The Real Thing: Contemporary Art from China

By Simon Groom, Karen Smith and Xu Zhene
ISBN 9781854377135

This book presents for the first time works from all phases of the artists’ careers, including sculpture, installation, drawing and prints. It engages a variety of critical voices to the art historical contect of their work, as well as the themes and concerns that continue to underpin it. Tate Liverpool director Christoph Grunenberg’s essay provides an overview of the artists’ careers while other authors examine themes including use of shock in contemporary art, the aesthetics of ugliness, carnival excess and foul language. For many in the West, Chinese contemporary art is still synonymous with the political-realist painters of the 1980s and 1990s, who recycled the styles of communist social realism with pop cynicism. In China itself, however, the embracing of modern technologies and a widespread openness to the history of Western art has combined with distinctly Chinese traditions and concerns to forge entirely new forms of expression in the new century.

Placing this huge variety of work in the context of the art of previous decades, the authors examine the different modes of production, artists’ groups, market systems and infrastructure that shape artistic production in China and make it unique in the world today. With Chinese art increasingly dominant in auction houses and exhibition spaces across the globe, this is a vital guide for all those interested in this vibrant aspect of international visual culture.