Qianwei (‘avant-garde’) art in reform-era China: Divergence, reversal and the persistence of (subjective) realism | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2051-7084
  • E-ISSN: 2051-7092



In this article attention will be drawn to ways in which so-called ‘qianwei’ (literally, ‘avant-garde’) Chinese art of the 1980s and early 1990s can be understood to diverge from and/or reverse positions, trajectories and intentions conventionally associated with the work of the European and North American politicized avant-gardes. It shall also be argued that those divergences and reversals are informed in part by the persistence of subjective realist approaches to artistic representation within the People’s Republic of China that not only differ in intent from the western avant-garde’s signature anti-aesthetic and anti-realist use of collage-montage, but also related postmodernist framings of contemporary art as a focus for the critical deconstruction of supposedly authoritative meanings.


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