Ai Wei Wei’s famous bicycle installment.

Three Major Narratives Behind the Contemporary Chinese Art

Xiao Faria da Cunha
9 min readNov 13, 2018

The name everybody thinks about when speaking of Contemporary Chinese Art is Ai Wei Wei. He and his sunflower seeds, and the grand installments made of individual units has always been the center of the Chinese art topic, whereas his political struggle and rebellion adds more spices to his art.

On the other hand, an increasing number of Chinese artists have stepped onto the global stage in the past few decades. Although China is still frequently known as the communist country with oppression and somewhat of a xenophobia, its art scene has never stopped growing.

In this day and age, art is always closely related to social issues and political turmoils.

When it comes to Chinese society, things get a bit more complicated.

So I’d like to introduce you to three major narratives in contemporary Chinese Art. Each of these narratives has been the driven force behind the aspiring Chinese contemporary Art Scene and reflects a bit how Chinese artists are trying to use their voice to cure the society.

#1 The Beauty of Individuals

Individualism in Western countries is heroic and glorious.

Individualism in China has always been condemned and stigmatized.

Have you ever attended an international business training session? If so, you would see how China’s understanding of individualism is often recognized as one of the most significant cultural differences that often obstructs a successful business relationship.

In Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, the authors described China’s value system regarding collectivism and individualism in the following fashion:

Collectives are insular, closed entities in which individual goals are subordinated to those of the collective. In the zones of free enterprise, businesses are experimenting with freedom from party rule but not from the collectivist way of thinking. (96)

While the government continues to emphasize the value of collective benefit and submissive group behavior…



Xiao Faria da Cunha | writer | artist | Giving one of the oldest cultures in the world a new narrative.