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Paper presented and published at the Institute for Asian Research graduate student conference at the University of British Columbia, VA

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30 Years in the Making: Female Artists in China


The modern art scene in China has grown tremendously along with the country’s economic and social expansion. This growth is so pronounced that prices for these works have risen 2,000% since just 2004 (an impressive statistic despite claims of wide-spread speculation), however China’s female artists remain a minority, marginalized both in international and domestic circles. In the 21st century this is beginning to change, however artists continue to struggle with limitations that were even more pronounced during the 1980s and 1990s. During these decades, superficial emancipation of women by the state and persistent patriarchal social ideals influenced the artwork of women, which was limited further by an art community that defined “women’s art” largely in terms that echoed traditional ideals of femininity, making it difficult for women to publically move beyond these restrictions.


“Traditional Chinese society provided several contexts, or social positions, that encouraged women to discover their artistic abilities, and connoisseurs and collectors acknowledged and recorded women’s talents, albeit often in a separated fashion apart from the accomplishments of men…Collectors’ catalogues, both imperial and private, and scholarly texts sang their praises, preserving significant commentary about them. It has only been in this (i.e. the twentieth) century that an unnatural silence has descended on the subject of Chinese women artists” (Weidner, Laing, Lo, Chu, & Robinson, 1988, 9).

Coming into this paper, my research was limited to two strains of inquiry: translations of articles written by Chinese art historians that address women’s artwork of the 1990s; and modern periodicals talking about the newly arrived women on the burgeoning art scene. The Chinese art historians spoke of the attributes based in traditional ideals of femininity that define “women’s art.” The modern reporters talked about the personal reflections evident in the work of 21st century women and their hesitancy to call themselves feminists; also the amazing disparity in earnings and sheer population between the male and female artist communities in China. This suggested a cultural effort to restrain women within traditional roles even when promoting their art; and the possibility of economically motivated market influencers keeping women on the periphery of the art scene (e.g. Auction directors that did not highlight female works, knowing that the products of their male contemporaries would fetch a higher asking price. Or museum administrators that did not exhibit the work of female artists because they didn’t realize that there was significant work being done.)

The actual answer to the critical question: Why are female artists only now becoming visible in contemporary art? stems at least in part from a combination of social tradition that confined women and their arts, and a market that was biased (whether for economic or stylistic reasons) against feminine artistic productions from newly opened China. This essay does not attempt to answer the question, but rather to outline the state of the arts of women over the last thirty years. A focus on the period of artistic and feminist transformation that accompanied women’s awkward liberation post-Mao will illustrate that the previous leadership on the part of the state coupled with a pronounced patriarchal history limited women’s agency over their own theoretical self-actualization and its representation through art. This limitation in turn constricted the development of female artists until self-exploration and focus on the individual began to emerge and fracture the field’s homogeneity around the turn of the century. This study is being followed by field work in the U.S. with artists and curators in order to gain insight into the current state of women’s art in China, and its representations here. Many younger contemporary Chinese artists reject attempts to make them other by labeling or ghettoizing their art as “women’s art” or applying feminist theories to its criticism. I think that the break from these former fields will enable female artists to make their unique voice and vision internationally known.

Leadership, Women, and the State

The political nature of the elevation of women’s social standing is evident in the artwork of the late 1980s and 1990s, which diverged from the revolutionary style required of the Mao era. In this era of separation from the tight cultural and artistic controls of the previous period, women turned to traditional feminine ideals for lack of an alternative socially or historically extant model. Post-1949 women were “liberated” through state-controlled efforts that had state interests at heart despite the packaging of feminism. During Mao’s rule, women’s state-sanctioned equality was intended to elevate women, at least superficially, as a means to advance society as “part of the communist ideology of progress” (Bulbeck, 1998, 26). However, it required women to give up outward aspects of femininity in order to stay in good standing and gain political position within the party. Art historians, especially those from China, explain this situation and the resulting de-feminization, then over-feminization, of artwork produced by women as a process over which women had little choice.

