The Modern Art Scene in China

Lily Riri Kamata

BLOG for M-term


I like every kind of art and art is my most favorite subject, so I especially looked carefully at the art that we encountered during this trip.  We went to so many art galleries in China and I found them all to be really interesting.

In Beijing, we went to a street called 798, which has a lot of art galleries.  There were pieces of artwork installed outside on the street as well.  I really liked this area, I think it was one of the best places I’ve ever been and I would like to go there again.  The galleries had really interesting art pieces.  My favorite piece was an art using so many balloons, a bike, a chair, a dragon and so on.  I really loved it, not just because it looked cute, it inspired me a lot.  It was very colorful and dynamic.  At any rate, it was amazing.  I also liked the fact that the art had some Chinese cultural objects.

In Shanghai, we also went to a place that is similar to 798 that was called the M 50 district.  We went to four galleries and one I liked the most was Qiu Sheng Xian’s gallery.  I saw his paintings; they were amazing.  I never saw paintings like his, his paintings ware really delicate, clear, beautiful, defined and strange in a good way.  When I first looked at it, I felt scared and I didn’t really like it.  However, when I started to contemplate it, I felt different, I wasn’t scared any more, I felt so many things from the faces and I found symbols in the paintings.  Some faces looked really creepy at first but eventually those faces looked really sad or some of them looked angry.

Fashion in China

Blog:  Fashion in China

Gabriela Galao

Marcela Monteiro

During the time that we spent in China, we were analyzing current fashion trends by analyzing people on the streets in terms of the way they dress. Chinese people are very fashionable and during the time that we spent in China we wanted to deeply analyze peoples’ street style and understand their way of creating fashion.

On March 13th we went to Shanghai’s New International Expo Center and there we went to the mode exposition. Furthermore, we were amazed by the clothes that we saw there and the creativity of the designers who showed were very modern and inspiring trends for young designers.

The Chinese clothing in general demonstrates a mixture of modern and historical details. From what we could see on the mode exposition, many cloths still have characteristics of the Qipao. Moreover, the Qipao became popular throughout China in the 1920s with the influence of Western dress styles.  The actresses of those times, specially the ones from Hollywood were one of the most important influences to the introduction of Qipao, which showed more of the women body.

At the exposition we viewed many new modern and inspiring trends that the designers were showing to the visitors. Light colors and gray were the favorite ones of the collection. Light pink and black were used together as a new trend while silk and metal were also included on dresses and shirts.

In conclusion, Chinese people want to show that they have their own way of creating fashion and they also want to express their culture through clothes.

Shanghai: M50 Art District

Blog:  A Brief Introduction to Modern Chinese Art

Vivien Klein

Being able to compare Art in Beijing and also Shanghai, I have to say that Shanghai shows off the most modern and contemporary Art styles. Beijing is representing a more traditional and ancient Chinese style. Along this trip I found a lot of traditional symbols, like peaches that stand for a longevity, in the Art scene. It was amazing to experience these recognitions. Some local Chinese Artists, like Ai Wei Wei, use traditional Chinese symbols in their artwork combined with modern brands like Coca Cola, which influences expression in China today. What I noticed as well was that the Art Districts in China have become almost completely commercialized because the international acclaim has rapidly increased. The local artists feel pushed out and do not think they have space and position in the Districts, which people from all over the world come to visit. Chinese contemporary art is because of its perfect combination of traditional as well as modern influences, the leading production on the contemporary art market. Both districts, 798 in Beijing, as well as M50 in Shanghai have amazing and incredibly talented Artists, international and local, represented in their galleries.

Shanghai: M50 Art District

Olivia Meihofer and Rebecca Hamilton

Blog: Shanghai

M50 District

While in Shanghai, we visited another contemporary art district. We saw a total of 5 galleries. The first one, ShanghART, contained modern art that was completed by a Chinese artist. The most popular piece of work from there was a photograph of a hefty man lying on some shoes.  After, we walked down to H-Space, where you were invited to walk around the art; it made you feel like you were a giant. The third gallery, Qui Sheng Xian Solo Show, seemed to be a favorite. His art was of giant faces with pictures inside of pictures. The art was so original and unique that it was hard not to be intrigued. The fourth gallery we visited was very modern and featured moving pictures. This was the first gallery that many of us had seen electricity being used to make artwork. You could see some of these pieces of work hanging in Time’s Square on a billboard. The last gallery, EastLink, was filled with some more confusing, yet awesome, modern art. One of the coolest parts of this tour, though, was walking from gallery to gallery and viewing the graffiti that populated the streets.

