CCAA | Chinese Contemporary Art Award

Chapters 5 › Unit 5: Create a journal entry: Development of the Unknown Artist View instructions Hide instructions

Create a journal entry: Development of the Unknown Artist


In the beginning of the CCAA, finding the Unknown Artist was one of its main aims. Explain the changes in the search for the Unknown Artist within the last 15 year and discuss possible outside factors which fueled this development.

Share your experiences and have a look at the journals of other participants.
Feel free to comment.

Evolution in the quest for the Unknown Artist.

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We are all living in a fast-paced evolving environment and China with its several thousand years of art history is evolving faster than any other country.
The CCAA based in Beijing has no other choice than to adapt to this fast-paced evolving environment if it wants to stay up-to-date.

If at the beginning the aim of the CCAA was about finding the Unknown Artist by promoting excellency and an idea of hope within the diversity of the China's art scene, this aim might have evolved to adapt to this continuously changing environment.

First, the admission criteria and the application standards expected of the artists have changed. The application process went online, following the globalization of the digital access of the Chinese population.

Secondly, the categories of nationality have also evolved. while Chinese citizenship and residence on the mainland were preconditions during the early years of the award, artists from Hong Kong were later included.
Hong Kong has been chosen to host the M+ museum and the the Sigg Collection, taking into consideration that Hong Kong offers certainly more openness and flexibility in terms of freedom of speech, political restrictions and censorship. As I understood, the coming election of the next Chief Executive in 2017 will be decisive for the success and the achievement of the M+ Museum and its collection.
Furthermore, since the M+ museum supports an award based in Beijing, it is understandable that opening the application to artists outside of mainland China was called for. After all, the museum must legitimate itself to its local public, which also demands its place within Chinese art history as a part of China.

Since 2014, not even Chinese citizenship is required for CCAA participation, opening the CCAA to all nationalities. The concept of the "Unknown Artist" has evolved in parallel with the evolution of China's development and its art-scene.

At the end, the globalization of culture seems to be one of the main outside factor which fueled the development of the Unknown Artist.
As a result, the contemporary art created by Chinese artists won't be labelled as Chinese Contemporary Art but simply as Contemporary art.

Is this the ultimate goal?
Let's discuss about it.

Some critics of globalization (and among them the top Chinese political leaders) argue that it harms the diversity of cultures. As a dominating country’s culture is introduced into a receiving country through globalization, it can become a threat to the diversity of local culture.

Therefore, the Communist Part of China (CPC) might also be considered as an outside factor, sharply influencing the development of the quest of the Unknown Artist.

In his speech of the 16th of October 2014 in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressed another forum on literature and arts, calling for artworks to "embody socialist core values in a lively and vivid way", to "uphold Chinese spirit" and "rally Chinese strength".

Xi wanted the artists to be aware of their responsibility to the country and the people, like the older generations in revolutionary times.

Xi told artists that the people should be the major audience of their works and the source of their creation, warning against art works "becoming the slave of the market, bearing the stench of money where artists could lose themselves in the tide of market economy".

He warned them not to pursue commercial gain at the expense of artistic and moral value, nor should they "go astray while answering the question of whom to serve, otherwise their works will lack vitality".

Xi told that "Fine art works should be like sunshine from blue sky and breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles."

Although China has already had a Nobel Prize winner in Literature and a number of Chinese films have won international awards, there are plenty of vulgar, repetitive and fast-food art works. They lack insight and artistic values and do not meet the needs of the people.

Producing a huge amount of TV shows, movies and publications, the country's strength in culture has yet to be fully released. This weakness goes against China's ambition in realizing the national revival and sharpening its global image.

The Republic of Korea, a neighboring country of smaller land and population, has seen several TV series, such as "Winter Sonata", delivering a new image of the country to global audiences. Not a single Chinese pop song has gained as much international popularity as "Gangnam Style" did.

Art comes from life but goes beyond life. The current weakness of Chinese literature and art may derive from the perversion of consumerism and money worship. These trends prevent artists from reaching deep into society to find the most vivid materials.

A more favorable environment for artistic creation is also needed. The CPC acknowledges the principle of diversity, putting it as "All flowers bloom together, and let all schools of thought contend for attention."

The phrases were used by Mao in the 1950s to describe the flourishing of culture. It was also inspired from a famous speech from 1942 in which Mao said that literature and the arts should contribute to the Communist cause.
Xi's remarks did not come out of the blue, considering that China's literature and art works are less impressive as they should be.
According to Xi, works of art should present patriotism as the main theme and foster "correct" viewpoints of history, nationality and culture, as well as strengthen pride in being Chinese.
Xi promised to promote "the democracy in academic and artistic circles" and create a "constructive and easy environment". He also urged the Party departments to respect the creativity of artists, grant them full trust and support.

Economic power alone cannot make a country respected. As the nation is now seeking a rejuvenation of its ancient greatness, it is time for Chinese culture, including literature and arts, to catch up.

The most famous Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei said in 2011 before his detention, that China was "a society that sacrifices people's rights and happiness to make a profit".

According to a report published in 2016, China has approximately a third share of the $16bn global art market with $4.9bn total turnover including Hong Kong and Taiwan).

In this complex and fast moving environment, how will the next generation of Chinese artists and Chinese collectors will react?
Will China be able to be inspired by Taoism and be able to find the Middle Way, being part of the global culture and protecting the diversity of its cultural identity?


Great contribution, thank you.
Uli Sigg's first major exhibition 11 years ago MAHJONG included a poll among the more than 60 artists from three generations about the question: What is Chinese and how is it reflected in your work? The answers couldn't vary more.
From total rejection and rather sarcastic comments to very serious and personal statements about identity, politics and China in the world of today. When I asked Uli Sigg sometime ago what kind of response he would expect today he told me he would expect a similar picture. When I was interviewing artists more recently (last year) I noticed that there seem to occur two trends: Artists who have become (or want to become) part of the global discourse and don't care about their national origin. But there were artists, too, who cared much about there Chineseness, sometimes from an affirmative, sometimes from a critical point of view.

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