The Last of the Literati
The final, educated, trained and knowledgeable few, in in-depth Chinese culture and art, are all from my parents’ generation. Those born and educated before the Cultural Revolution, that is, who have suffered tremendously for their education, and who have decided to bravely carry on the mantel of the arts on behalf the 1.4 billion Chinese in the mainland. My dad counts as one, though from afar in the U.S., toiling day and night to propel the essence of Chinese art into a modern era. Few can truly appreciate what he has achieved, says the art historians and art professors and art literati friends of his. When they all get together, it was an argument about whether there is hope. My dad says there is hope, China is going through its phases of growth. Once everyone’s bellies are full and closets full of Gucci bags, they will realize their spiritual and artistic emptiness, and start looking to patronize the arts again. NO, said his counterparts who chose to stay behind in China. There is no hope. No one understands nor appreciates art in China. They collect if they have money and it’s an investment. Museums are sometimes used to host birthday parties. Some museum director was executed recently for secretly selling off the country’s collection for private pocketing. These people are all about making a buck now, and art is a land far, far away.
As a reward for myself, got some wild old tree puerh to drink at dinner so I wouldn’t get too depressed. The literati though, were worth meeting. Two minutes of their conversations are more interesting than a lifetime of my own conversations I have had with others.
I can’t wait to see the reactions of the people who will come to my dad’s exhibit at the Foshan Art Museum tomorrow. Then again, I wonder who is coming.