Crossing China in 7 cities – book review

China’s diverse art scene is brought together in Crossing China, a comprehensive overview spanning 25 years.

Seven major Chinese cities form the backbone of this accessible coffee table book on the chaotic, confusing and dazzling story of China’s contemporary art.

Win a copy of Gérard Goodrow’s Crossing China: Land of the Rising Art Scene! Scroll down for details.

Win a copy of 'Crossing China'. Image courtesy Daab Media.

Win a copy of ‘Crossing China’. Image courtesy Daab Media.

On 5 February 1989, Beijing artist Xiao Lu handed herself over to police after shooting her friend and creative partner Tang Song in the back.

At least, that’s what the police thought had happened. What had actually occurred was Two Gunshots Fired at the Installation “Dialogue”, a performance art “act of aggression” carried out by the artists on their own work. In this controversial act, Xiao fired live bullets at a life-sized photograph of Tang, which was fastened to the inside of a glass phone box. To observers, it looked very much as if Xiao had shot Tang in the back, and both spent the following days in custody. “China/Avant-Garde Art Exhibition”, the show in which the “act of aggression” took place, was closed for several days.

This avant-garde art act and the subsequent counter-punch of authority forms the dynamic of much of China’s contemporary art history, a history retold and recontextualised in “Crossing China: Land of the Rising Art Scene”, a heavyweight English/German compendium of the last 25 years.

Yang Yongliang, Untitled, 2014, video, 4 panels screen, 120 x 60 x 4 cm. Image courtesy Galerie Paris-Beijing.

Yang Yongliang, Untitled, 2014, video, 4 panels screen, 120 x 60 x 4 cm. Image courtesy Galerie Paris-Beijing. 

Author Gérard Goodrow, chairman of the jury for the Chinese Art Prize and former Director of Contemporary Art at Christie’s, acknowledges the near impossibility of grasping the Chinese art scene from afar thanks to the country’s vastness and complexity. As a solution to the problem, he presents not one Chinese art scene but eight, made up of 7 main cities and the Chinese diaspora. Taking us on a journey through these eight locations, Goodrow leaves readers with the impression that, in his words, “every part of the country offers its own unique version of Chinese culture.”

Win a copy of Gérard Goodrow’s Crossing China: Land of the Rising Art Scene! Scroll down for details.

Each chapter presents the notable artists, art spaces and architects in the city in question, contextualising this superstructure with essays and interviews. The likes of curator Christoph Noe, collector Uli Sigg and museum director Beate Reifenscheid all weigh in with expert opinion and reflection.

The cities Goodrow explores are:

  • Beijing: City of Artists
  • Shanghai: Provocation and Modernity in the Paris of the East
  • Hangzhou: Tradition with a View Towards the Future
  • Chengdu: China’s Next Big Thing?
  • Guangzhou: Whose Utopia?
  • Shenzhen: A Mega-city as a Work in Progress
  • Hong Kong: The Rising Art Hub

“Crossing China” ends with the diaspora, the wider world looking at China through the eyes of overseas Chinese. These ‘ambassadors’ are fundamental to an understanding of Chinese art today because, as Goodrow makes clear, China’s art today is characterised by its “diverse, globally networked art scene”.

To win a copy of Gerard Goodrow’s book, Crossing China: Land of the Rising Art Scene:

  1. Answer this question: What was the name of the exhibition which was temporarily closed after Xiao Lu and Tang Song’s “act of aggression”?
  2. Email your answer to
  3. To win the book you must be a subscriber of Art Radar, so sign up via emailFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter.

We will select one lucky winner by random draw. 

Competition closes 30 April 2014, so hurry!

Related Topics: Chinese artistsart trendsbook reviews, performance art

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