John A. Crespi’s Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn represents an important contribution to the study of print and visual cultures in mid-twentieth-century China. Given the prominence of Republican Shanghai in Crespi’s narrative, this book might also be seen as part of a broader attempt to re-assess the place of this city in the story of modern Chinese print and visual cultures—a trend that is evident in other recent monographs, such as Pedith Chan’s The Making of a Modern Art World (2017) and Paul Bevan’s “Intoxicating Shanghai:” An Urban Montage (2020). Like such scholarship, Crespi’s book challenges what he refers to as the “anti-urban bias” (27) inherent in some earlier work in the field. Yet Manhua Modernity goes much further than this, providing a new set of methodologies for “horizontally reading” pictorial magazines. Indeed, Crespi should be congratulated for his methodological and conceptual ambition, for he seeks not simply to re-assess the evolution of manhua per se, but also to demonstrate the potential contribution of such a re-assessment to fields such as “pictorial studies” and visual cultures. Manhua Modernity contextualizes the manhua form (even as it takes issue with some of the existing literature on the topic) and updates an earlier fascination with images as stand-alone objects. Crespi’s approach also helps to free the history of manhua from a “nation-centered narrative” (34), as per Bi Keguan’s much cited work on the topic and seeks to bring the very notion of “manhua”—a term that Crespi refuses to italicize—into the mainstream of Chinese cultural history. Continue reading →
The M+ museum in Hong Kong is expected to open later this year, but it is already facing criticism from pro-Beijing lawmakers and newspapers for including works by dissident artists in its collection. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times
HONG KONG — With its multibillion-dollar price tag and big-name artists, M+, the museum rising on Victoria Harbor, was meant to embody Hong Kong’s ambitions of becoming a global cultural hub. It was to be the city’s first world-class art museum, proof that Hong Kong could do high culture just as well as finance.
It may instead become the symbol of how the Chinese Communist Party is muzzling Hong Kong’s art world.
In recent days, the museum, which is scheduled to open later this year, has come under fierce attack from the city’s pro-Beijing politicians. State-owned newspapers have denounced the museum’s collection, which houses important works of contemporary Chinese art, including some by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Hong Kong’s chief executive has promised to be on “full alert” after a lawmaker called some works an “insult to the country.”
The arts sector broadly has endured a blizzard of attacks. A government funding body said last week that it has the power to end grants to artists who promoted “overthrowing” the authorities. A front-page editorial in a pro-Beijing newspaper accused six art groups of “anti-government” activities. Continue reading →
Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art, Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum is hiring a curator of Asian Art. This is an exciting opportunity for an Asian art curator to work with a large and distinguished collection that ranges from antiquity to contemporary, and spans the entire Asian continent. The Chinese art collection is particularly strong, and expertise in Chinese art is necessary. The Denver Art Museum is a destination museum – it welcomes more than half a million visitors annually (pre-COVID, and virtually during 2020) — and it is situated in a city that offers robust cultural amenities and great outdoor activities. It is also committed to serving multi-faceted audiences. It has a world-renowned education program and its website is fully bilingual English/Spanish. The job announcement can be seen on the retained search consultant’s website, www.museum-search.com/open-searches/. The deadline for applications is soon: March 26, 2021. Inquiries welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Washington is looking for a Taiwan Arts Program Administrator to design and direct a new Taiwan Arts Program. As part of our new MOFA grant, the new Taiwan Arts Program under the Taiwan Studies Program will offer national events open to the public focused on Taiwan arts and culture. We define arts and culture broadly, including high culture, popular culture, folk culture, cultural history, indigenous culture and contemporary cultural movements in Taiwan.
The Taiwan Arts Program Administrator will have an opportunity to direct and grow an ambitious new initiative at the intersection of contemporary culture, higher education, and academic studies of Taiwan. The Administrator will be in charge of finding and engaging culture partners, such as film directors, literary authors, and dance troupes to perform or speak for US audiences, and will have significant ability to shape the program.
