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Art negotiations : Chinese international art exhibitions in the 1930s

by Li, Vivian Yan

Abstract (Summary)
The plethora of government sponsored Chinese international art exhibitions in the late 1920s and early 1930s in the Europe epitomizes some of the first major attempts by the Chinese during this time to speak for themselves and their country in the West. Two of the most successful and widely publicized exhibitions of the 1930s were the Chinesische Malerei der Gegenwart (Chinese Contemporary Art) exhibition in Berlin from January 20, 1934 to March 4, 1934, and the International Exhibition of Chinese Art held in London from November 27, 1935, to March 7, 1936. These early exhibitions of Chinese art abroad, in part, demonstrate how the China's and Europe's modernities intersected in the early 20th century.This study will examine how traditional Chinese art was used in the development of not only China's modernity, but also that of Europe. Section One describes the significance of examining these exhibitions. Section Two explores the state of traditional art in China and how it was employed in China's strives toward modernity. Section Three focuses on the intellectual climate in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s, and explores China's role in the formation of the West's modern cosmopolitan worldview between World War I and World War II. Section Four further investigates Europe's social and historical fascination with China. Section Five provides a historic overview of Chinese international exhibitions in Europe. Sections Six and Seven examines the Berlin exhibition and London exhibition, respectively, in terms of the social and historical contexts surrounding the shows, the motivations of the exhibitions' sponsors and organizers, the choices of art works displayed, and the public's reaction to these exhibitions. Section Eight returns to China to examine the Chinese response to these two exhibitions and how the focus on traditional art in these exhibitions abroad differed from that of the art exhibitions held domestically. The concluding section outlines this study's findings.In sum, post-World War I Europe sought the antithesis of their bankrupt modernity and imagined it in the traditional arts of the exotic, intransigent East. As a result, Chinese traditional arts were elevated in prestige, but this rise was premised more on a philosophical level than on an artistic level, as can be perceived from the European public's and art critics' writings on the art in the Berlin and London exhibitions. The Chinese organizers of these two exhibitions also contributed to this philosophical viewing of Chinese art, but with the different intention of showing Chinese art and culture as resilient and continuous, rather than romantic and static.
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School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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