Pauline J. Yao

1 The sixtieth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China It’s hard to know which was more surreal: the troops and tanks parading before China’s paramount leader, Hu Jintao, on the morning of October 1 last year, or the two commemorative exhibitions mounted by the Ministry of Culture and the National Art Museum of China to mark the occasion. The first, “Report to the Motherland—Sixty Years of Art in the New China,” trotted out a selection of iconic works of the country’s modern art history, yet the decision to group works accroding to traditional media cleverly masked the absence of “contemporary art” as we know it. The second, “Historical Themes in the Fine Arts,” featured more than a hundred realist paintings of historical events from the 1840s to the present—yet all the works were made in 2009. Like the fanfare and spectacle surrounding this national day, both exhibitions

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