All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

Jenny Lin’s Above Sea

Posted: July 8th, 2021 | No Comments »

I somehow missed Jenny Lin’s Above Sea when it first came out in 2018 but i’ve finally caught up. Lin has a great section on the emergence of modern art in Shanghai and its relationship to the haipai styles of the interwar republican era – the fusion of western and Chinese art styles, the impact on Shanghai artists exposed to Europoean art and studying abroad, the avant garde sense of the Storm Society. All this is fascinatingly used to critique the problematic Xintiandi development, that makes all sorts of claims about its nods to history and nostalgia without any real understanding. This siutation is, i imagine (as i haven’t been back to Shanghai recently due to the pandemic), accentuated by the glorification of the site of the First Congress of the CPC within Xintiandi’s confines. There are also interesting debates about more contemporary Shanghai and Chinese artists as well as the problems associated with the city’s bienalle. Highly recommended in other words.

Shanghai, long known as mainland China’s most cosmopolitan city, is today a global cultural capital. This book offers the first in-depth examination of contemporary Shanghai-based art and design – from state-sponsored exhibitions to fashionable cultural complexes to cutting edge films and installations. Informed by years of in-situ research, the book looks beyond contemporary art’s global hype to reveal the socio-political tensions accompanying Shanghai’s transitions from semi-colonial capitalism to Maoist socialism to Communist Party-sponsored capitalism. Case studies reveal how Shanghai’s global aesthetic constructs glamorising artifices that mask the conflicts between vying notions of foreign-influenced modernity and anti-colonialist nationalism, as well as the city’s repressed socialist past and its consumerist present.

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