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UPDATED: September 9, 2008 No.37 SEP.11, 2008
Aesthetically Pleasing
A Western academic sets out to prove the practical side of beauty and helps Chinese artists in the process

He believes that China is at the forefront of the development of modern art in the world in many ways, of which high current auction prices are one indicator.

"China is producing some great artists, and I think its place will be strong and maybe very soon Beijing will be the next art capital of the world," Carter said.

But Carter said a challenge that Chinese contemporary artists face is how to build upon their cultural heritage and connect to new developments of contemporary life in China and throughout the world. He advises Chinese contemporary artists to understand what it is they are doing and find a way to stay true to the traditions of China's great artistic culture.

"They [Chinese artists] don't need to copy the West. That's no good," said Carter.

But at the same time, he also said that the world is evolving and new ideas are emerging, so it is important for Chinese artists to find new ways of connecting to the world. He thinks it is time to start considering that art is not tied to a specific culture.

"The question of how to remain connected to their Chinese roots and also create art that is appreciated in a changing world where the East and the West are drawn ever closer is on the mind of every serious contemporary Chinese artist," he said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the BJMOCA in April.

On a gloomier note, Carter sounded a warning that there are bubbles in the booming modern art market in China and that Chinese artists should beware of becoming too commercial. There is a real danger of the bubble bursting, he said.

"When you start making art for money, you become a merchandiser, and you make products to sell. That is not art. Art must come from ideas, feelings, spirit and deep understanding of the historic culture in which it occurs," Carter said.

Life in China

Carter said he would choose to live in China even if it was not for work and marvels at the rapid changes in the urban landscape of China, especially in Beijing.

"Every time I return there, its appearance is different," he said, and that change was no where more apparent than in the pageant of history and modern life showcased at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, something Carter saw from the Bird's Nest stadium.

During the Games, Carter was invited to give a speech at the Olympics Truce Award Ceremony held at the U.S. Olympics Committee Headquarters in Beijing on August 10. The subject of his speech was art and sport, and he advocated the expansion of the Olympics to include competition among artists in all media to foster international creativity in a broader range of culture than the current emphasis on sport.

Carter thinks that in recent years, he has benefited greatly from opportunities to work closely with numerous Chinese scholars, artists, and cultural leaders in exploring ways to facilitate communication and cultural exchanges and the sharing of knowledge and understanding between the East and West. His experiences in China have greatly expanded his understanding and appreciation for the cultural richness of Chinese civilization.

He hopes he can do more to be a bridge between Chinese artists and the West.

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