This is initially troubling within “a critical approach to the concept of leadership…[that] focuses on the power dimensions that underlie the process of reality construction and which give[s] force to the human agency of people in organizations,” (Watkins, 1989, 26). However, the period at hand is one in which Chinese women and female artists were rebounding from the most traumatic decades in recent cultural memory. As people in the organization of the state, women asserted their agency through the means available to them, which were social traditions and cultural ideals of China’s past, and imported notions of feminism from the west. They were free to let fall the curtain of revolutionary design, and draw “inspiration from the past, from the West, from Japan, and from the artists’ own experiences” (Baker, Jones, & Pheonix Art Museum Staff, 2004, 5). By giving form to these issues, female artists of the 1990s met the critical theorist’s goal “to raise critical consciousness about a visual world linked inextricably to a social world” (Pearse, 1992, 245).

A Chinese Women’s Movement?

The 1903 publication of Nüjie Zhong (The Woman’s Bell) was a call for women to gain civil rights so that they would “thus be able to properly embody “public virtue,” by which he [the author, Jin Yi] meant a commitment to patriotism that would rescue China” (Welland, 2003). Forty-six years later this call would be endorsed on a national level as Mao made his famous declaration that women hold up half of the sky. In the decades since Mao’s 1949 edict, women have steadily gained ground in terms of political, social, and economic freedom thanks to the “institutionalized ‘women’s lib’ movement of the twentieth century” (Liao, 2002, 60). “However, because ‘Feminist Enlightenment’ in China could never extricate itself from the state of national crises of the times, the ontological proposition of the status and role of woman was placed way down on the agenda” (Jia, 1998, p. 8). Women were given full rights and equality in word in so far as it served the state, but the social ideals that limited their agency remained static.

In modern times, the deep-seated ideals that rope Chinese women to the gilded cage of tradition remain and can be seen in policy and law that on the surface seems aimed at helping women, but does so at the expense of female liberation. For example, modern law codifies the view of women as the weaker sex, classifying them as in need of particular care—lumped in with other ‘weak’ social groups such as children and the elderly—based upon their reproductive role in society (Gilmartin, Hershatter, Rofel, & White, 1994, 283). These duplicitous political and social stances have had enormous impacts on the arts.

1979 is recognized as the birth year for contemporary Chinese art, when the opening of China by Deng Xiao Ping enabled artists to create an ideological space for their work. Not since before 1948 had artists been able to cultivate individual expression without the restraints of socialist realism and political persecution. The latter did not last however, and the first group of artists to emerge during the social changes of 1978-1979 was forced to move abroad after exhibitions with political overtones back lashed in political persecution. These artists have only in recent years begun returning to China. Although predominantly a male group, one notable female participant, Li Shuang, has gained international prestige. She continues to live in Paris, but her work returned to shows in the mainland beginning in 2006 (Verlag Frauen Museum, 1999, 174; Galerie Du Monde, 2009).

Li Shuang, Expectation, 2004, oil on canvas (Galerie Du Monde, sold work).

The eighties brought a large, somewhat amorphous, Art New Wave movement that helped to mature China’s modern art. Women, however were largely absent from this landscape. Discussion and inspiration revolved around a desire to revitalize Chinese art, and conflicts within the art academies as to the best avenue through which to accomplish this revitalization. With these significant challenges before artists and their critics, “few people paid attention to the fact that the participants of this movement were mostly male and that women artists were extremely rare, their influence ephemeral” (Liao, 2002, 60). There was intense pressure placed upon artists by the state and the academies during this period, and for women the pressure was tri-fold: politics, their social role and male colleagues” (Verlag Frauen Museum, 1999, 175). Their social role as wife and mother has deep-seated roots that are reinforced even by women who publically strive to elevate women, such as philosopher-politician Li Xiaojiang who was at the center of 1980s discourse on defining Women:

“…the responsibility of child rearing is still something that women must undertake and the work of upholding the family responsibilities still rests for the most part on the shoulders of women. The anxiety of dual roles is a heavy millstone around our necks, but is one that we must continue to shoulder. This is the price we must pay for the advancement of History and women” (quoted in Barlow, 2004, 289).

I think that an ethnographic look at female artists today would reveal similarly disproportionate pressures and social responsibility that may help to explain the professional limitations women have faced.

Female artists of the 1980s and 1990s received the same art education as their male counterparts, even at the university and art academy levels in China and abroad. They had been raised told that they could and should hold up half the sky and work alongside men. But the ideological and visual strides made by the new wave movement of the 1980s did not include women’s voices or perspectives. After looking back at the (surprisingly) significant number of artistic creations produced by women during the eighties, art critic Liao Wen discovered the key to the absence of these objects on the national and international art scene: women’s movement toward equality had been crafted and implemented by men for purposes that overlooked women as individuals.

