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ESSAYS

Narrative Wanted

BY DAVID FRAZIER

The fragmented history of China in the 20th century leaves art 
history with a fragmented picture of “Chinese modernism”

CHUANG CHE, Hazy, 2012, oil on canvas, two panels: 76 x 101 cm each. Courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The art of modern China is indeed in a strange place—highly valued and little understood. In April, paintings by Zhang Daqian (1899–1983) and Wu Guanzhong (1919–2010) sold at auction for more than USD 30 million each. As recently as 2014, Chinese brush painter Qi Baishi (1864–1957) ranked sixth for…

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