Recently I attended a Sotheby’s lecture which was about the beginning of Chinese contemporary arts after 1960. The content was distinct and well-organised for mentioning the political and cultural implications of Chinese arts, I really appreciate that, but at the same time, all the Chinese Arts mentioned in this lecture are political, which are very referencable for studying the history and culture of China, especially for people who are not Chinese. Of course I believe it is an intension of the lecturer to orgainize the integrity of a two-hour lecture. However, combining with her distinct standpoint during the lecture, said, “modernism is wrong.” with the reason of the subjectivity, I am stimulated to think about the relationship between artist and art history, especially when I am reading some articles about the painting development between 1960 and 1980.

“Poor modernism!”, I usually sigh. Modernism is usually under attack by the art critics due to the crisis of subjectivity and authority… brabrabra… Well, modernism was undoubtably to contain those issues, but some of the attitude seems saying that those issues of Art come from modernism… How cruel and caustic it is…

General art history is organised, managed, and sometimes, incorporated to present (represent) an art development in a path with obvious direction. Art history chooses artworks and artists, especially when lots of art historians and art critics are not only making “history of art” nor “criticism for art”, but also “art of art history” and “art of criticism”. Honestly, it is really playful and enjoyable to read such intellegent words, informations and articles, but I always remind myself to be careful and keep distance from them.

Just similar to nowadays there are still lots of modernist artists who are not chosen by the art critics, I believe that there were lots of artists working very contemporary during modernism period, but they had not been chosen by the art critics, and hence disappear in the history. “Modernism” has been chosen, bringing nutrients of romanticism, purity and subjectivity to us, and now it is punished all the days since people find that couldn’t be satisfied by it anymore, and since it is quite opposite to the chosen art current nowadays… “Poor modernism”! (Fortunately sometimes it is protected)

Looking at the academic frame of some art criticism, which is attractive but caustic, organised but over-organized, showing obvious example in the cases of poor modernism, I always remind myself to distinguish art reading, art appreciation and art practice clearly: no matter how the art criticism judge an artwork, it is touching if it does ; no matter how touching it is, it can be re-evaluated through different perspective; and no matter how academic the topic could be, don’t think too much during practicing.


Wai Kit Chan (Hector)