“Chinese artist”: put those two words together and you get a virtual
“open sesame” for biennales, art galleries and private collections.
Though they were known only to a happy few early on, word of the
discove...展开ry of the Chinese avant-gardes from the 80s soon spread.
Being an artist in China today can be very lucrative indeed… as long
as you hopped on the bandwagon at the right time. For trends change
in the blink of an eye. This film gets inside an art system as well as
penetrating Chinese creators’ dual identities: both predatory and
exotic. Both “tiger” and “panda”.
Spanning China’s eras and profound mutations over the last two
decades, artists and critics, curators and gallery owners talk about the
different currents that left an impression: the “political-pop” paintings
of the 80s that thumbed their noses at the recent political past, the
outrageous caricatures of Chinese society produced by adepts of
“cynical realism,” performance art bordering on terrorism, then the
multicultural 00s, steeped in manga culture, video art, internet, and
From Suzhou Creek in Shanghai and Factory 798 in Beijing, the two
main showcases for contemporary Chinese art, the film plunges into
the buried memories of the earliest hippie-artist villages in the 90s, up
to the first wave of demolition…
The choice of a Franco-Chinese co-direction has quickly become selfevident.
A dual gaze made all the more valuable if we wish to bring
into clear focus the confrontation of two imaginary worlds: the West
that the Chinese long for and the East that we Westerners fantasize.
In so doing, the film hopes to scramble our western gaze, which
seems to be stuck on a China we believe to be gung-ho and
productive, in a state of fecund, inspired flux… yet which can not live
up to this idealized portrait. More than ever, artists are questioning
their deepest identity and what they are to become. What is the price
to pay to preserve art’s independence? What does it mean to be an
artist in today’s China? Or to be Chinese when you decide to be an