Mystery of the disappearing van Gogh

Source: NYT (5/29/23)
The Mystery of the Disappearing van Gogh
After a painting by the Dutch artist sold at auction, a movie producer claimed to be the owner. It later vanished from sight, with a trail leading to Caribbean tax havens and a jailed Chinese billionaire.
By Michael ForsytheIsabelle QianMuyi Xiao and Vivian Wang

Two men dressed in black stand with a colorful van Gogh painting, Chinese text written on the wall above them.

Kevin Ching, left, then the head of Sotheby’s in Asia, appeared at a Hong Kong ceremony in 2014 to present the van Gogh painting to Wang Zhongjun, the movie producer who claimed to have bought it. Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The bidding for Lot 17 started at $23 million.

In the packed room at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, the price quickly climbed: $32 million, $42 million, $48 million. Then a new prospective buyer, calling from China, made it a contest between just two people.

On the block that evening in November 2014 were works by Impressionist painters and Modernist sculptors that would make the auction the most successful yet in the firm’s history. But one painting drew particular attention: “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies,” completed by Vincent van Gogh weeks before his death.

Pushing the price to almost $62 million, the Chinese caller prevailed. His offer was the highest ever for a van Gogh still life at auction.

In the discreet world of high-end art, buyers often remain anonymous. But the winning bidder, a prominent movie producer, would proclaim in interview after interview that he was the painting’s new owner. Continue reading

Yue Minjun’s paintings censored on Weibo

Source: China Digital Times (5/24/23)
Yue Minjun’s Iconic Paintings of Grinning PLA Soldiers Being Censored on Weibo

If the lesson last week was “Don’t laugh about the PLA,” this week’s message seems to be, “Don’t even crack a smile.”

First, stand-up comedian Li Haoshi (stage name “House”) was accused of defaming the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) because of a joke he made that referenced a PLA slogan and seemed to liken stray dogs to soldiers. House was deplatformed, pressured to apologize, and placed under police investigation, while the Shanghai comedy studio that employs him was fined nearly $2 million dollars and had their performances suspended indefinitely. At least one of House’s online defenders was arrested.

Now it appears that one of China’s most renowned contemporary painters, Beijing-based Yue Minjun (岳敏君), has been targeted by online nationalists who accuse him of “insulting the military” and “defaming revolutionary heroes and martyrs.” Painting in a style has been dubbed “Cynical Realism,” Yue is well known for his colorful, off-kilter, and instantly recognizable paintings of wide-mouthed, toothily grinning or laughing men—all of whom bear a close resemblance to the artist himself. Many of his works are sold at auction, exhibited in museums, or held in private collections. At a 2007 auction at Sotheby’s London, his painting “Execution” sold for £2.9 million pounds ($5.9 million U.S. dollars), “making it the most expensive Chinese contemporary artwork sold on the secondary market at the time.” Continue reading

China’s Hidden Century exhibit

China’s Hidden Century
Exhibition May 18 – October 8, 2023
The British Museum

In a global first, the resilience and innovation of 19th-century China is revealed in a major new exhibition.

Between 1796 and 1912 Qing China endured numerous civil uprisings and foreign wars, with revolution ultimately bringing an end to some 2,000 years of dynastic rule and giving way to a modern Chinese republic. This period of violence and turmoil was also one of extraordinary creativity, driven by political, cultural and technological change. In the shadow of these events lie stories of remarkable individuals – at court, in armies, in booming cosmopolitan cities and on the global stage.

The exhibition is underpinned by a four-year research project supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and led by the British Museum and London University, in collaboration with over 100 scholars from 14 countries. Continue reading

Chinese art and literature in the Republican era

Conference on Chinese art and literature in the Republican era, Oxford, 14 June 2023


To thank Dr Paul Bevan for his teaching at Oxford over the past few years and to celebrate his research, exhibitions, translations, and publications focussing on Chinese art and literature of the Republican era, a one-day conference in his honour will take place at the China Centre, University of Oxford, on Wednesday 14 June 2023.

