A Japanese Moment in the Globalisation of Contemporary Chinese Art?


Cai Guo-Qiang (far right) preparing part of his artwork for the ‘Exceptional Passage’ exhibition, Fukuoka, 1991. Image courtesy Fei Dawei and Asia Art Archive.

ANU China Seminar Series

A Japanese Moment in the Globalisation of Contemporary Chinese Art?
Dr Olivier Krischer

Thursday 13 October, 4:00–5:30pm
Seminar Room A, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU, Canberra

The development of China’s contemporary art is often seen as a movement towards internationalization or globalization, a story of “East meets West”. It is taken to include Chinese artists based in New York or Paris, the influence of Euro-American art collectors and museums, or the inclusion of Chinese artists at “international” exhibitions like the Venice Biennale. This paper instead considers the role of Japan as an early source of interest and support for Chinese contemporary artists, particularly in the late 1980s to mid-1990s. An analysis of some key events, such as the exhibition “Exceptional Passage” 非常口 held in Fukuoka in late 1991, highlights the ways in which projects geographically distant from the centre of Chinese cultural discourse sought to inform new, experimental directions for Chinese art and culture. In Chinese art circles, these projects were part of a hotly debated domestic narrative of art, culture and China’s future, at an important juncture in the ‘reform era’. However, this paper also considers how the appearance of bold new art from a rapidly emerging China resonated with symbolic promise of a pan-Asian renaissance for some actors in post-bubble Japan, just as the country was reconsidering its identity and history in the region.

Olivier Krischer is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World. His research includes modern and contemporary China-Japan relations through art, networks of art and social activism between Hong Kong and East Asia, and more recently the history of Asian art research in Australia. He completed his PhD at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and has previously been managing editor of ArtAsiaPacific magazine in Hong Kong. He is co-editor of Asia Through Art and Anthropology: Cultural Translation Across Borders (Bloomsbury, 2013), and co-editor of a forthcoming (2016) special issue of Australia and New Zealand Journal of Art on the topic of ‘Asian Art Research in Australia and New Zealand’. In addition to research, at CIW he has been curator of the CIW Gallery and co-organisor of the ‘Asia and the Pacific Screens’ film series.