Beijing is the cultural capital of China, with every type of artist drawn to the city, a trend that can be traced back to dynasty days, But for decades, few were able to get ahead in a country emphasising Chinese Social Realism. Art took a backseat to politics in 1942, when Mao Zedong proclaimed that ‘art must serve politics’. From that time on, art was not something reserved for the upper classes, but a tool of and for the masses.
For the next three decades, art was put on hold. And, while art returned with a vengeance after China kicked off its reforms and opening period in 1979, it’s still by no means free. Politics no longer rules art, but it still manages to interfere, with artists often forced to deal with censors. However, as international consumer tastes – and not Maoist dogma – increasingly dictate artistic trends, Chinese artists have to a certain extent been freed to make a great artistic leap forward that has resulted in unprecedented new art forms.