“This emancipation was led by men, its ultimate aim being to strengthen political standing. This determined its revolutionary, utilitarian nature. The impact of a predominantly patriarchal vocabulary on the depth of consciousness and the actual situation for women within this deep-rooted ideology were overlooked” (Liao, 2002, 60-61).

“Women’s Art”

  1. During the mid 1990s, scholars began to research literature and art with gender in mind, which led to the emergence of “women’s art” and the idea of creative expression framed around gender distinctions (Jia, 1998; Liao, 2002; Liu & Liu, 2008). Also during this time, art historians in China began to officially categorize the artwork of females into a cohesive whole with recognizable characteristics that distinguished it from the creative productions of men. Art critics argue that this categorization was not something forced upon female artists and their productions, but that it grew naturally out of a shift in the artwork itself once they could abandon pre-liberalization subjects and style (Jia, 1998; Liao, 2002; Liu & Liu, 2008). In the 1980s and 1990s, “female artists were no longer constrained by standard forms of expression…they were simultaneously painters and nuclear family members, and began to pay particular attention to the female experience. From this they developed individual styles of art, taking their domestic and social roles within China to create the attitude of their art” (Liu & Liu, 2008, 87).

This category of “woman’s art” was highlighted through exhibitions in Beijing during the 1990s: Chinese Women Artists’ Exhibition, China National Art Museum, Beijing in 1995, which was designed to coordinate with the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, for example; and the 1998 show, Shiji NüXing (Century Woman) that built upon the public attention female artists garnered during the 1995 exhibit. Shiji NüXing was co-organized by the China Art Research Institute, the Comparative Art Centre, and the Women’s Culture and Art Association; exhibited through the coordinated efforts and gallery space of the China Art Gallery, the International Art Palace, Modern Art Museum, and the Hanwei Museum; and funded through an act of “cultural encouragement” by the Dadi Assets Administration Corporation (Jia, 1998, foreword.). Shiji Nüxing featured an impressive number of artists with seventy-seven women showcasing their work in the companion exhibit catalogue. As modern comparison, take 88 Moca: the Museum of Chinese Contemporary Art on the Web, which as of 2009 features only two female artists (

The contribution of these exhibitions to the development of female artists was preserved in an exhibit catalogue that presents insight from the critics through a forward by Jia Fang Zhou, and from the women themselves through artist statements. Though in scarce supply in the U.S. today, this catalogue is a resource on the burgeoning decade of women’s art in the nineties. The exhibit showcased the work of seventy-seven female artists who “opened the curtain, and showed the distinct spirit and vision put forth through their path of personal reflection” (Liu & Liu, 2008, 87). Arguments for equity and social justice offer justification for special treatment for groups who have been coerced or forced into inferiority in the past (Krause et al., 2001, 77). It is therefore appropriate that art produced by women be highlighted during the 1990s when it was beginning to receive attention and pull away from the non-gendered mainstream. While the framework of “women’s art” limited artists to a repertoire that prevented growth in new directions. It also concreted the public dialogue on the influence of tradition on women’s contemporary roles, and the process of defining a visual language of emancipation from such influences. This discussion has and will continue to benefit contemporary artists since “it is essential that if Asian women wish to be free of imposed cultural roles (they) must be able to have public, shared forms of dialogue” (Binghui, 2002, 15).

Feminism and Defining “Nüren” (Woman)”

The Shiji NüXing exhibit catalogue also gives insight into the ways in which the patriarchy views Chinese women, how this view shaped feminine empowerment in the 1990s, and how this in turn shaped female artist’s creations. Jia Fang Zhou gives what he sees as the six characteristics of “women’s art” upon which classification can based. They have overt connections to traditional views of women as sensitive, delicate, emotional, empathetic, and irrational. For example, women’s art illustrates artistic inspiration drawn from personal reflection and experience, stresses “artistic intuition,” breaks from rational thought, focuses on minutiae of daily life rather than politics, and develops both material and method from “handicrafts” once associated with women (Jia, 1998, 9).

Lin Tianmiao, (Detail) The Proliferation of Thread-winding Installation, 1995 (Liao, 1995).

