Top art school show­cas­ing his­tory of mod­ern de­sign in China

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | CULTURE - ByWANG KAIHAO in Hangzhou wangkai­hao@chi­

In 1929, theWest Lake Expo was held in Hangzhou, and it helped the lo­cal econ­omy of the cap­i­tal of East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince, which un­til then had been strug­gling due to war and so­cial tur­moil.

Decades later, mod­els of the expo’s pavil­ions are on dis­play at an on­go­ing ex­hi­bi­tion or­ga­nized byHangzhou-basedChina Academy of Arts. The show tells the story of how the pavil­ions were de­signed mix­ing Chi­nese andWestern styles.

De­sign Road, China Academy of Arts, which opened on Satur­day, ad­vo­cates East­ern de­sign and re­views China’s de­sign his­tory from the found­ing of the academy in 1928. The show of­fers a wide spec­trum of ex­hibits from ar­chi­tec­ture to fash­ion and ar­ti­cles of daily use, all from the own col­lec­tion.

“The mix­ing of Chi­nese and West­ern styles was re­vealed by the expo pavil­ions, and has been in­her­ited by the school,” says Xu Jiang, pres­i­dent of the academy. “To­day’s definition of de­sign has greatly changed, but we don’t want the orig­i­nal sim­ple styles, which are closer to na­ture, to be harmed by the wave of glob­al­iza­tion.

“The ex­hi­bi­tion is to let us know bet­ter where we come from and re­main con­scious like our an­ces­tors.”

The academy is China’s first na­tional higher-ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion for the arts, with an early de­sign school in place.

The ex­hi­bi­tion took one year to pre­pare on the ba­sis of in-depth stud­ies of China’s de­sign his­tory in gen­eral and the school’s evo­lu­tion.

And, this is only a part of a series of projects the academy in­sti­tute’s has ini­ti­ated to show­case the beauty of Chi­nese de­signs.

WhileWestern de­signs have ex­panded to Chi­nese peo­ple’s daily lives, rang­ing from houses to fur­ni­ture, schol­ars at­tend­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion feel it is time for a res­ur­rec­tion of East­ern de­sign.

The academy has in­vited manyWestern de­sign­ers to give lec­tures to stu­dentsabou­t­ex­pe­ri­ences in theirhome­coun­tries, says Wu Haiyan, head of the academy’s de­sign school.

“Af­ter more than 30 years of re­form and open­ing-up, China has formed its own ex­pe­ri­ences,” she says. “What is needed now is to es­tab­lish an aca­demic sys­tem to com­bine them.”

In her opin­ion, func­tion­al­ity, an­cient phi­los­o­phy, a cre­ative mind­set, tech­nol­ogy and fi­nanc­ing can jointly of­fer a new“East­ern de­sign” for mod­ern so­ci­ety.

Ear­lier this year, the first an­nual De­sign In­tel­li­gence Awards were given by the academy.

The prize of 1 mil­lion yuan ($147,000) for the win­ner makes it one of the top in­dus­trial de­sign awards in the world.

Lu Xiaobo, prin­ci­pal of the Academy of Arts and De­sign, Ts­inghua University, says an East­ern de­sign does not nec­es­sar­ily have to ex­plic­itly show tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­tural el­e­ments.

“China now should have the con­fi­dence to show­case mod­ern de­signs,” he says. “But we should not just pur­sue it as a fad. In an­cient China, peo­ple ad­vo­cated that the biggest philoso­phies are ex­pressed in sim­ple shapes.”

Some pi­o­neer­ing Chi­nese de­sign­ers, who were long ne­glected by the pub­lic, are in the spot­light now.

Lei Kuiyuan: The Mas­ter of Mod­ern De­sign in China, an ex­hi­bi­tion show­cas­ing Lei’s blue­prints in var­i­ous fields such as in­door dec­o­ra­tions, pot­tery and stage de­sign, opened a day ear­lier than De­sign Road at the academy.

Lei led the academy’s de­sign school in its early days. The dis­played items do not feel out-of-date though many were de­signed in the 1940s.

“If China had to have a fa­ther of mod­ern de­sign, Lei would be a can­di­date,” says Hang Jian, vice-pres­i­dent of the academy, who launched the ex­hi­bi­tion on Lei.

Lei not only thought the field helped the econ­omy, but also saw it as an aes­thetic ed­u­ca­tion for the pub­lic.

“We now ad­vo­cate care for lo­cal cul­tures and seek to re­turn to tra­di­tional pat­terns, but this is some­thing Lei pro­moted more than 80 years ago,” Hang says.


Photos fea­tur­ing items de­signed by Lei Kuiyuan are on dis­play at China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou.


A visi­tor poses with one of the ex­hib­ited lanterns in Phoenix, US.

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