Keynote by Paul Bevan

Speakers to include Craig Clunas, Jeremy Taylor, Ann Witchard and Huang Xuelei on the Republican era, and Annabella Massey and Margaret Hillenbrand on contemporary visual culture.

For further details and to register, please contact

Posted by: Helen Wang <>

Association for Chinese Art History

I am happy to announce the call for membership in the Association for Chinese Art History (ACAH), a new home for scholars of Chinese art history to share news, events, and find their communities. ACAH is the result of a collaboration between the Association for Asian Studies and art historians Amy McNair, Kate Lingley, Roberta Wue, and myself; we are grateful for the support of the Bei Shan Tang Foundation 北山堂基金 and the Smithsonian Institution. Please visit our website and read the #AsiaNow blog post about the development of ACAH and its initiatives, and our meeting in conjunction at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference in Boston.

Faculty, students, museum staff, art world professionals, and independent scholars are warmly invited to join us in envisioning how this growing organization can best serve the needs and interests of scholars of Chinese art history by meeting the challenges of the present day and anticipating the opportunities of the future: developing new networks and collaborations across institutions, augmenting the pipeline for Chinese art history, increasing equitable access to resources, and more.

Please help spread the word by forwarding this announcement to your students and colleagues, networks, and listservs. Thank you!

All best wishes,

ACAH Board of Directors
Michelle C. Wang <>, Amy McNair, Kate Lingley, Roberta Wue, Shellen Wu

JEACS vol. 3

We are pleased to announce the publication of vol. 3 of the  Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies (Volume 3, 2022). You’ll be able to download all articles here (open access, no registration):

Table of Contents

Alexis Lycas, Marie Bizais-Lillig, Laura De Giorgi, Alison Hardie, Sascha Klotzbücher, Frank Kraushaar
Editorial: New Views on Visual Materials 視覺影像刮目相看

Kenneth Hammond
Visual Materials in Chinese Local Gazetteers 中國視覺方志

Xin Yu 余 欣
Scenic Views of Administrative Units in Ming China 明代方志中的府州縣景致研究

Sander Molenaar
Locating the Sea: A Visual and Social Analysis of Coastal Gazetteers in Late Imperial China 給海洋定位: 明清時期沿海方志的視覺及社會分析 Continue reading

How a Chinese vase valued at €2,000 sold for €8m

Source: The Guardian (10/7/22)
‘A crazy story’: how a Chinese vase valued at €2,000 sold for €8m
French auction house tells of build-up to bidding war that led to an expert losing his job and a seller being left ‘traumatised’
By in Paris

Jean-Pierre Osenat conducts the auction of a tianqiuping-style vase in Fontainebleau near Paris.

Jean-Pierre Osenat conducts the ‘extraordinary’ auction of a tianqiuping-style vase in Fontainebleau near Paris. Photograph: Maison Osenat

In the 41 years of wielding the gavel at his auction house a stone’s throw from the royal chateau at Fontainebleau, Jean-Pierre Osenat had never seen anything like it.

“This is a crazy story,” he said. “Quite extraordinary.”

The story has cost one of the auctioneer’s experts his job, after a Chinese vase he declared an ordinary decorative piece worth €2,000 (£1,760) at most sold for almost €8m, nearly 4,000 times the estimate.

“The expert made a mistake. One person alone against 300 interested Chinese buyers cannot be right,” Osenat said. “He was working for us. He no longer works for us. It was, after all, a serious mistake.”

The extraordinary story began earlier this year when a French woman living abroad decided to sell furniture and various objects from her late mother’s home in Brittany. Having entrusted Osenat with the sale, the vase – which had belonged to her grandmother – was packed up, dispatched to Paris and put in a “furniture and works of art” auction of 200 lots, none of which was valued over €8,000. Continue reading

The Art of Manhua Magazine (1950-1960)

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (9/4/22)
The Propagandist’s Palette: The Art of Manhua Magazine (1950-1960)
By Kelly Reiling

Fig. 1: The Collectivization Movement, 1954.

