Preview: ‘China Design Now’ Show In Portland

Exhibition From London’s Victoria and Albert Museum Puts Contemporary Chinese Design Front And Center

"China Design Now" is an excellent introduction to the world of contemporary Chinese design and visual arts

"China Design Now" is an excellent introduction to the world of contemporary Chinese design and visual arts

Over the last 30 years — but mainly in the last 10 — Chinese contemporary design has roared to life, leading to unique and culturally resonant architecture and striking visual arts. Beginning this week, this vibrant design will be on full display at the Portland Art Museum‘s “China Design Now” exhibition in Portland, Oregon, giving visitors a glimpse of China’s rapidly shifting design industries while providing them a good cross-section of the tectonic cultural shifts that have awakened that country’s creative energy in the 21st century.

From The Oregonian:

“China Design Now” will hurl visitors into the here and now of contemporary China, with all of its huge-scale cultural energy. The giant isn’t sleeping anymore. It’s wide awake and roaring. And “China Design Now” attempts to nail down the elusive contemporary moment of this restlessly moving target.

One of the intriguing things about the Victoria and Albert exhibition is that it takes art off its pedestal and puts it front and center in a sweeping story of economics, politics and social transformation. Its emphasis is on design, from Nike shoes to advertising images to the massive engineering projects that have transformed the country.

Today’s China would not be possible without Deng Xiaoping’s rise to power in 1977 and the pragmatic internationalism that he cautiously ushered in. That included the relaxation of strict government control over private lives and the encouragement of a modified form of capitalism: As always, and forcefully in contemporary China, the story of art is also the story of money.

The exhibition traces an isolated modern China’s first stabs at mimicking international approaches to advertising and design, the growth of a symbiotic relationship between state-sponsored and private design, and the tension between the desire to become truly international and the wish to forge an approach that is uniquely China’s.

“China Design Now” will run at the Portland Art Museum until January 17, 2010.

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