Theater of the World: Contemporary Art of China Since 1989

Publication Date

April 2018


Richard Adelstein


College of Social Studies


English (United States)


This thesis considers the development of contemporary Chinese art and its evolving relationship with the global art scene since 1989. Ever since Chinese art was released under the tight grip of the party-state after the Cultural Revolution, it faces influences and challenges from Western aesthetic theories and importing styles. A theoretical debate regarding the proper perspective to interpret Chinese art emerged in the late 1990s as Chinese and Western scholars argued for and against an essentialist view, although both side came into the debate with hidden agendas (deeply rooted belief in a western-centric hegemony v.s. a teleological national allegory for the party-state). In 2017, an exhibition concerning contemporary Chinese art from 1989 to 2008 held at Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Theater of the World, signaled a successful attempt in constructing alternative perspectives of pluralism and to break through the polarized debate.

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