In June of 1950, the magazine Manhua yuekan 漫画月刊 published its first issue in Shanghai. During the magazine’s lifespan, which lasted until 1960, Manhua yuekan and its cartoonists underwent periods of artistic suppression and expression, enacted by the newly-established Chinese government through a series of political campaigns. The consequences of these campaigns were drastic, as cartoonists were forced to communicate complex political concepts under severe governmental restraints. However, despite these fluctuations, the cartoonists of Manhua yuekan were still able to publish a vast and diverse range of cartoons in terms of style, content, and expression.

As a material object, Manhua yuekan generally consists of a front and back cover and, depending on the year, approximately ten to thirty pages of cartoons. During its first stage of publication, from 1950 to 1952, Manhua published black-and-white cartoons, with only the front and back covers in full color.[1] Its rerelease in 1953, however, made Manhua into “a larger format, full-color magazine.”[2] The front and back covers generally outline the main idea of the issue, whether that be international socialist unity, Mao’s new political campaign, or condemnation of the West. From June 1950 to July 1960, Manhua yuekan published 164 issues, which offered “nearly three thousand pages of visual and verbal materials through which to explore a multitude of artistic, social, and political phenomena from the early PRC.”[3]

Each issue of Manhua yuekan contains a broad assortment of comics, with their styles ranging from realistic and detailed to simple and minimalist to exaggerated and caricaturist. This is largely because Manhua employed numerous cartoonists, all of whom had their own unique techniques and styles that they incorporated into their drawings. Because of this, every issue of the magazine possessed a diverse assemblage of cartoons. Continue reading

Asia Society’s ‘Mirror Image’ exhibit

Source: The China Project (9/14/22)
Asia Society’s ‘Mirror Image’ exhibition presents new perspectives on Chinese art
The latest exhibition at the Asia Society spotlights a group of wildly talented Chinese artists born after 1976, the year of Mao Zedong’s death, and contemplates the ever-changing Chinese identity in the context of globalization.<
By Zhao Yuanyuan

Nabuqi’s installation “How to Be ‘Good Life.’” Photo courtesy of the Asia Society.

In 1998, a groundbreaking exhibition put together by the Asia Society caused enthusiastic ripples among art lovers and critics in the U.S. Curated by art historian Gāo Mínglù 高名潞, the sprawling show, titled Inside Out: New Chinese Art, was the first of its kind to survey more than 80 works created between 1985 and 1998 by artists from the mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Featuring a significantly greater range of artistic media than any previous exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, the show offered visitors a window into how “transnational forces,” as termed by Gao, influenced Chinese artists’ lives and ideas.

Fast forward to 2022 and the Asia Society’s latest exhibition, Mirror Image: A Transformation of Chinese Identity, which opened in New York in June and will run through December. As a sequel of sorts to 1998’s seminal event, the exhibition poses a crucial question: What is meant by “Chinese” art in the age of globalization and digital revolution, where ideas fluidly cross geographic, generational, and cultural boundaries? Continue reading

Lei Lei’s Geometric Regime of Animated Images

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (8/9/22)
The Artisanal Sensorial, or Lei Lei’s Geometrical Regime of Animated Images
By Dong Yang

Figure 1: Pear or Alien

The aura of contemporary art is a free association.–Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