Evolution of the Qipao

Evolution of the Qipao

Jalile and Ana

Coming to China and experiencing this extraordinary culture led us to learn about the evolution of Qipao. This traditional dress first appeared during the Qing dynasty while the Manchus were in control of China. It used to be a long and heavy dress that had nothing to do with the Qipao style we have in China today. It also covered almost all of the body parts of the women and was useless for working purposes.

Throughout the years in the late 20th century trade between the West and East influenced the evolution of the Qipao in China. One of the most important influences to this change was the couture of the Hollywood actresses of those times. These actresses used to wear dresses that showed their bodies. With all these new influences, women in China started to change their points of view. The lengths became shorter and women were able to show their arms and legs when they wore a Qipao. This modern Qipao expressed the women’s body and curves with short and tight dresses.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao banned the use of the Qipaos because it showed the differences between the social classes during that time – instead women wore pantsuits.

Nowadays the Qipao is very elegant and classy. Women wear a Qipao usually for their wedding ceremonies and to go to parties. A lot of restaurants and hotels use the Qipao as uniforms.

It’s very easy to find a Qipao to buy in China. You can find many options that range in expression of style and price ranges. If you know how to bargain, you can buy a Qipao from 300 yuan to 100 yuan. You just need to know how to say the magic Chinese words to bargain!

Architectural Review: Beijing and Shanghai

Greg Degiacomi

Kevin Coin

Shanghai, 03/10/12

BLOG: Beijing Architecture vs. Shanghai Architecture

After enjoying some days in Beijing, where we got to witness a very traditional architectural style, we now are in Shanghai, and from our point of view a much more westernized metropolis.

In the capital we visited the Forbidden City, epicenter of the millenary Chinese culture and were particularly fascinated by its imposing size and the never-ending symbols, colors, shapes and objects that were used to underline the emperor’s immense power. We also visited the Summer Palace that, from our prospective in contrast with the Forbidden City is much less rigid and schemed. The palace has an immense garden with beautiful trees, paths and breathtaking views of the Kunming Lake. Even though it was used as a second residence by the emperor its size is equally impressive, but its architecture is much more in harmony with the surrounding natural environment. We also saw the Hutongs, little very traditional urban areas characterized by narrow alleys and houses with courtyards that we think are outdated and non practical for a 21st century city life. But surprisingly Hutong’s seem to be in demand by the wealthy Chinese because of their historical importance. . Overall we believe that Beijing’s style is very traditional, also in modern Beijing, many parts of the buildings recall the main points of the old-style Chinese architecture, with its colors and symbols.

As soon as we came out of the train station in Shanghai we immediately noticed a radical difference in style. The city is characterized by a very modern, almost futuristic skyline dominated by the Oriental Pearl Tower and other beautiful high rise towers. Right away we got to visit the many buildings built by the westerners during China’s colonial period. These buildings were designed in a Victorian style and have art deco details. We have to say we enjoyed seeing these typical European buildings in Shanghai, we believe they add some kind of charm and mysteriousness to the city. Just today we went to the top floor of our hotel, the Astor House (oldest hotel in Shanghai, built in 1846), and really saw how the buildings of the Bund stand in, one with each other creating a unique atmosphere.

All together we personally like Shanghai’s style better, but nevertheless Beijing with its distinctive style and rare treasures like the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace is without any doubt an exceptional city.

Day 8: Art @ the Shanghai Propaganda Museum

Cultural Revolution:  Shanghai Propaganda Museum

Nikki Lavollay

Today our group had the fortunate opportunity to visit the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art center. We were very lucky we were able to visit this place, as it is very underground, and not known to the public. Ironically it is situated underground in a basement. There were three to four rooms filled with propaganda posters dating from 1949 to 1979. Yang Pei Ming, the owner of the gallery, collected and curated this huge collection of 3000 posters since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1979.  He has preserved the history from Mao’s Cultural Revolution during a time when Deng Xiaoping tried to destroy all of the proof that they existed.

