Exhibition as an Art Historical Space

The 1933 Chinese Art Exhibition in Paris

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Xu Beihong (right) and André Dezarroi (center) at the Chinese Art Exhibition, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1933. Photograph. Archives nationales, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, France.

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The 1933 Chinese Art Exhibition in Paris played a crucial role in establishing the category of “modern Chinese painting” in Europe. Opened at the Musée Jeu de Paume in May 1933, the Exposition de la Peinture Chinoise was the first large-scale exhibition of Chinese art in France. It attracted unprecedented numbers of viewers, and afterwards the museum founded a Chinese art gallery. Motivated by the success of earlier Japanese art exhibitions in Paris, the curator Xu Beihong (1895-1953) collaborated with French art museums, private collectors and Chinese artists to organize this show. By analyzing its visual and textual narratives, I argue that this exhibition was shaped by three factors: the international politics between France, Japan, and China; the complex social network among Chinese artists; and the personal vision of the curator. It was through the interaction and competition among various agents and institutions that the category of “modern Chinese painting” was created in the early 20th century.

Stephanie Su is an Assistant Professor of Asian Art at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research interests include global modernism, historiography, the history of display and collecting, and cultures of color. Her book manuscript, Entangled Modernities: Constructing East Asian Classicism in Early Twentieth Century Chinese and Japanese Art, examines how regional identity and historical connections across East Asia led to the formation of modern nations and arts. Her second project, Colors of Modernity: Changing Aesthetics in Meiji Japanese Prints, explores the impact of the global trade network on the late 19th century Japanese prints. Her articles have appeared on the Frontier of Literary Studies in China, The Art Bulletin (forthcoming), Kimono in Print: 300 Years of Japanese Design, and among others.

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Published: Thursday, January 28, 2021