With a temperature today of at least 95 degrees and a humidity of at least 70%, the effective temperature is more than 110, and feels like 120! Tali has developed blisters on both her feet from yesterday’s walking in similar conditions, so we’re not in too big a rush to go out this morning from the air-conditioned comfort of our hotel.
When we do make it outside, the Suzhou Creek Art District (at Moganshan Lu) and the Shanghai Sculpture Space, in a massive formerly vacant steel plant, are on the agenda. We have taken a cab to Moganshan Lu, and are walking around the many galleries. We notice that there are more retail and fashion stores here now, as compared to our last visit, similar to what we saw at 798 in Beijing. The space has also expanded, so there are hundreds of galleries to visit. There are quite a few people here, considering the weather, a mix of locals and Westerners. many of the Westerners are looking around quite earnestly, I imagine trying to discover an emerging Chinese artist whose work they can afford to buy.
I was starting to feel a bit sad about this wonderful adventure drawing to an end, as Tali was feeling yesterday, but the extreme heat has cut that short – time to head back to N.Z.! And then soon, back home to Colorado!
In the globalized contemporary art market, there seems to be so much interweaving of inspiration, so much cross-fertilization, that a lot of the abstract work I see here could have been created by anyone, living anywhere. I do see a few artists, though, who have managed to create work that is unmistakably Chinese, in the subject matter, sometimes in the colors used or in the style, and also in the political or environmental concerns, which need to be especially subtly stated, in the current repressive artistic environment.
There is an unstated deal being offered to city dwellers here in China by the government – play by the approved rules, and you will have a chance to achieve material success, own a house, buy a nice car, have nice clothes, etc. You can also have a great deal of freedom, as long as it follows the prescribed paths – you can dress pretty much as you like, you can own books and musical instruments, which were a serious crime during the Cultural Revolution, and you can use the Internet as limited not only by your ability to pay, but also by the search engine and social networking restrictions established by government censors. For artists, if they can be expressive without being too political, they will avoid censure, prison, or worse, and will also have a chance to earn a lot of money in the global art market.
Lots of young people that we’ve met accept this deal that they’ve been offered, and are only interested in what they can achieve, how much they can earn, what they can buy, and don’t want to rock the political boat at all, not even just a little. By the way, farm and country dwellers don’t get any such deal offered to them…they’re just trying to survive, maybe buy a new tractor…