Cooperation Between Media and Art Emphasized

More than 100 of Henry Moore's sculptures traveled to the Guangdong Museum of Art last December after a showing in Beijing.

Although the exhibits had yet to arrive, local reporters were already gushing.

A leading local newspaper published a story with the headline "The best Western sculptures exhibit in Guangzhou." Pictures of three pieces of artwork accompanied the prominently displayed story, which said Moore's sculptures would sell for millions of British pounds each.

Unfortunately, the main picture was mistakenly given the caption "Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge" (1961) even though the picture was actually an abstract work by veteran Guangzhou sculptor Liang Mingcheng that has nothing to do with knives and has actually stood at the museum entrance for years.

Case Study

The mistake shines the spotlight on the problematic relationship between art and media in contemporary Chinese society.

It triggered much debate at a recent symposium in Beijing entitled "Passionate Interaction: Art and Media in the 21st Century."

More than 100 journalists, scholars, critics, artists, curators and business executives nationwide examined the role the media play in critiquing artwork and called for caution among reporters in their coverage of artistic events.

"The Guangzhou case indicates at least some major problems facing art journalists in China today," said Han Ming, a Beijing art critic. "The problems won't be solved without the joint efforts of the art and media circles."

Han said that the lack of efficient arts education is one culprit.

"The lack of interaction among arts organizations, media and the public" is also partly to blame, he said.

The reporters and editors who made the newspaper caption mistake, for example, were not even aware that the sculpture by the well-known local artist had been in front of the city's art museum for years, he said.

Such a mistake could have been avoided if only they had communicated, Han said. Han further said that the media have failed to remain objective and consider the artists' point of view, instead of pursuing sensational story angles only.

The mindless praise of mediocre arts and artists -- including painters, singers, theatrical and movie actors and actresses -- in some media reports is even more worrisome, according to Cheng Dali, deputy editor-in-chief of the China Fine Arts Publishing House.

"It is necessary for the media to be objective, clear-minded, serious and balanced in their coverage of artists and artistic events," Cheng said. "To avoid misleading and irresponsible reports, being selective is in every way important.

"It is the reporters' responsibility to help improve the aesthetic taste and knowledge of the general public, especially foreigners who may have difficulty understanding Chinese art."

Cheng criticized irresponsible reports on such topics as young "prodigies."

He said these reports have prompted many Chinese parents to force their children to learn painting, calligraphy and the piano -- regardless of their true talent or aspiration.

"This only hurts their children because it goes against the principle of arts education, which emphasizes personal feelings and human nature," Cheng said.

Art Journalism

To elevate the quality of media coverage of the arts, Zhu Qi, an art critic and artistic director of the art website, said it's time to teach arts journalists who write for the general public to be art critics.

"Criticism essays by professional art critics and scholars today have much less impact on the actual art market, compared with the powerful influence of mass media reports," Zhu said.

It's true that a large number of people in China today buy artwork or go to a concert primarily because newspapers or TV programs note how famous, important, or interesting the artists are from a social point of view. Most arts reporters, unfortunately, lack the professional knowledge and acumen needed to judge art.

As a result, fake and mediocre art floods the market and is collected by buyers who don't know any better, Zhu said.

"It has become urgent for arts journalists to be trained in art history and criticism to improve the accuracy in their reports," Zhu said.

But Zhu Hongzi, a former China Culture Daily reporter and now editor of Art Education magazine, argued that art journalists should remember they are journalists first and art critics second.

"What we need to learn is how to improve our journalistic acumen and skills, that is, how to be a good journalist," he said. "We must think more about the needs of our audience, rather than trying to please the person we are covering."

Change of Role

Zhu Qingsheng, an art studies professor at Peking University, said media today have evolved from passive "reporters" to cover artists and artistic events to active "operators" of artistic trends.

"The new type of close relationship between art and media begs the question: What should the media do in artistic activities?"

Zhang Ming, an official with the Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation, which is a major organizer of such important events as the Shanghai Art Fair, responded by saying: "It is wise for art organizations to cooperate with media in promoting excellent artists to the public. Above all, they should join hands to develop new trends conducive to the policy-making of the government and an ideal cultural environment."

Curators Gu Zhenqing, Chen Yang and Dong Wei also said it has become necessary for artists, curators and arts administrators to be more aware of the importance of mass media in developing an environment in which Chinese contemporary art can prosper.


Media gives the public lots of information on art. But it is also a fact that media can hurt people by making them too dependent on media for their entertainment, Zhu Qingsheng said.

Media also have gradually dominated people's judgment, he said. People often wrongly make decisions based on the information that media give them and do not think things by themselves, he said.

"On the one hand, we praise the existence of media and rely on them to live. On the other hand, it has become necessary for the media to re-examine their role in real life," he said.

(China Daily November 7, 2001)

In This Series

Conference Calls for Further Reform in Media, Publishing Sector

Internet Media to See Fast Growth

Asia-Pacific Symposium Discusses Media Revolution

Shanghai Mayor Inspires Combined Media

Henry Moore in Shanghai

Henry Moore Attracts Beijingers



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