lin Fengmian’s. This work is typically Fauvist, with form of Cubism and representation of German Expressionism.[16] In 1939, Dong Xiwen graduated from the National Art College, which was merged by Peiping Art College and Hangzhou Art College.  He was recommended by the academy to study at the Higher School of Fine Arts Paris’s Hanoi branch in Vietnam. He received guidance from French teachers, saw a lot of Western European painting books and original works, and was exposed to the Vietnamese lacquer paintings that are rich in color. Due to the outbreak of the war, Chinese government cut the fund and he was forced to return to China in advance. During his study in Hanoi, Dong Xiwen directly received the training of classicist painting techniques and aesthetic experience of the French academism, which constituted an important factor in the formation of his unique oil painting language and personal style in the future. In June 1946, Dong Xiwen ended his decade of unsettled life and returned to his parents’ home in Hangzhou. Dong painted these two portraits for his parents with the classicist painting techniques he learned from the Paris Art School in Hanoi, Vietnam, in order to express his respect for the elderly parents and nostalgia after the longstanding separation. As Dong Xiwen did not receive French academic classicist education in actual France, he became the only artist in this exhibition who did not set foot in French territory.  Dong Xiwen will be included in this exhibition in the hope of arousing in-depth discussions in the academic circle regarding the cultural influence of the artists studying in France from different perspectives. [17] Cai Yuanpei: “Exhibit Catalogue of the Chinese Venue at the Paris Exposition”. Quoted from Jin Ya (ed.), “Literature Collection of Chinese Modern Aesthetics: Cai Yuanpei Volume”, Zhejiang University Press, 2009. [18] Quoted from: Zhao Li, Yu Ding (ed.),  “Chinese Oil Painting Literature”,  Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, 2002, p. 448-449.[19] In this exhibition, the painting “Okra” pays tribute to Van Gogh, “ Westminster Sunset ” pays tribute to Monet, while “ Rodin's Model” pays tribute to Matisse. References:Li Zehou, “The History of Chinese Thought”, Anhui Literature and Art Publishing House, 1999Wang Hui, “The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought”, Sanlian Bookstore, 2008Shi Quansheng (ed.), “The Cultural History of the Republic of China”, Jilin Literature and History Publishing House, 1990 Li Zhujin and Wan Qingli, “The History of Modern Chinese Painting”, Zhejiang University Press, 2012Zhao Li, Yu Ding (ed.), Chinese Oil Painting Literature, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, 2002Wang Zhen (ed.), “The Chronicle of Xu Beihong”, Shanghai Pictorial Publishing House, 2006 Author | Hongmei (Curator of the “Chinese Artists Abroad in France” Exhibition  , associate professor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, master student supervisor, director of the Department of Theoretical Publishing of the CAFA Art Museum)The original article was published in Art Research vol.2, 2019

Troubled Intention Ahead...

2019-05-29 1140 read

If an exhibition seeks answers via posing questions, then which questions does the "Confusing Public and Private: The 3rd Beijing Photo Biennial" need to ask the audience? In my view, this edition of the biennial centers on a question which has entangled and coerced consistently from the invention of photography to the present: the ambiguous relationship between public and private.
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