AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 423

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Session 423: Modern Chinese Art

Double Visibilities:Gugong Weekly and the Publication of the Imperial Collection, 1929-1936
Tongyun Yin, MacLean Collection, USA

Throughout the prolonged turmoil of modern China, the Forbidden City and its imperial collection have been inextricably intertwined with the culture, society, ideology, and politics of that volatile era. Concomitant with the construction of the new nation-state, the Forbidden City was transformed from the imperial palace to a public museum, with all the imperial family property recast into national patrimony in 1925. The objects were doubly valued: not only for their aesthetic merit, but also for their capacity to produce political meanings essential to the nation-building and modernization of China. Through the lens of a periodical, Gugong Weekly, published between 1929 and 1936, this paper examines how the Palace Museum deployed the tools of modern publishing to create new, implicitly nationalistic, ways of seeing traditional Chinese art. It argues that by using photographic reproduction to situate the collections in the historiographical context of the mass reproduction format, this periodical encouraged a perception of the historical continuity and significance of Chinese culture. Gugong Weekly presented polysemic narratives motivated by the political agendas of 1920s and 30s China, in general, and by the distinctive backgrounds and personal preferences of its successive editors, in particular. The intellectualization of these collections, obliquely achieved by Gugong Weekly, played a significant role in shaping the modern concept of Chinese art and in constructing its art historical and cultural canon.

The Business of Art: Art Market in Shanghai during the 1930s
Pedith Chan, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Using the Shanghai art market as a point of entry, this paper explores fundamental questions about art production and consumption in modern China. Based on a large body of surviving price-lists, historical documents, and primary material, the pricing logic of the 1930s Shanghai market is reconstructed by using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of artistic field to investigate three aspects of the business of art in Republican Shanghai: selling outlets, artists’ pricing logic, and painting. It argues that despite the severe attacks from the cultural reformers, guohua (Chinese painting) gained dominance in the Shanghai art market which in turn provided financial security and social stature to artists in an uncertain social and political environment. In the early twentieth century, thanks to the rise of the new wealth, the boom of the publishing industry, and the introduction of western commercial cultures, the Shanghai art market underwent a groundbreaking process of modernization by adopting newly introduced retailing tactics, advertising concepts and exhibiting cultures, and became a battlefield for members of the art world competing for resources. Whether governed by the ‘logic of the field’ or by rules of the market, the pricing logic of the Republican era demonstrates that traditional values and aesthetics continued to play an integral role in the art market even though under severe challenges brought about by the introduction of western art. The success of the modern art market thus not only sustained the autonomy of the Shanghai art world but also ensured the survival of guohua under the social upheavals and cultural crisis.