Contemporary Chinese Paintings

Preface by Zhu Junbo

Auctions of Chinese paintings have flourished in recent years. However, they tend to focus mainly on ancient and early 20th-century works, with little attention paid to the introduction and promotion of contemporary artists. Aware of the hidden crisis of this tendency, my colleagues and I see the need of doing something to introduce new artists. For this reason, Duoyunxuan Cultural Agency Co Ltd was established.

Months ago I had the chance of receiving five painting catalogues from Mr Ng Kaiyuen of Luen Chai Curios Store in Hong Kong . This series of catalogues, including Metamorphosis, were published for the five exhibitions organized by Mr Ng in the past few years. I spent a couple of evenings browsing through them, savouring the paintings collected therein. What a good job Mr Ng did, particularly in bringing forth new schools of painting which sprouted from the root of traditions. His undertaking filled me with hearty admiration. Later, I learned that he was well educated in English and apart from being an antique dealer, also a connoisseur of Chinese painting. Congeniality had brought us together and we decided to collaborate in presenting the Contemporary Chinese Painting Exhibition - the exhibition to which this catalogue is dedicated. It would be shown respectively in Shanghai and Hong Kong .

As we proceeded to organize the exhibition, our criteria for selecting works became increasingly distinct-the artistry of a painting is the top criteria, followed by its regional appeal and market value. Regional appeal is relatively easy to grasp but to obtain an equilibrium between the other two is no easy task. Despite the serious artistic nature of the exhibition, we have to consider also the market value of the exhibits since they are to be put up for sale. Finally, we adhere to our original conception of putting artistry as the priority because we understand that market value is in direct proportion to artistry in the long run. Van Gogh's works were worth less than a hundred US dollars in his days but are now being sold at exorbitant prices, exemplifying that brilliant artistry will not be buried forever. We regret not being able to include a larger number of eminent works due to limitation of time, restriction of our aesthetic judgment and various personal reasons derived from the artists themselves. Nevertheless, we believe that there are many more opportunities for similar undertakings in the days to come.

The core of artistry is individuality. To create individuality, especially one endowed with the quintessence of its era, we need the constant emergence of innovation. Chinese painting in the past fifteen years has seen much progress. Artistic creations are taking on individuality, greatly testifying the truth of Shitao's remark: "Brushwork should evolve with time". Brushwork is the soul of Chinese painting. If we discuss reform, abstraction, literati conception and individuality but ignore traditional brushwork, in fact we have missed Chinese painting in its real sense. Innovations are of great significance but it must be specified that they stem from traditional brushwork. Some artists use no brush and ink, disregard fundamental training and even abandon traditional stationery. They work with spray guns, chemical materials and employ all sorts of crafting techniques to carry out reforms. Their works are undoubtedly innovative but we are afraid that they can hardly be called Chinese painting, and such innovations are irrelevant to Chinese painting.

The art market consists of three parties: artists (suppliers), collectors (consumers) and art dealers (middlemen). In order to run smoothly, the three must trust, support and have a good understanding of each other. At this moment when the 20th century is about to give way to a new epoch, their concerted effort is of great significance to the prosperity of the art market.

Our sincerest thanks to all the artists, art critics, collectors and art galleries who have made this exhibition a success.


Zhu Junbo June 1996 in Shanghai

Preface by Zhu Junbo
Preface by K. Y. Ng
Eternal Brushwork
Shuimohua and Contemporary Artistic Expression
Online Catalogue