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From Their Points of View – Chinese Artists NOW

By Julie Chun 

In recent years, with the mobilization of the #metoo movement, greater awareness has been cast on the gendered discourse in China, not excepting the art world. In September 2018, a social media uproar accusing the curator Li Bowen of sexual harassment by an anonymous employee brought about his resignation. In June 2021, the group video exhibition Circular Impact at OCAT Shanghai was shut down when women audiences, in solidarity, complained about Song Ta’s work Uglier and Uglier (2013) where he crudely rated the appearances of women on a Chinese college campus who were secretly taped without their knowledge. These cases in which inappropriate male behavior were brought to attention and thus addressed appear as silver lining in the immense sky.  

The gains for women’s rights in the art world globally are riddled with obstacles and challenges, yet the percentage of female employees in the field of contemporary art in China have been rising significantly in recent years, at least in the entry level and mid-level positions. While greater numbers of women are majoring in and studying art at top art institutions and universities in China and abroad, without the support of commercial galleries, the road to success for emerging female artists is mired by disappointments, discouragements and loneliness. The difficulty is further compounded when women artists do not conform to normative standards of being a “female” in China.  

Creativity needs to be activated, especially in challenging times, in matters that are both complex and complicated. The artists presented in this article have not yet been widely recognized outside of China and even misunderstood in China. Their practices and visions tend to fall outside the mainstream preferences of blue-chip galleries and art collectors, who as arbiters of taste, heavily promote contemporary Chinese art dominated by the older generation of male painters in their 50s and 60s.