Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Chapter 35: A comparative perspective on the industrialization of art in the Republican period in Shanghai and today’s creative industry clusters
Much of the current work on cultural and creative industries in China begins in the 1990s and focuses on the shift of state-managed culture towards the market. However, there is an important legacy that is often overlooked. This chapter looks at the role of intellectuals and creative workers in Shanghai. It traces the development of applied and commercial art in modern China to a group of artists and art scholars during the Republican period (1912–49). An increase in the number of art-related studies during the 1920s and 1930s pioneered awareness of the relationship between art and industry in China. Successive wars and political movements disrupted these endeavours. Then in the late 1990s the concept of ‘industrialized’ art and culture remerged within a globalizing policy framework of ‘culture as industry’ and creative industries. Shanghai, perhaps more than any other city, witnessed a concentration of workers in so-called ‘creative industry clusters’ (chuangyi jijuqu). Many of these clusters have targeted large-scale commercial organizations with a view to profiting from culture. In this chapter I argue that they have done little to help foster awareness of art and culture and have not served local communities of intellectuals and creative workers. I show how the contrast between the Republican period and the contemporary era problematizes contemporary policy in relation to cultural and creative industries.
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