A show of artwork by the cream of the nation's young artists has
attracted collectors and gallery owners from around the world.
Each summer for the past five years, the Central Academy of Fine
Arts in China, one of the nation's top art academies, has celebrated
the graduation of its best students with a major exhibition of their
works called, appropriately, "The Start of a Long Journey."
Held in the academy's 160,000-square-foot, or about 15,000-
square-meter, museum here, this year's exhibition opened in June and
closes Sunday. It includes 155 jury-selected works by departing
undergraduate and graduate students from CAFA's six schools: Chinese
painting, fine arts, design, architecture, urban design and
"It's their calling card, to introduce them to society," said the
academy's vice president, Xu Bing, an artist and MacArthur
Fellowship recipient who spent many years in New York. "I want to
present our students in the same way as professional artists," he
added. "This has become a very important exhibition."
The show is an example of how popular arts education has become
in China. Many art schools rent stadiums in which to hold entrance
exams. Applicants who make the initial cut paint outside at easels
and afterward, professors walk through the forest of completed
works, selecting the best for further consideration and tossing the
rest into a recycling pile.
"Our acceptance rate last year was 1 percent," Mr. Xu said. "We
had 90,000 applicants and we admitted 900."
This figure is echoed at other schools; the China Academy of Art,
in Hangzhou, saw a 50 percent increase in applicants in 2012, with
89,567 students vying for 1,665 spots, according to its Web site.
"The Start of a Long Journey" has received considerable media
coverage in China, and its opening attracts collectors and gallery
owners from around the world. The show has also spawned a nationwide
touring exhibition that includes works by the top graduates from
each of China's nine arts academies, including CAFA. (The 2013
national exhibition will open Nov. 1 at the China Academy of Art in
Students selected to exhibit their work in "Long Journey" are the
cream of China's aspiring artists and, beginning this year, CAFA
has instituted a program that will track their career progress.
"We will follow them for 10 years," Mr. Xu said. "These are the
students with the best hope for the future, but we will study them.
Then we will know more about the strengths and weaknesses of our
The works on display at the CAFA show run the gamut of
contemporary art and design, including sculpture, painting,
installations, multimedia, jewelry, furniture, print-making,
photography, animation, and more -- one small room is even set aside
for the perusal of the best dissertations by humanities graduates.
Viewed as a whole, the works in "Long Journey" demonstrate years of
Chen Mingqiang, for example, spent three years on a piece that
explores the changing nature of marriage in China. For his project,
Mr. Chen constructed fantastical wedding suits out of salvaged scrap
metal and then replicated a marriage ceremony with his girlfriend in
an elaborate video performance in a village outside Beijing.
"I'm close to 30," he said, "And I was thinking about getting
By trawling through flea markets, he collected 400 marriage
certificates dating from 1949 to the present, many of which are on
display in the show. …