In one of his later essays “Spinoza and the Three ‘Ethics,’” composed around 1990 and collected in the book Essays Critical and Clinical, Gilles Deleuze offers a mature and profound reading of Spinoza’s Ethics as a composite of what he calls “three elements” that coexist: “signs or affects, notions or concepts, essences or percepts.”[1] Deleuze carefully revisited Ethics two decades after his systematic study of Spinoza titled Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. In this later essay, he largely departs from his former approach that regarded Ethics as a philosophically coherent and consistent work and instead discerns an increase in speed and magnitude as the book progresses, a gradual abandoning of all demonstrative methods to reach “the absolute speed of figures of light” —namely, the Spinozian God. Three dimensions of meaning concurrently prevail in the same book, which recognizes—in the manner of geometrical demonstration—both the finitude of individual beings and nature as a composite of an infinite number of such beings that is also the expressive God. These three dimensions are the bodily signs that mark the increase or decrease of power through bodily and intellectual interactions with the external world; common notions, which are formed after one experiences repeated instances of external affects that gradually shape an awareness of the commonalities between all beings, namely, relations, speed, and slowness; and, finally, the abstract light or transformative force that permeates both Spinoza’s book and his theological system. Continue reading

Peeling paint reveals work of HK graffiti artist

Source: NYT (7/17/22)
Peeling Paint in Hong Kong Reveals Work of Newly Relevant ‘King’
When he was alive, the graffiti of Tsang Tsou-choi, or the “King of Kowloon,” was considered peculiar and personal. In a radically changed city, his mostly vanished art now has a political charge.
By Austin Ramzy

When work by the graffiti artist Tsang Tsou-choi re-emerged beneath a Hong Kong bridge, the mundane setting became an unlikely attraction in a city where dissent has been stamped out.

When work by the graffiti artist Tsang Tsou-choi re-emerged beneath a Hong Kong bridge, the mundane setting became an unlikely attraction in a city where dissent has been stamped out. Credit…Anthony Kwan for The New York Times

HONG KONG — Often shirtless in summer, smelling of sweat and ink, the aggrieved artist wrote incessantly, and everywhere: on walls, underpasses, lamp posts and traffic light control boxes.

He covered public spaces in Hong Kong with expansive jumbles of Chinese characters that announced his unshakable belief that much of the Kowloon Peninsula rightfully belonged to his family.

During his lifetime, the graffiti artist, Tsang Tsou-choi, was a ubiquitous figure, well-known for his eccentric campaign that struck most as a peculiar personal mission, not a political rallying cry.

But Hong Kong has become a very different place since Mr. Tsang died in 2007, and his work — once commonly spotted, but now largely vanished from the streetscape — has taken on a new resonance in a city where much political expression has been stamped out by a sweeping campaign against dissent since 2020.

“In his lifetime, particularly early on, people thought he was completely crazy,” said Louisa Lim, author of “Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong,” a new book that examines Mr. Tsang’s legacy. “Even at the time that he died no one was really interested in the content or the political message of his work. But actually, he was talking about these Hong Kong preoccupations long before other people were — territory, sovereignty, dispossession and loss.” Continue reading

Archaeologist Fan Jinshi’s memoir

Source: (7/6/22)
Archaeologist Fan Jinshi’s Memoir: Ancient Buddhist Cave-temples in the Desert, Red Guards & the Spirit of Peking U
By Bruce Humes

Cultural Revolution: The Mogao Grottoes Miraculously Emerge Unscathed
(Excerpted from 我心归处是敦煌 by Fan Jinshi as told to Gu Chunfang)
Translated by Bruce Humes

Many people have asked me if thMogao Caves in Dunhuang were damaged during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

At the time, the Destroy the Four Olds, Cultivate the Four News campaign was sweeping the country, resulting in severe damage to many ancient sites and cultural artifacts. Everyone at the Dunhuang Academy was wondering: Would our cave-temples be spared?

My colleagues were indeed very concerned about the Red Guards wreaking havoc in the grottoes, because they were chock-full of fragile clay sculptures and murals. However, during the Cultural Revolution, not a single scroll, mural or sculpture in the academy’s care suffered damage — which can only be described as miraculous.

