Recently is seems that everyone is talking about China and rightly, so as we are witnessing a once in a decade leadership change. In the last few years China has developed into one of the world´s leading economies’ with and estimated 1,347,350,000 citizens. It is seen no longer a land of oppression but one of prosperity, which is slowly filtering down the ranks. Among these 1.3 billion people, live many artists that until recently have felt restricted for much of their artistic lives. Many are cautious when it comes to being creative for fearof being labeled a ¨political activist¨. Not so long ago the Chinese government in a crackdown on people imprisoned many artists they considered dissidents. Ai Weiwei is a well-known Chinese contemporary artist who has been classified as such. The 53 year old has recently appeared in the media spotlight after Chinese authorities demolished his newly built Shanghai studiolocated in the center of the fledging art district. It was torn down without prior notice due to Weiwei´s previous comments criticizing the government´s policies. Weiwei is not a stranger to the authorities; prior to this, he spent time in prison and his movements were restricted under house arrest. He has also struggled to return back to China after spending time in neighboring Japan. Although Weiwei´s is classified as a political activist with his work, there are many more artists living in China that find the industry is becoming more acceptable and one with increasingly more value.
Unlike the past it is now more common to see art in galleries and auctions in Beijing and Shanghai, although it is not given the same validation as art from the west. People are embracing it more as a part of their culture and heritage but picking pieces to buy can be a minefield especially to the untrained eye as there are not many curators available.
M50 is a thriving community in Shanghai where 100 or more artists choose to exhibit their art and is found to attract tourists and locals alike. It shows modern contemporary pieces of art in over 120 art studios or galleries. Some of the art I’ve found whilst scouring Shanghai´s M50 district are amazing. The different use of textures and colors shows how much passion and creativity exists within such a vast country. The artwork conveys a sense of history, which is reflected in the artist’s choice of colors. It’s truly inspiring to see other artwork from different countries especially when the countries’ culture is so diverse from that of Europe.
Ai Weiwei´s story, is very inspiring to me. To see someone persecuted for his or her beliefs, which we as ¨Westerners¨ can so easily express. To me it is something we all take for granted. However it can be argued that we have too much freedom. Whatever the reality, I for one am grateful for the ability to pick my subject at will.
Take a look and tell me what you think?