How does engaging with art help us to better understand Chinese society?
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Artists are, in many cases, trying to make statements about their societies through their artwork. In a case like China, were art has been strongly controlled by the state during more than 20 years, this became specially true during the 80s and the 90s, as artists shyly embraced this new freedom and tested its limits.
An average western spectator will probably not know much about the millenary Chinese artistic tradition, but at a first glance he or she is able to understand certain messages transmitted by works from that period, and that's part of the appeal of art. Even more, with some basic context information, he or she will probably be able to comprehend more about Chinese society, and what an specific author it's saying about it. It's an amazing feat considering how difficult is still today for many westerners to communicate with Chinese people or understand their society.