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Chinese Diaspora Art

Chinese Diaspora Art

Introduction to Chinese Diaspora Art

Many prominent artists who left China during political instability and years of artistic repression later became famous abroad, bringing their artistic sensibilities to western audiences. As a direct contrast to the Soviet-inspired ‘socialist realist’ style in China (the only acceptable art form during the Mao era), Chinese diaspora artists saw a greater need to not only reflect upon their cultural identity – because of the geographical distance from their home country – but also their personal experiences from their time abroad.

While harnessing traditional themes and motifs such as landscapes, calligraphy, and referencing Chinese culture and history, their overseas experiences also meant that they had greater access and exposure to western culture, philosophy, politics, and artistic movements. This did much to broaden their horizons, as they made use of new media and forms of representation as ‘international’ artists who were not solely defined by race or nationality. With a wider range of artistic vocabulary, they expanded their practices in a melange of styles while addressing issues that were not limited to those in China. Even while some did eventually return to China and Asia, their styles and ways of seeing were forever changed.

Chinese diaspora art undoubtedly reflected a ‘Chineseness’; however, coupled with Western influences it produced a unique style that combined the best of both worlds, and which was like no other. To the global art community, these artworks redefine the conventional understanding of ‘Chinese art’, breaking boundaries as they reclassify and demystify general perception of what ‘Chinese art’ is.

About Daphne King-Yao

Born in America, Daphne has lived in Hong Kong since the age of five. She graduated from Philips Academy, Andover and the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in History. After graduation she worked in the advertising industry in New York and Hong Kong. In 1996, she joined Alisan Fine Arts and was promoted to Director in 2005; in 2011 she formally took over operations at the gallery. She has since curated several landmark exhibitions, the most recent being the celebration of Alisan Fine Arts’s 35th Anniversary at the Central Public Library in 2016, accompanied by the launch of a 300-page monologue highlighting the gallery’s history. Other exhibitions include Fang Zhaoling, Vigorous and Fresh Chinese Ink Painting held at Fine Art Asia and Alisan Fine Arts in 2012; Yang Jiechang: Good Morning Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Central Library and Alisan Fine Arts in 2015; A Legacy of Ink: Lui Shou-kwan 40 Years On at the Hong Kong Arts Centre and Alisan Fine Arts in 2015; and Lui Shou-kwan, Pioneer of New Ink: A Centenary Celebration at Alisan Fine Arts in 2019.

A patron of the arts, Daphne was a Friend of the Hong Kong Museum of Art from 1997 – 2000 and is currently a Trustee of the Friends. In 2011 she was appointed Director of The Ink Society and now serves as Vice-Chairman. She has been a keen supporter of the Hong Kong Ballet since 2002, serving as co-chair of the Ballet Guild from 2011-2015, and was a board member from 2012-2017. Since 2015 she has been a patron of Asian Cultural Council Friend’s Circle and is a co-chair of their fundraising gala. In 2016 she was appointed Director of the Association Culturelle France Hong Kong Ltd. Daphne founded the University of Pennsylvania Scholarship Fund in Hong Kong, serving as President from 2002-2014. In recognition of her success as an art visionary, she received the 2018 Women of Hope award in the category of Art and Culture, and in the same year was invited by Net-a-Porter as a guest speaker for their “Incredible Women Talks.” In 2019 Daphne was selected by the World Women Leadership Congress for the Hong Kong Women Leadership Award.

Daphne King-Yao’s Recommendations

Artists (older generation)
Chao Chung-Hsiang
Chu Teh-Chun
Walasse Ting
Wu Guanzhong
Zao Wou-Ki

Artists (newer generation)
Fung Ming Chip
Leng Hong
Liu Jian
Ming Fay
Yang Jiechang
Yi Kai

‘Asian Traditions / Modern Expressions: Asian American Artists and Abstractions, 1945 -1970’
By Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum
Published by Harry N. Abrams Inc, 1997
ISBN 9780810926820

Art spaces:
Asian Art Museum (San Francisco)
Asia Society Hong Kong Center (Hong Kong)
Asia Society New York (New York)
Hong Kong Museum of Art (Hong Kong)
Tai Kwun (Hong Kong)
M+ (Hong Kong)
Musée Cernuschi (Paris)


‘Artist Spotlight – Walasse Ting’ (2021)

‘Chu Teh-Chun – A new documentary film on Chu’s life and work – Extract’ (2020)

May 2021