I am really enjoying being in Beijing and slowly I am also figuring out the cultural life, which is not easy because valuable things are hidden. If they were hiding in a geographical corner, I would have no problem to find them. But they are hidden behind an enormous language barrier. Not that it would be too complicated to learn every day Chinese. But this is not helping at all when you for example go to a drama play. Of course language is essential for culture, like everywhere, and it is the main barrier to participate in it.
Because of this handicap I am looking at fine arts and Chinese painting first. But I have to say that the traditional pieces are not very impressive any more and the new ones are not impressing me yet. Of course the connoisseur will say I am ignorant, but in terms of traditional paintings I quickly had enough of bamboo, karst landscapes, cherry blossom, fish, horse and intellectuals hanging out in a countryside pavilion. Not that they are not well painted. But why do they have to paint the same things hundreds of thousands of times? Modern painters seem mostly to cash out on being pseudo critical on the Cultural Revolution time. Always just so much that they do not get into real trouble, but enough to ask for a price premium. Some of them make it even as "professional pseudo-dissidents" into the charts of Western museums, like Ai Weiwei. Most people even have forgotten how bad his artwork actually is, but only remember him as an "intellectual rebel" instead of somebody who was prosecuted for omitting enormous tax payments. Well, sure as an intellectual he does not know what his accountant does. Come on Weiwei! Sounds to me like virgins giving birth to the son of god etc. Who believes such a story?
I also looked at photography. But most new things I see are not better than the Ikea Posters we had hanging in the the common kitchen of the student's dormitory in the 80s. Just that they did not have Photoshop back then. I was wondering why in Photography competitions Chinese photographers mostly excell in fashion and commercial photography. And the answer seems that the lack of talent is so severe that any potential artist is quickly absorbed into a career which is more that of a graphic designer. Reminds me of two or three years ago, I was pointed by a friend to a picture in the Ooi Botos Gallery in Hong Kong, because it was showing a black Audi A6, which was easy to be seen as a government fleet car beyond a mass of puppets lying on the floor. Not that I would be interested, but I was told Audi might be (which it wasn't). The photographer, Chenman, is now a celebrated fashion photographer - no more, no less. The old master's kept paining ever the same bamboo over and over again, and today's photographers mass produce the ever same fashion shots.
However, if there is one place in China, where talent is concentrating, then it is Beijing. And as competition is slowly picking up, I expect that the next wave has to be better.