The posters dated from 1949 to 1953 when art was still encouraged and at a time when there was an anti-Japanese movement afoot.  Many of the posters were printed in Shanghai for distribution and were inspired by the Shanghai ladies of the 1930’s – featuring a Western influence in terms of dress and style.   From 1954 to1956 the economy stabilized and daily life was better, many of the posters featured agriculture, education and family life.  A new message was being expressed through the posters, advertising how the political movement of the times under Mao offered a better lifestyle for the average person.  From 1957 to 1962, the style of the posters starts to feature caricatures of farmers, workers and soldiers that are portrayed to be happy and working together towards the betterment of society.  However in the beginning of the 60’s, China was actually facing a famine and people were suffering.  During the time period of 1963-1965, the posters begin to feature images of the Cold War and the Vietnam War, to promote unity and a sense of nationalism in China.  1966 -1971 is the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, where the cult of personality with regards to Mao begins to really take off.  In 1971, the next successor to Mao dies, accidentally, and many of the propaganda posters were destroyed at this time.  From 1972- 1976, the production and distribution of Mao’s propaganda posters declines and less of his writings are available to the general public.  President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 marks the first time that the USA is not featured in a derogatory way in the propaganda posters.  Mao passed away in December 1976 and the Revolution ends, and so does the era of the propaganda posters.

I enjoyed this visit a lot, I think that a lot of us enjoyed it as well, because these are rare posters, that are very important to understand the Cultural Revolution and how it was advertised.

Images of Original Posters


Day 7: Shanghai Museum & French Concession Walking Tour

March 9, 2012

Day 7


Rachel Santee

Today our group woke up on the sleeper train for the second time, which according to some was not nearly as bad as our first sleeper train; we were all used to it now. We were headed for Shanghai, the fashion capital of China, and many of us had mixed expectations of our next destination. Although we all knew it would be quite different than Beijing or Xi’an, I don’t think any of us expected how much we all enjoyed our initial Shanghai reaction. For a lot of us, the city had a much more comfortable feel, and I think it was due to the heavy Western influence in the city that made everyone relax and feel much more at ease in China.

Once we were off the train, we bee-lined for a much-needed Starbucks run. After that it was a short walk to the Shanghai museum where we met up with our tour guides and broke off into groups to explore the Qing Dynasty era clothing and furniture. Here we were able to see furniture that the Empress Dowager owned and another ethnic fish suit (made from fish skin).  After the museum we took a walking tour around the French Concession and saw two hotels decorated in art deco and many other Western designs. We also saw an old French hospital built in the 1920’s, where X-rays were advertised for free as a way to screen people for tuberculosis.  Then we went to the park and did water calligraphy in front of a crowd of retired Chinese folks. We then went to  lunch where we were treated to a gangster magic trick by our tour guides and much more familiar Chinese food. Once full, we headed to the haute couture store of Qipaos and got to experience high-class Chinese fashion. However the prices at this store were very steep and instead we went to a fabric market and everyone was able to haggle for more reasonable prices. After the market we headed to our hotel in Shanghai: the Astor House. It was built in 1846 and certainly has maintained its original charm, but don’t worry the facility has been kept up to date and we have our own beds (finally!). Everyone was exhausted after a long day so we decided to dress casually and eat dinner in the hotel before working hard in Academy Time. I think everyone is ready for a good night’s sleep.

Day 6: Terracotta Warriors

Day 6:  Terracotta Warriors

Annie Strada

Today, March 8th, we went to see the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an.  The warriors are one of the greatest archeological discoveries ever.  The Terracotta Warriors were put in place to protect the emperor in his tomb.  The warriors were facing in an eastward direction to protect the emperor from attack from the open plains.  There are mountains and bodies of water that prevent enemies from attacking the back of his tomb.  There have been 1,100 warriors excavated and restored so far, but that is only a small fraction of the total amount of warriors.  Along with the warriors, the emperor had many animals and humans (terracotta and real) buried with him, along with a complete replica of his kingdom.

Today we visited the 3 pits  that have been opened that comprise his very large tomb.  The tomb is so large that it is more of an underground city.  We went to pit 1 first, which is the largest pit, with approximately 6,000 warriors.  Walking into the pit was such an amazing feeling.  It is amazing to think that this pit, which is 2,000 years old, was discovered accidently only 27 years ago.  Its crazy to think that such a large tomb was completely hidden for 2,000 years.  We spent about a half an hour exploring this pit.  We were all awestruck by this incredible find.

After pit 1, we watched a film about the Terracotta Warriors and the tomb.  The movie was very interesting and informative, but a lot of its information we had already heard in our lecture the night before, or at school.

After watching the movie, we looked at pit 2 and 3.  Both pits were very interesting, but nothing compared to pit 1.  We did get a chance to see some bones of animals that were buried, and what a pit that is under restoration is like.  There wasn’t that much to look at in either pit.

Seeing the Terracotta Warriors was definitely one of the high points of the trip for me.  It was an incredible experience seeing the intricate details on these warriors in person, and being able to see that no two faces are the same.