The China Academy of Art recently commemorated its 95th anniversary at its newly inaugurated campus in Liangzhu, Zhejiang Province, East China. Established as the nation’s first comprehensive national institution dedicated to higher artistic education, the academy stands as a testament to the evolution of contemporary Chinese art and education over the last century.
Gao Shiming, the academy’s president, discussed the significant impact of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for the “second integration.” This concept emphasizes the fusion of fine traditional Chinese culture with the Marxist perspective, shaping the future direction of art education in China. This approach aligns with the broader vision of humanity entering what Gao describes as the “second Renaissance,” a period characterized by significant global contributions from China.
At a recent cultural inheritance and development meeting, President Xi urged the integration of Marxism’s basic tenets with traditional Chinese culture. This directive builds upon the Communist Party of China‘s earlier efforts to synthesize Marxism with China’s unique realities. Ma Yifu, a respected Chinese scholar, has noted that Marxism revitalizes a socialist ethos inherent in Chinese traditional cultural thought and history.
The common core values shared between traditional Chinese culture and Marxism, such as the principle of equality, are evident in various cultural expressions. The philosophy of Chinese thinker Wang Yangming, which envisions every individual as capable of sainthood, resonates with Marx’s views on equality. This synthesis is vividly seen in Chinese art, where the people are central, viewed as the social subjects.
Historical examples include the Zhejiang school of figure painting in the 1950s, led by artist Fang Zengxian. This school utilized techniques traditionally reserved for emperors and deities to depict ordinary farmers, marking a significant shift in China’s art history.
Since its inception, the China Academy of Art has pursued an academic mission encapsulating the integration of Eastern and Western art styles, fostering contemporary artistic creation. Throughout its 95-year history, the academy has paralleled the trajectory of modern Chinese art, adapting to national challenges and reinventing itself amid contemporary changes.
Two key scholarly approaches have emerged within the academy. The first, led by inaugural dean Lin Fengmian, champions the blending of Chinese and Western art styles. The second, represented by artists like Huang Binhong and Zhao Wuji, focuses on innovating within the bounds of tradition. Zhao, in particular, gained global recognition for developing a unique form of modern painting deeply rooted in Chinese tradition.
Gao emphasizes that the academy’s journey over the last 95 years reflects a dedication to nurturing an artistic revival grounded in tradition yet marked by independent innovation. He posits that a true Renaissance requires a blend of flourishing arts, advanced technology, robust commerce, and a concentration of talent – elements currently present in China.
Highlighting the transformative role of the internet in the 21st century, akin to the Age of Discovery in the first Renaissance, Gao suggests that we are witnessing a global Renaissance, with China playing a pivotal role. In this era, art education in China takes on an increasingly significant role, driving societal innovation and creativity.
Gao encourages students not to limit themselves to traditional artistic domains but to become global artists addressing real-world challenges. The fundamental aim of the China Academy of Art is to cultivate a community where art contributes to building a beautiful China and advancing the nation’s development.
In a world marked by conflict, culture and art become even more vital as mediums of reflection and reconciliation. Gao envisions a future where scientific and artistic endeavors intersect more profoundly, proposing interdisciplinary courses that merge science and art. With the advent of artificial intelligence, Gao foresees an expansion in human artistic intelligence, potentially leading to a new era of creativity and innovation.