85 New Wave Movement

85 New Wave Movement
The ‘85 Movement’ (Bawu yundong, Bawu xinchao) was an avant-garde art movement which flourished between 1985 and 1989. Gao Minglu coined the term ‘85 Art Movement’ (85 meishu yundong) for a lecture given at the National Oil Painting Conference held by the National Artists Association on 14 April 1986, and published in Meishujia tongxun. After higher officials objected to this designation, the term bawu meishu xinchao (‘85 Art New Wave’) was briefly adopted as a less objectionable alternative, xinchao (‘new wave’) being considered less aggressive than yundong (‘movement’).
The 85 Movement was a group-movement because in only two years (1985 and 1986), seventy-nine self-organized avant-garde art groups, including more than 2,250 of the nation’s young artists, emerged to organize exhibitions, hold conferences and write manifestos and articles about their art. A total of 149 exhibitions were organized by these groups within the two-year period. The movement continued to develop in 1987 towards a more provocative and conceptual direction, peaking in 1989 during the period of the China Avant-Garde exhibition.
Geographically, the avant-garde groups spread nationwide in twenty-nine provinces including some autonomous regions, such as Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet. Most of the groups, however, were located on the eastern coast and centre regions of China, as areas more advanced in education and industrialization. Most groups from these areas were in favour of a conceptual approach, regardless of the kind of media employed. The two major conceptual approaches adopted were ‘Rationalistic Painting’ (lixing huihua), represented by the artworks and writings of the Northern Art Group (Beifang yishu qunti) from Harbin, the Red Brigade from Nanjing and the Pond Society (Chishe) from Hangzhou; and the Zen-Dada-like conceptual art, advocated by the Xiamen Dada Group from Fujian and the Red Humour (Hongse youmo) from Hangzhou. On the contrary, art groups located in the northwest and southwest, areas still vastly based on traditional peasant lifestyle and home of most of the ethnic minorities, were interested in a frank and militant expression of their intuitive feelings and favoured ‘primitive’ themes.
The term ‘currents of life’ (shengming zhi liu) was used to define their approach. Among the groups, the most influential was the Southwest Art Research Group (Xinan yishu qunti), consisting of artists mostly from Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.
Andrews, Julia F. and Gao, Minglu (1995). ‘The Avant-Garde’s Challenge to Official Art’. In Debora S.Davis (ed.), Urban Spaces in Contemporary China: The Potential for Autonomy and Community in Post-Mao China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 221–78.
Gao, Minglu (1986). ‘Bawu meishu yundong’ [85 Art Movement] Meishujia tongxun (5 (March): 15–23. (An English translation, ‘The 1985 New Wave Art Movement’, was published in Valerie C. Doran (ed.) (1993) China’s New Art, Post-1989, with a Retrospective from 1979 to 1989. Hong Kong: Hanart T Z Gallery, civ–cvii.
Gao, Minglu (ed.) (1991). Zhongguo dangdai meishushi 1985–1986 [History of Contemporary Art 1985–1986]. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe.
Lü, Peng and Yi, Dan (1992). Zhongguo xiandai yishushi [A History of Modern Art in China]. Changsha: Hunan meishu chubanshe.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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