Many people can’t get their heads around this, and I have often been grilled about it by foreign journalists. “You can go and see with your own eyes that there was no damage at all,” I assure them. Continue reading

HK Palace Museum’s controversial beginnings

Source: SCMP (7/1/22)
Hong Kong Palace Museum: highlights to see among the national treasures on loan from Beijing, and its controversial beginnings
When the Hong Kong museum opens on July 2, there are some stunning national treasures to see among more than 900 loaned by the Beijing Palace Museum. Its opening is the culmination of a project criticised for the lack of public consultation when Hong Kong’s then No 2 leader Carrie Lam announced it in 2016

A festive robe made for a Chinese emperor on display at the Hong Kong Palace Museum. First announced in 2016, the museum is finally opening on July 2, 2022. Photo: Sam Tsang

A festive robe made for a Chinese emperor on display at the Hong Kong Palace Museum. First announced in 2016, the museum is finally opening on July 2, 2022. Photo: Sam Tsang

The Hong Kong Palace Museum, in the West Kowloon Cultural District, officially opens to the public on July 2 and features a range of Chinese artworks and relics.

The grand opening of the Hong Kong counterpart to Beijing’s Palace Museum coincides with the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. Nine galleries fill the 13,000-square-metre (140,000 sq ft) space, spread across five floors, exhibiting ink paintings, calligraphy, ceramics and other artefacts dating from as early as the 10th century.

Most of the pieces on loan are appearing in Hong Kong for the first time. Continue reading

Travel, Translation and Transmedia Aesthetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Robert Moore’s review of Travel, Translation and Transmedia Aesthetics: Franco-Chinese Literature and Visual Arts in a Global Age, by Shuangyi Li. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Michael Hill, our book review editor for translations/translation studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Travel, Translation and Transmedia Aesthetics:
Franco-Chinese Literature and Visual Arts in a Global Age

By Shuangyi Li

Reviewed by Robert Moore

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2022)

Shuangyi Li, Travel, Translation and Transmedia Aesthetics: Franco-Chinese Literature and Visual Arts in a Global Age. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 267 pp. ISBN 978-9811655616 (cloth).

Shuangyi Li’s Travel, Translation and Transmedia Aesthetics: Franco-Chinese Literature and Visual Arts in a Global Age is a long-form study of four Franco-Chinese writers: Gao Xingjian 高行健, Shan Sa 山颯, Dai Sijie 戴思杰, and François Cheng 程抱一. All were born and raised in China but moved to France during early adulthood and compose works in French. All are also recipients of numerous awards, and one, François Cheng, is a member of the Académie Française, the first Asian-born person to be so honored. Li’s strategy is to demonstrate that all four share a recognizable aesthetic, one that is transmedial and transnational, and only emerges when we are able to understand how the cultures and languages with which they work influence each other simultaneously.

Chapter 1 is an introduction that lays out the conceptual framework for the study. Chapter 2 leads with a short consideration of some of the principal concerns of all four writers before launching into a long analysis of François Cheng’s Le Dit de Tianyi (The River Below in English translation). Chapter 3 discusses historically-minded works by Cheng, Shan, and Dai, with a particular eye on how images and motifs from ancient China can be re-presented and re-imagined in French. Chapter 4 looks at the way calligraphy influences, and is influenced by, the fiction of the same three writers. Chapter 5 concludes the main body of the study with a consideration of how Dai Sijie’s fiction, and Gao Xingjian’s painting, interact with each writer’s respective cinematic interests. Continue reading

HK Palace Museum set to open

Source: China Daily (6/28/22)
A 360° tour of Hong Kong Palace Museum

Scheduled to open to the public on July 2, the Hong Kong Palace Museum will display on rotation more than 900 treasures from the collections of the Palace Museum in Beijing. Built over four years, the design and construction of the HKPM reflect the charm of traditional Chinese culture.

Check the video to get a 360° tour!

See also: Director of the Beijing’s Palace Museum speaks on cross-culture exchange