“If women want to gain equality within a society whose patriarchal foundation has never been undermined, the prerequisite is to accept the value system installed by men” (Liao, 2002, 61). Jia’s analysis, not ironically, adheres to the idealized image of women that he argues previously hampered female expression when “there was no place for women’s art in Chinese culture because women had no such individuality in what was a male-dominated society” (Jia, 8). This echoes a problem raised by western feminists in the 1980s: that in order to be “feminist” they had to define the concept of woman despite the subject’s history which had already been defined by men. Furthermore, male discourse had limited the ability of women to define them-self:

“Man has said that woman can be defined, delineated, captured—understood, explained, and diagnosed—to a level of determination never accorded to man him-self, who is conceived as a rational animal with free will. Where man’s behavior is underdetermined, free to construct its own future along the course of its rational choice, woman’s nature has over-determined her behavior, the limits of her intellectual endeavors, and the inevitabilities of her emotional journey through life. Whether she is construed as essentially immoral and irrational (à la Schopenhauer) or essentially kind and benevolent (à la Kant), she is always construed as an essential something…” (Minnich et al., 1988, 258).

Minnich et al. identify two strategies that feminist have taken to respond to the need to break out of male-defined notions in order to find a feminist perspective of “woman.” One: feminists reclaim authority by declaring that only they, and not men, have the right to judge and depict women (cultural feminism). Two: feminists claim that the act of evaluation and description of women by either women or men is fruitless because women’s definitions are reactionary to the misogyny of men’s descriptions (post-structuralist). A third alternative (that the authors feel would be more effective) is to conceptualize the idea of woman as a state of being that has potential to attain varied definitions, rather than something that is statically defined (Minnich et al., 1988, 258-288).

Chinese women’s studies went the way of the first option, starting in the period of the eighties focused on the public health of women, and ending the decade focused on the personal health and the concept of individual women. The increasing focus on the individual may be a shift toward option three. Barlow quotes Chinese women’s studies scholar, Qing Ren as saying that “the period of the early 1980s was concerned with researching the women’s question [i.e. the definition of the term “nüren” (woman)] as it affected women’s employment, safeguards, and other concrete matters, the mid- and late years of the decade saw increasing focus on research into women themselves” (Gilmartin et al., 1994, 357). The notion in China of “women’s art,” defined by men to reflect female characteristics that are also defined by men, reflects more than a male imposition of terms or characteristics. Because women did not have either history or society as ally for the sudden evolution in their standing and freedom, they internalized their new status in the form that the state presented it to them. What’s more, even those who attempted to redress this situation had little recourse since the male-dominant social structure of China had only superficially been redressed.

China’s female artists were caught in a cycle of forced definition in which, even after state-sanctioned gender characteristics were lifted, cultural characteristics clouded their attempts at emancipation and self-actualization. “Their social status changed from being a dependent within a family group to being one of the collective dependants on the larger ‘family’ of the state. Thus, emancipation brought forth strong women modeled upon revolutionary men” (Liao, 2002, 61). During the Cultural Revolution and the fifty years in which women were told to hold up their half of the sky, it was expected that they would look the part, including male-styled clothing, short haircuts, and abstinence from expressions of femininity.

When these rules were lifted as China opened to the west and the idea of development, female artists abandoned the Revolutionary Realism style of painting, but did not have anything to replace it with. On personal levels, they cast off the enforced role of revolutionary, and for lack of any preparation in building new social structures for themselves (or social support system to aid in this process), “they fell back into the web of traditional values placed upon women” (Liao, 2002, 61). Society allowed women to be either traditionally female or revolutionarily un-female. The existence of a third option had never been introduced.

  1. The artwork of this period in the 1990s featured central themes suited to traditional femininity: home, motherhood, natural beauty. “Their choice of subjects stressed everyday life, plants, flowers, pure and innocent girls, loving mothers and sons. Aesthetically they held the expression of pure emotions as being the highest standard of art” (Liao, 2002, 61). At its zenith in the mid 1990s, these characteristics and traditionally feminine materials (e.g. embroidery materials) so thoroughly pervaded Chinese women’s artwork that the field lost the flavor of individual expression to homogeneity. Over the course of the decade, this expression of traditional female ideals gave way to an exploration of the individual meanings in their work, which enabled the artwork of women from the late 1990s to the present to find footing on a path that diverges from both state and history forged paths. The explorations of intuitive (i.e. traditional) womanhood that led to these individual (i.e. non-conformist) emotional expressions may be seen as a critique from a feminist perspective in which female artists questioned their social roles focused on “intuition, emotion, experience, and relational over abstract moral reasoning” (Capper, 1998, 359).
  2. Cui Xiuwen, whose daring documentary Ladies Room led her to be called a feminist artist by critics is a good example of this development. In 2000, Cui hid a camcorder inside the ladies’ room of a posh Beijing hotel. The image focused on a limited area of mirror in front of which young prostitutes are seen stopping. They adjust their bras, fix their make-up, emotionlessly readying themselves for their evening of work. “Although some art critics have praised “Ladies Room” as a social critique of commercial sex in today’s China, Cui Xiuwen’s interest lies in representing a social space which is both public and secret, and which belongs to women alone” (Grosenick & Schübbe, 2007, 75). Her work is strongly autobiographical, evoking “the artist’s memory of her mixed beliefs, hopes, dreams, and fears” in a public manner that allows for interaction with the viewer (Ibid, 77).

