The relationship between the art of China and Western Art Museums has changed noticeably over the past decade. Previously we could expect Chinese artworks to appear primarily in historical, archaeological, anthropological or textile museums but not in major art museums (many of which still do not own an important Chinese art work). Many significant Western art museums have tended to avoid Chinese art specifically and Asian art generally. This is because Chinese art has remained outside of the definition of “art” (which in Western museums has been focused on oil paint and not the use of ink on paper, or ink and colour on silk or bamboo).
In the past five years, through a series of traveling shows, and a re-envisioning of existing holdings, our exposure to Chinese art in Western museums has increased. In the next section I examine how these shows are broadening the scope of what is on view in the West. In the third section I examine the global cultural context of these shows given China’s entry into a unique historical position – the potential bearer of post-democratic capitalism to the New World Order.