The “Global” Contemporary Art Canon and the Case of China

This essay reviews the book Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents edited by Wu Hung and published by the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2010, as part of an ongoing series aiming to introduce art critical texts produced in non-mainstream art locales to an English-speaking audience. Gathering a large number of translated critical essays, the book outlines the production of Chinese Contemporary Art since what is normally accepted as its onset in the late 1970s. This essay argues that this process of definition, legitimized by the prominent publisher of this book, amounts to a form of canonization performed at the expenses of other contemporaneous artistic forms—ink and academic painting—whose culturally and historically specific nature de facto excludes them from a concept of art globalization still largely determined and rooted by Euro-American modernism.

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