art academies

art academies
Art academies have played a fundamental role in the development of contemporary Chinese art, and to this day the majority of contemporary artists are a product of the academic system of art education. In the early twentieth century, the education reformer Cai Yuanpei promoted the establishment of art academies and the importance of ‘aesthetic education’ (meigan jiaoyu). During the first half of the century the artists Lin Fengmian and Xu Beihong, who had both studied in Europe, were particularly influential in establishing the art education system on European models, and sought a synthesis of Western and traditional Chinese styles. At the first and second National Congress of Literature and Art Workers in 1949 and 1953 respectively, educational goals for the academies were readjusted in accordance with Mao Zedong’s 1942 Yan’an Talks focusing on the production of art as a political tool. Under the supervision of printmaker and educator Jiang Feng the academy system was transformed to conform more closely to Soviet educational models. To this day, late nineteenth-century European and Soviet models continue to inform most art education at the university level.
Most academies were closed or had a restricted curriculum during the Cultural Revolution while students and teachers were sent down to the countryside to ‘learn from the masses’. When most academies re-opened, by 1979, several thousand applicants competed for admission, contributing greatly to the level and range of work produced during the 1980s (see 85 New Wave [Art] Movement; art exhibitions (experimental, 1980s)). The academies offered otherwise restricted information on foreign art through visits from foreign teachers, artists and students as well as publications and travel. Artistic expressive freedom decreased significantly in the academies in the years following 1989 but became more tolerant later in the 1990s as the boundary between official and unofficial art became less distinct.
While the range of departments in the academies varies, they normally include departments of Zhongguohua (Chinese traditional painting), oil painting, printmaking and sculpture. Some academies also include art history, photography, media art, environmental art, crafts or design, folk art and ceramics as well as music and drama. Many cities also have painting academies (huayuan) and painting research academies (yanjiuyuan) that employ artists and art researchers but do not teach students. All academies function as a work unit (danwei) and are integrated into the political structure (the Central Academy of Art in Beijing being under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Culture). Academic administration is often responsible for setting restrictions on artistic production and exhibitions. While academies continue to concentrate on training artists in officially accepted art forms, there have been significant levels of privatization in both institutional and personal activities. Many provinces and cities have art education institutions on a range of levels. The following list includes some of the most influential academies:
1) The Central Academy of Fine Arts (Zhongyang meishu xueyuan) was founded in 1918 as the Beijing National School of Fine Arts and acquired its current name in 1950 under the directorship of Xu Beihong. Former students include Fang Lijun, Feng Mengbo, Liu Wei, Liu Xiaodong, Lu Shenzhong, Xu Bing, Yu Hong, Zhao Bandi, Zeng Hao and Chen Ping.
2) The China Academy of Art (Zhongguo meishu xueyuan) was established as the West Lake National Art Academy in 1928 by Lin Fengmian and acquired its present name in 1994. Since the founding of the PRC it has been called the Hangzhou National Art College (1928–50), East China College of Central Academy of Fine Arts (1950–6), Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (1956–8) and Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (1958–93). Former students include Chen Haiyan, Chen Xiangxun, Chen Yanyin, Geng Jianyi, Gu Wenda, Huang Yongping, Liu Dahong, Ni Haifeng, Shi Hui, Song Yonghong, Qiu Zhijie, Wang Guangyi, Wang Jinsong, Wu Shanzhuan, Wu Meichun, Zhang Peili, Wang Qiang and Zhang Huan.
3) The Academy of Arts and Design, Qinghua University (Qinghua daxue meishu xueyuan) was established in 1956 by Pang Xunqin and was named the Chinese Central Academy of Arts and Crafts until 1999. Former students include Yu Youhan and Zhang Hongtu.
4) Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts (Sichuan meishu xueyuan) was established in 1953 as the Southwest College of Fine Arts and was given its present name in 1959. Former students include Guo Wei, Shen Xiaotong, Wang Chuan, Xin Haizhou, Ye Yongqing and Zhang Xiaogang.
5) Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts (Lu Xun meishu xueyuan) in Shenyang was founded as the Northeast Lu Xun Art College in 1953 and was given its present name in 1958. Former students include Ren Jian and Shu Qun.
6) The Nanjing Art Institute (Nanjing yishu xueyuan) was founded in 1958 and was given its present name in 1959. Former students include Li Xiaoshan, Ding Fang, Liu Ming and Ren Rong.
7) Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (Guangzhou meishu xueyuan) was established in 1953 as the South Central China Fine Arts College and was given its present name in 1959. Former students include Chen Shaoxiong, Fang Tu and Lin Weimin.
8) Hubei Institute of Fine Arts (Hubei meishu xueyuan) was initially founded as the Wuchang Fine Arts School in 1920. Former names include Wuchang Fine Arts College, Wuchang Private Fine Arts College, Art Department of the Hubei Education Institute, and the Department of Drawing and Cartography of the Central China Normal College. Former students include Ma Liuming, Shang Yang and Zeng Fangzhi.
9) Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts (Xi’an meishu xueyuan) was first established in 1948 as the Northwest People’s School of Arts. Former names include the Art College of Northwest Military and Political University and the Northwest Art Institute.
Andrews, Julia (1994). Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Pang, Gongkai and Xu, Jiamu (eds) (1998). Shiji zhuanxin [The Flames of Art: The 70th Anniversary of the Founding of China Academy of Art]. Hangzhou: Zhongguo meishu xueyuan chubanshe.
Song, Zhongyuan (1988). Yishu yaolan [The Cradle of the Arts].Hangzhou: Zhejiang meishu xueyuan chubanshe.
Sullivan, Michael (1996). Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 42–51.
Zheng, Shengtian (1991). ‘The Avant-Garde Movement in Chinese Art Academies’. In Richard E.Strassberg (ed.), ‘I Don’t Want to Play Cards with Cezanne’ and Other Works: Selections from the Chinese ‘New Wave’ and ‘Avant-Garde’ Art of the Eighties. Pasadena: Pacific Asia Museum, 19–22.
——(1994). ‘Modern Chinese Art and the Zhejiang Academy in Hangzhou’. In Jochen Noth (ed.), China Avant-Garde: Counter-currents in Art and Culture. Hong Kong/New York: Oxford University Press, 51–4.
Zhonghua renmin gongheguo wenhuabu jiaoyu keji si (ed.) (1991). Zhongguo gaodeng yishu yuanxiao jianshi ji [A Collection of the Concise Histories of the Chinese Art Academies]. Hangzhou: Zhejiang meishu chubanshe.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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