This is the last interview I’ll post from the research I did for Art Review. (That article should be coming in the October issue…). It’s an e-mail interview which gives its that weird formality, but at least allows me to post it bilingual. Huang Liaoyuan is a part of a growing self-protectionist movement in Chinese contemporary art. Let me know what you think. Also you have an interpretation for his last answer, I’d love to hear. I’m kind of confused…



Mr. Huang Liaoyuan,

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.

The Art Now Gallery has been attached to a larger effort to “Support Chinese art now in China”. Could you please explain a little about this effort and what the motivations behind it are?

This is a temporary slogan I came up with based on the current situation in Chinese contemporary art. Massive numbers of classic Chinese contempary art pieces went abroad, and when Chinese art galleries and collectors realized their values, they had to spend much more to get these works back when we could have gotten them easily initially – just as the government is now spending massive amounts of money on buying the antiques back from abroad. Another reason is that I hope China can have its own art collectors. Only when national art collectors have matured, can there be real hope for Chinese contempary art. We can’t rely on others to do this work.

What do you think is necessary to do to ensure the long-term health of Chinese contemporary art – beyond the popularity boom that it’s now experiencing?

Calm down. Artists, galleries, collectors and auction agents all have to calm down. Artists should not create for the market, and galleries should control their prices – not submit to artists’ requests to raise them because of the exploding demand. Collectors should not be too opportunistic, and auction agents shouldn’t exaggerate the value of new art works. The chain of the whole art industry should be more integrated, with each part establishing and following its own rules.

What do you feel are the qualities that define Beijing’s arts scene from the others in China?

Beijing is a city that is becoming more and more globalized, has more opportunities to access information from all over the world and hence the art scene is obviously more lively. Also because of this, the art scene in BJ is unavoidably impetuous and rough. It’s easy to create amazing “masterpieces” here in BJ, but at the same time easy to create short-lived trendy art as well.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the current state of contemporary art in Beijing and/or China?

In the human history, the proletariat and bourgeoisie (Socialism and Capitalism) has never confronted with each other so blatantly, which used to be between poor and rich (New York and Jerusalem). These two groups produced their own unique cultures, through visual and audio experiences. Capitalist culture basically follows along with European civilization, while Socialist culture is more like the monkey king – it comes from nowhere, not based on any civilization. Both have undeniable political traces, and anti-political emotions. The western world is used to looking at Chinese contemporary art as a peep show, a revealing of a dictatorial country’s dark scenes. As a matter of fact, the political scene of China today is not comparable to its past; China is more and more integrated to the world, and Chinese artists have already changed from passive creation to initiative-driven creation. The art works by Chinese artists no longer convey the government’s will, but, at the same time, don’t necessarily convey the intention of the nation or the intellectuals, either.

Huang Liaoyuan is an art critic, curator, and Director the Beijing Art Now Gallery. Besides his art work, Huang is an influential contributor to China’s rock scene for years, as a critic, manager, and organizer of “Glorious Path of Chinese Rock & Roll,” a three-day music festival held in 2004 at the foot of Mt. Helan in northwestern China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

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