In 1939, three years after the value of money in Europe eclipsed that of the sun and the same year a whirl wind dragon pulled Dorothy Gale over the rainbow, Xu Beihong painted “Put Down Your Whip” while staying in Singapore. Wang Ying, the woman depicted in this 57” x 35” oil painting was a friend of his who became a refugee street performer after the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria . The painting last sold at auction in 2007 for 9.2 million USD and is “western” in its execution.
Contemporary Chinese paintings are the new hot item, apparently commanding high prices at auction for living artists.
The Last Supper, Zeng Fanzhi, 2001 sold for $23.3m at Sotheby’s (October 2013)
It is significant that Chinese art is the new hot commodity in contemporary art markets. That the great big art museums and auction houses are buying and selling the works of living Chinese artists for hefty big sums. Kaching. Globalization in action.
Interesting too that, many of these Chinese artists post 1989, painters especially, are working within what should be called “New Modernism. That is to say. a style related to or an extension of, or a continuation of modern art that occurs after the post modern ironic bricolage period. A revival of modernism then.
Yue Minjun is a Beijing artist. Some say his iconic grin is a mask for real feelings of helplessness. Maybe.
Any of these new Chinese works could have been produced in 1939 in Europe, but, not within the time period of the “Cultural Revolution” or any time before 1976; most would have been painted after 1989. Interesting also, that modern European painters were greatly influenced by traditional Japanese prints whose flatness became a defining characteristic of American modern painting.
George Grosz was able to comment on contemporary events in Europe with an accuracy that is still needed today but, is almost everywhere absent. George Grosz as a result was on Hitler’s hit list and would have been on Stalin’s. It is important to remember that artists on corporate hit lists (Stalin and Hitler were corporatist) would as likely be executed as suppressed or oppressed.
China’s new found market success is also corporate success and must be somewhat influenced by trillions of excess free trade dollars. Are these prices for modernist works a signal of some new non oppression? What of the corporate hit lists, I wonder, and what of the people who scribble them up?
Shining Globalized British Free Trade Times?