Left: Cui Xiuwen, Ladies’ Room, 2000, Video, 6 min. 12 sec. (Grosenick & Schübbe, 2000, 77).

Right Top: One day in 2004 No. 2, 2004, C-print, 93 x304 cm.

Right Bottom: One day in 2004 No. 6, 2004, C-print, 132 x 176 cm.

(Grosenick & Schübbe, 2007, 72).

The lack of a support for building a modern feminine consciousness in the 1980s and 1990s, of course, had implications in China’s society beyond the fine arts. Similar male-structured dialogue on, and aimed at, women can also be seen in the early years of CCTV’s female-centric television show, Bian bian tian (Half the Sky), which prides itself as being “China’s only television program that champions equality between men and women” (Jie, Zheng, Bijun, & Mow, 2004, 261). This series began in 1995 with good intentions, and has in more recent years began to fulfill its potential, in part through the help of multiple gender training seminars for writers and producers. In the 1990s, however, the program was one among many programs focused on, and made by, women energized by the 1995 Women’s Conference. Ultimately, all of these programs save Half the Sky failed because of a common shortcoming: “the producers of the programs were influenced by traditional culture and thus accustomed to viewing women from the perspective of patriarchy” (Ibid, 262). They therefore failed to represent the full spectrum of modern women’s roles and identities.

As the television show intentionally developed its lens to focus on the real, rather than the ideal woman, and the differences in viewpoints between the sexes, it uncovered serious issues of social stagnation lurking underneath superficial progress. For example, in 2000, reporters investigated accounts in the Beijing media that boys were growing up too weak to lead because the majority of kindergarten teachers were female. They looked at an upscale female directed school that employed a male kindergarten teacher and found that this teacher encouraged the boys to learn martial arts, but allowed the girls to only participate in the “suitable” games of “play house or play mommy” (Jie, et al., 2004, 269). This discovery led them to speak to two male students set to graduate from the Dongcheng Professional Teachers Center in Beijing, and a female kindergarten from the city-run school. The two male educators believed in separation of the sexes for educational purposes with boys learning things like science and computers, and girls being taught skills that would suit their gentle female personas, such as embroidery (Ibid).

On a trip to China in 1989 to assess the country’s art education, state-level arts education coordinator, Barbara Carlisle found that young women were avid readers of fashion magazines and compensated for the lack of domestic fashions available by knitting and sewing their own (Carlisle, 1989, 20). This is the only time that she refers to the gender of the students. While this example is found within the realm of education, the issue at its heart stems from deep-seated social ideals that surpass curriculum or education administration. Needle arts are traditionally the domain of women, and in imperial China, a woman’s embroidery skills were often evaluated in lieu of her person or character as a means of determining her value and marriage eligibility. From her example we can infer that while metropolitan women of the 1980s were no longer concerned about cultivating a good married based on their deftness with a needle, these crafts were still within the realm of socially acceptable activities for young women, and were not being practiced in gender neutral ways.

Carlisle makes an interesting challenge to the future of Chinese arts education to “lead the way to bridging two millennia of national experience with the twenty-first century that confronts it” (Carlisle, 1998, 39). Modern female artists have made use of objects associated with historic manifestations of femininity. As Jia points out, installation artists have taken historically feminine objects such as those associated with embroidery and “transformed [them] into conceptual materials” (Jia, 1998, 9). This is not only a theme within the work of female artists of the 1990s who fell back into old patterns of traditional feminism, these tools are also employed by 21st century artists who consciously react to and against the patriarchal bindings inflicted upon older generations of women. This silent dialogue with the past raises a point of difficulty for artists exhibiting their works internationally: “as their [sic] attempt to translate their art into another cultures is the difficulty of comprehension that other cultures have for the symbols they use in their work. The very personal nature of the role women contemporary artists has [sic] taken gives it difficulty of being fully understood” (LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, 2002, p. 13).

