Ms. Loong’s move comes amidst a long-term structural shift in interest towards contemporary Chinese ink art. Ink art—including calligraphy, brush painting, and printing in its various forms—has been for the past two millennia the primary medium and language of literary-artistic refinement, moral self-cultivation, and aesthetic-cultural discourse within China and East Asia. The contemporary ink field explores how this essential cultural practice can be transformed for today’s global world.
Within China, contemporary Chinese ink art auctions have expanded by almost six times in the past ten years. Chinese museums have in the past year programmed three times as many group and solo exhibitions dedicated to the field than five years ago. Art fairs also are increasingly including ink art as part of their contemporary art offerings, and entire new art fairs are devoted to the field, most recently Art West Lake that debuted in Hangzhou in May 2018 with 80 galleries.
Outside of China, the field has also gained momentum among museums and galleries. It falls squarely within two major current trends: the curatorial focus on “alternate,” “non-Western” modernities, and the recent exploration of regionally-focused contemporary art programming by encyclopedic institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Some international galleries and museums have begun developing programs dedicated to contemporary ink. LACMA in March 2018 announced the donation of more than 400 works of art – primarily contemporary Chinese ink – from the collection of Gérard and Dora Cognié. They now form the core of the museum’s contemporary Chinese art holdings. LACMA Director Michael Govan said at the time, “This promised gift is a game-changer for LACMA... LACMA is now a leader in the field.” In the past several years, contemporary Chinese ink has been the subject of major survey exhibitions by institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center, Harvard University Art Museum, M+Hong Kong, University of NSW Galleries (Sydney), the Queensland Art Museum (Brisbane) and Asia Society (New York). Leading global contemporary galleries including Gagosian, Marlborough, Paul Kasmin, and Sean Kelly have also recognized the importance of the field by adding contemporary Chinese ink artists to their programs. Furthermore, internationally-recognized contemporary Chinese artists such as Xu Bing and Zeng Fanzhi are now integrating ink into their artistic practices.