Tomorrow at Bloom Yellow

Mighty Tuesday #1 - 18.30
Nine Lives, The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China, by Karen Smith
Book Presentation with the Author / Updated Edition by Timezone 8 • Published in Mar 2008

In the early 1990s, the idea of contemporary art in China simply did not compute to a foreign audience. But in 1993, ten contemporary Chinese artists debuted at the 48th Venice Biennale.

They were immediately hailed as progenitors of a Chinese 'avant-garde.' Their brightly colored, Pop Art-inspired paintings played with socialist motifs, parodied Mao, and gave a visual expression to the feelings of disaffected Chinese youth. They were everything western audiences expected of contemporary art from the People's Republic of China. But a number of critics were rather guarded in their opinions. Was this another flash-in-the-pan phenomenon just as Soviet art had been in the 1980s? Could a Chinese avant-garde maintain a distinct identity of its own and shake off its penchant for imitation? The answer is clearly "yes."

The emergence of a market for their art transformed the lives of these avant-garde pioneers from rags to riches, from outcast to hero, from social pariah to cutting-edge cool in a Chinese society adapting to a new era. They did not change but China has changed. The ideology they once had to fight now propagates a cultural climate of laissez-faire that is tantamount to encouragement. Set against China's official program of modernization, Nine Lives paints a compelling picture of artists working beyond the pale of official culture, who started a new cultural revolution that is sweeping China today.

Nine Lives
introduces nine artists (Wang Guangyi, Geng Jianyi, Fang Lijun, Gu Dexin, Li Shan, Zhang Xiaogang, Xu Bing, Zhang Peili, and Wang Jianwei), their personal histories and views on China today. Karen Smith's highly accessible introduction to an emerging art scene in a society unknown to most of us makes good reading not only for art-world insiders, but for anyone curious about recent history and its effect on the booming Chinese society. The book opens with a glossary for readers unfamiliar with Chinese history and culture, and a time line placing each of the nine artists within the context of the Chinese art world and political history.

Karen Smith was born in Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. She graduated from Wimbledon Art School in Fine Art. In 1988, she moved to Asia curious to explore its practically unchartered art scene. She calls Beijing her home, where she lives since 1992, and is one of the foremost authorities on China’s contemporary art scene, both in China and abroad. Karen Smith also curates exhibitions, including The Real Thing, Tate Liverpool, 2007, and Chinese Photography and Video, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, amongst others. She is also on the advisory board of Three Shadows Photography Art Center in Beijing.

Timezone 8 Limited is a Hong Kong based publisher, distributor and retailer of books on contemporary art, architecture, photography and design.
In collaboration with Asia Publishers Service • HONG KONG


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