As part of the role, the Program Administrator will also offer one academic course on Taiwan per year on an arts or humanities field. This could include, for example, literature, poetry, cultural studies, art history, performance studies, film and media studies, cultural anthropology, etc. The ideal candidate will have academic training, preferably a PhD in one of these fields.
Source: NYT (3/12/21) Trump as You’ve Never Seen Him Before A furniture maker and decorator in China created a stir — and inspired copycats — by casting a ceramic sculpture of the former president in a meditative pose that evokes the Buddha.
By Steven Lee Myers
A cast of “Trump, the Buddha of Knowing of the Western Paradise,” by the Chinese sculptor Hong Jinshi. The artwork, as well as countless imitations, can be purchased on the e-commerce site Taobao. Credit…Xiaoya
There is no shortage of merchandise in China devoted to the former president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. There are commemorative coins, toilet brushes and cat toys; countless figurines, including updated versions of Mount Rushmore, plus all those flags, bumper stickers and hats from campaigns past and future. (Does anyone still believe all that “Make America Great Again” stuff was really made in America?)
Enter the Trump Buddha.
A furniture maker and decorator in southern China has cast a sculpture of Mr. Trump in ceramic whiteware, his legs crossed and hands serenely resting in his lap. He is draped in a monk’s robes, his head is lowered and his eyes are closed, as if in meditative repose, an emotional state not typically associated with the 45th president of the United States.
The artist calls it “Trump, the Buddha of Knowing of the Western Paradise.” Continue reading →
Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) occupies 40 hectares (99 acres) of land on the westernmost tip of the Kowloon peninsula. Fusing art, education and recreational activities amid a collection of impressively designed buildings, this new cultural hub aims to raise the bar for what the city can achieve in the world of modern and contemporary art.
Not only will the district help elevate regional talent to new heights, but it is also contributing to Hong Kong’s expanding portfolio of architectural landmarks. Here are some of the unique features that define the four spaces at WKCD. Continue reading →
ASIA COLLECTIONS OUTSIDE ASIA: QUESTIONING ARTEFACTS, CULTURES AND IDENTITIES IN THE MUSEUM Edited by Iside Carbone and Helen Wang
Online publication, open access: http://www.kunsttexte.de/index.php?id=58
Carbone, Iside and Helen Wang (eds), 2020. Asia Collections in Museums outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities, Transcultural Perspectives 2020, issue 1, thematic issue in Kunsttexte. Humboldt University. Berlin.
I am pleased to announce the release of Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn, from the University of California Press. The book is available open-access in pdf format and on the Luminos platform. It can also be purchased in paperback.
From fashion sketches of smartly dressed Shanghai dandies in the 1920s, to multipanel drawings of refugee urbanites during the war against Japan, to panoramic pictures of anti-American propaganda rallies in the early 1950s, the polymorphic cartoon-style art known as manhua helped define China’s modern experience. Manhua Modernity offers a richly illustrated, deeply contextualized analysis of these illustrations across the lively pages of popular pictorial magazines that entertained, informed, and mobilized a nation through a half century of political and cultural transformation. In this compelling media history, John Crespi argues that manhua must be understood in the context of the pictorial magazines that hosted them, and in turn these magazines must be seen as important mediators of the modern urban experience. Even as times changed—from interwar-era consumerism to war-time mobilization to Mao-style propaganda—the art form adapted to stay on the cutting edge of both politics and style.
Tenure-Track Position Assistant Professor of Asian Art History
Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio APPLY NOWJob no:492679
Kenyon College, a highly selective, nationally ranked liberal arts college in central Ohio, invites applications for a tenure-track position in Art History at the rank of Assistant Professor beginning in July 2021.