Conclusion: Western Feminism, the Market, and Future Research

When speaking of the recent increase in women artists, the popular verb to use is “emerge,” indicating the level to which this rise in visibility is a change in the public arena, but does not necessarily point to a prior absence of female artists in general (Cotter, 2008; Chiu, 2008). It is therefore not the fact that female artists are growing in number which makes the topic significant, but that their ranks are now becoming more visible. Melissa Chiu, Asia Society President, Vice President of Global Art Programs and Museum Director of Asia Society recently noted two trends in contemporary Chinese art: the increasing prevalence of women, and of technology/new media. Within this thematic context, she names two artists whom she feels best “show the kind of changes that are going on in China” (Chiu, 2008, online podcast).

One of these is a young woman, Cao Fei, whose work at the 52nd Venice Biennale utilized second life to build a pavilion in which she shows a video installation. The topic of this real art inside of an unreal world is “a rather melancholy, a little about the sex, the money, the gambling, the forever young and beautiful avatars, but mostly about loneliness, longing, and meeting someone from the other side of the planet with similar thoughts and feelings!” (Posthorn, 2008, para. 2). The other is the male filmmaker, Yang Fudong. That women are receiving an equal half of the air-time and praise afforded to modern art is a significant accomplishment, which speaks to how far female artists have come since the 1980s.

Cao Fei, China Tracy, 2007, Internet and installation project (Grosenick & Schübbe, 2007, 53).

Increasingly free of the restrictions of “women’s art,” China’s contemporary female artists are focusing on reflections of society and issues of importance worldwide, and the world has started to notice. Since their “liberation” by the post-Mao Chinese state and release from the revolutionary realist style of painting, female art has been struggling to emerge from behind a screen of gender-based interpretation that characterized the productions of female artists from the late 1970s until the mid 1990s. The current generation of female artists by and large do not unite around a shared call of female or feminist, but such a platform has not been necessary to remove the screen of so-called “women’s art” that had been primarily the result of patriarchal pressures: “Female art has been dominated by a consciousness controlled by male culture” that fostered reactionary rather than visionary artwork (Gu & Li, 2003, 43).

The international and domestic art markets are also major players in the development of female artists, individually and as a group. Galleries and auction houses in China have a stronger sway over artistic trends and definitions of taste than they do in the west owing to a relatively young critical academy surrounding modern art. Furthermore, there may be bias among contemporary galleries and museums: “The new museums created to display contemporary art rarely give women solo shows. Among the hundreds of commercial galleries competing for attention in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere, art by women is hard to find” (Cotter, 2008). However, there is one gallery in Beijing, ¾ Gallery, which is devoted to the work of female artists. It was founded in 2004 by Li Wenzi as a means of giving voice to the female artist community (Lionnet, n.d.). It is my hope that interviews with curators, museum leaders, and gallery associates in the U.S. (and perhaps in China) may provide some insight into the networks beneath the surface that shape popularity and price.

  1. In recent years the Chinese art market has experienced overwhelming growth that made many young artists wealthy as buyers flocked from abroad and from within China’s newly developed middle class. This stimulus inflated prices by at least 2,000 percent between 2004 and 2008, making it “the single fastest-growing segment of the international art market” (Pollack, 2008). However, China’s markets have not escaped the turmoil that ricocheted around the world after the collapse of U.S. financial systems. And as the international market has stumbled, demand for Chinese art has tripped and tumbled down also.     

Critics, in this case eager to be oddly positive, predict that this will allow the market the opportunity to refine the quality of works being offered once price is no longer such a powerful impetus. Manager of Beijing Fine Arts in the Caochangdi district, Meg Maggio, was quoted as saying that “in the end, the Chinese market will do well. It will emerge healthier and more locally focused” (AFP report, 2009). Given the recent recognition by China’s leaders of the power wielded by the “cultural creative industries,” (Keane, 2009), and the increasing visibility of women artists, one can hope that as the market defines its metric for value less on price, women will emerge even more forcefully than before. While the path is not without challenges, China’s contemporary female artists are poised to seriously shake up the status quo and complete the process begun thirty years ago.


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Written by Andrea Descoteaux Hugg

May 4, 2009 at 11:07 PM