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Contemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai
Author: Jenny Lin

Shanghai, long known as mainland China’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, has recently re-emerged as a global capital. Above sea: Contemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai offers the first in-depth examination of turn of the twenty-first-century Shanghai-based art and design—from state-sponsored exhibitions to fashionable cultural complexes to cutting-edge films and installations. This book offers a counter-touristic view of one of the world’s fastest developing megacities, one that penetrates the contradictions and buried layers of specific locales and artifacts of visual culture. Informed by years of in-situ research, including interviews with artists and designers, the book looks beyond contemporary art’s global hype to reveal persistent socio-political tensions accompanying Shanghai’s explosive transitions from semi-colonial capitalism to Maoist socialism to Communist Party–sponsored capitalism. Analyses of exemplary design projects such as Xintiandi and Shanghai Tang and artworks by Liu Jianhua, Yang Fudong, Gu Wenda, and others reveal how Shanghai’s global aesthetics construct glamorizing artifices that mask historically rooted cross-cultural conflicts between vying notions of foreign-influenced modernity versus anti-colonialist nationalism, and the city’s repressed socialist past versus its consumerist present. The book focuses on Shanghai-based art and design from the 1990s–2000s, the decades of the city’s most rapid post-socialist development, while also attending to pivotal Republican and Mao-era examples. Challenging the “East-meets-West” clichés that characterize discussions of urban Shanghai and contemporary Chinese art, this book illuminates critical issues facing today’s artists, architects, and designers and provides an essential field guide for students of art, design, art history, urban studies, and Chinese culture.

Jenny Lin

, cultural aestheticization, and national stereotyping. On the evening of May 4, 2015, the Metropolitan Museum hosted its highest profile and most lucrative annual event, the Met Gala, which that spring celebrated “China: Through the Looking Glass.” As per tradition, guests were encouraged to dress in line with the exhibition’s theme, in this case the influence of traditional Chinese culture on modern and contemporary Western fashion. Gala attendees incorporated vague references to Chinese motifs, such as ancient seals, dragons, Tang Dynasty–style headdresses, and the

in Above sea
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Bryan Fanning

pronounced ‘Sinic Revival’ during the 1960s. In reaction to Mao’s 1966 ‘cultural revolution’ on the mainland, Chinese culture was strongly promoted by the ROC in school curricula and other areas. As put by Cheng-yi Lin and Wen-cheng Lin: Through politically-screened teachers and deliberate design of the school curriculum, the ROC government promoted China as the motherland as well as a Chinese national identity among Taiwanese. Mandarin was stipulated as the sole language, and other dialects were banned at schools, in the military, and at all levels of the government. TV

in Irish adventures in nation-building
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Hao Gao

of China and Chinese culture in England in the early nineteenth century. To understand this shift from positive to negative attitudes, William Christie and Logan Collins have investigated the representations of China in British periodicals. 26 They are concerned with the roles that were played by the writers and editors of periodical journals in constructing images of China in the minds of the British reading public, the former concentrating on the representation of the Macartney embassy, while the latter surveying

in Creating the Opium War
Jenny Lin

Grand Hyatt Hotel. Featured in popular films such as James Bond’s Skyfall (2012), the Jin Mao Tower, along with the Lujiazui skyline, has become a worldwide signifier of Shanghai’s cosmopolitan status and financial prowess.8 Rather than merely emulate the skyscrapers of Chicago, New York, and Tokyo, the Jin Mao Tower is known for integrating specifically Chinese design elements, such as a pagoda-like setback design, eighty-eight floors (eight being an auspicious number in traditional Chinese culture), and proportions that revolve around the number eight.9 Like the

in Above sea
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Robert Bickers

healthier regard for Chinese culture they developed a healthier regard for contemporary China. Britain in China was always intertwined with the world of China in Britain, and the empire of fact was always connected with the empire of mind. The undoing of the China problem was also partly the work of a disparate group of individually motivated Britons and Americans. They were pragmatists, not idealists, men

in Britain in China
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Staging art and Chineseness
Jane Chin Davidson

representations of Chinese artists who live and work outside of China, the word Chineseness has come to be associated with those who circulate transnationally among the Chinese states of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and diasporic places elsewhere. Since the 1980s and 1990s, when Rey Chow published her influential essay ‘On Chineseness as a Theoretical Problem,’ the word has also meant something inimically different in its association with the objectification and appropriation of Chinese culture based on the lack of representation by the Chinese themselves under Western methods

in Staging art and Chineseness
Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People and the hybrid pathways of Chinese modernity
Alice Tsay

of their marketing in other parts of the world with a customised blend of references to longstanding healing traditions as well as modern Chinese culture. Questions of medical efficacy aside, these advertisements resist a linear and Western-centric account of modernity. Contemporary Chinese commentators anthropomorphically located the contributions of the West in the two figures of ‘Mr Science’ and ‘Mr Democracy’. However, the study of modernity in early twentieth-century Shanghai must also account for ‘Dr Williams’ as a Western import that disrupts the narrative

in Progress and pathology
Damian Walford Davies

there have been a sustained Romantic engagement with Chinese culture as there was with Indian and Islamic culture? Was there something about Romanticism that was inimical to China? In a revolutionary age, the negative example of China as an ancient and established despotism certainly took hold. Whereas Voltaire admired the enlightened despotism of the Chinese empire, democrats and republicans (with whom Romanticism is frequently associated) increasingly regarded the empire as an ossified oriental tyranny. Confucianism as a social philosophy stressed the importance of

in Counterfactual Romanticism
The global exposition and the museum
Jane Chin Davidson

the twentieth century. This conception is dependent on the belief that the cultural contexts of Revolutionary China (1949–76) had somehow insulated Chinese culture from Western power relations – even as socialist realist painting was a product of “the West.” But in the aftermath of Deng Xiaoping’s 1980s gaige kaifeng (reforms and openness), any purported cultural insularity has been relinquished to the processes of transnationalism, especially after the 1997 return of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region of China. The discrete, whole subject of China on the

in Staging art and Chineseness