The Department of Art History at Kenyon College is accepting applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Asian Art History. Candidates must have expertise in the art, architecture, and visual culture of any geographic region in pre-1900 Asia, and possess a demonstrated ability and desire to teach courses in many areas of Asian art. We seek a creative colleague who can immediately contribute to re-shaping the current curriculum. Applicants must be interested in offering a fresh, global perspective on permanent courses, including the Introduction to Asian Art, and developing intermediate and advanced-level courses on the art, architecture, and visual culture of East Asia, South Asia, or Southeast Asia. We are interested in teacher-scholars who can offer creative ways to engage with the Department’s Visual Resources Center, our Study Collection (https://digital.kenyon.edu/arthistorystudycollection/), and regional art museums located in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. Applicants should complement, not duplicate, current expertise of the department. The candidate will also have an opportunity to work with the Asian and Middle East Studies interdisciplinary major. Continue reading →
“Too Cool for School II” by Louise Soloway Chan. The work is one of 22 of Chan’s sketches of Hong Kong during the pandemic that form “Contactless”, a solo online exhibition that runs until December 15.
Today is the opening of Louise Soloway Chan’s virtual exhibition “Contactless”, a showcase of 22 ink paintings on rice paper that capture Hong Kong scenes amid the pandemic.
“I’m an obsessive sketcher and always draw from life, from what’s in front of me,” says Soloway Chan via Zoom from Britain.
The artist was born in the UK and spent time in India before moving to her adopted home of Hong Kong in 1994. She’s back in Britain temporarily to spend time with her family.
Many people in Hong Kong will have seen her work. In 2011, the MTR Corporation commissioned her to paint 12 huge bas-reliefs of Hong Kong street scenes, many depicting traditional dai pai dongs (open-air food stalls) as well as lantern and tea shops that have since fallen victim to gentrification. The works took six years to complete and are permanently installed at the Sai Ying Pun MTR station. Continue reading →
This workshop focuses on the impact of global artistic exchanges on Chinese artists during the most rigid period of Socialist China. Including presentations on Latin American and Romanian influences; impressionist and modernist-inspired underground artist groups during the Cultural Revolution; and discreet international art exhibitions in revolutionary China, the speakers dismantle the simplistic, Cold War-influenced narratives of East-West dichotomy and capitalist modernism v. socialist realism. They reveal Chinese artists’ continuing thirst for alternative aesthetic inspiration, and underscore the crucial impact of human exchanges on art and creativity in the socialist period.
This documentary film, Our Time Machine (dirs. Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang), looks really interesting. It will be screening on PBS over the next couple of weeks in the POV series. Check your local listings, as they say. Not sure if it’s available online, for those of you outside the US.–Kirk
MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce Lena Henningsen’s introduction to the translation of Little Smarty Travels to the Future we published last week. The introduction appears below, but is best read at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/little-smarty-intro/. My thanks to Prof. Henningsen for sharing her work with the MCLC community.
Kirk Denton, editor
Little Smarty Travels to the Future: Introduction to the Text and Notes on the Translation
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)
Ye Yonglie with Little Smarty. Source: Weibo
Little Smarty Travels to the Future (小灵通漫游未来) is an early post-Mao science fiction (SF) story, adapted into a comic book (lianhuanhua 连环画). Originally composed in the early 1960s, Ye Yonglie 叶永烈 (1940–2020) was not able to publish the short novel until 1978. The comic book adaptation that is the basis for our translation followed two years later and enjoyed tremendous success with at least 3 million copies printed. Paola Iovene rightly describes the story as “as much a jump forward in imagination as it was a resumption of aspirations of the past” (Iovene 2014: 1). At the same time, the story is firmly grounded in the early post-Mao years and in Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations, which legitimated political and economic change and ushered in China’s dramatic economic growth. In this introduction, I position this text in this specific historical moment in the development of Chinese SF. I sketch the development and status of Chinese SF and of comic books within the Chinese literary field and point out to what extent Little Smarty Travels to the Future may be seen as an illustration or vision of the implementation of the Four Modernizations.
Science Fiction in China
Chinese SF used to be a marginalized genre, both in terms of scholarly research and in terms of its status within the literary field. Recent years, however, have seen an increase in attention to the genre both among academics and the general readership, not least thanks to the commitment of translator Ken Liu. He has been crucial for bringing Chinese SF to the attention of English readers and for introducing Chinese authors into the global SF award circuit, which culminated with Liu Cixin 刘慈欣 winning the prestigious Hugo award in 2015 (Chau 2018). Today, the global circulation of Chinese SF even impacts perceptions of China. Continue reading →