15 MARCH – 13 JULY 2008
Victoria and Albert Museum
020 7942 2000
China is huge. China is becoming topical. Yet China remains mystery to most people in the West. ‘Made in China’ has become a familiar tag, but the spectacular creative energy in modern China is barely known. During the last twenty years, the Chinese have rediscovered their pre-socialist past and begun to combine their own traditions with global influences to produce a cultural rebirth. At the heart of this lies a new culture of design.
This exhibition will take you on a journey along China’s coastal cities to experience the country’s creative landscape. The journey starts in the far south, where graphic designers in Shenzhen began to explore new directions in the early 1990s. Next we move up to Shanghai. Here consumerism and urban culture have combined to produce astonishing fashion and lifestyles. Finally, we travel to Beijing, where monumental architecture for the Olympic Games is transforming the skyline of this ancient capital.
China Design Now explores China’s dreams and hopes over the last two decades, from individual designers to the nation as a whole. It is our hope that this exhibition will bring contemporary China closer to you.
Thirty years ago Shenzhen was no more than a cluster of fishing villages on the northern border of Hong Kong. In 1980 China’s new economic reform policy turned these villages into the country’s first Special Economic Zone, the world’s largest manufacturing centre. Today, Shenzhen is the youngest and newest city in China, with a population of 10 million and an average age of 27.
Shenzhen is the birthplace of contemporary Chinese graphic design. As the centre of China’s printing industry, it attracted a pioneering generation of young design students and professionals. They established graphic design as a creative discipline, set up the first independent practices and experimented with a new graphic language, completely different from the political propaganda of the past.
Today, graphic design is flourishing in many Chinese cities. It has become very diverse in form and style, with the younger generation embracing both global and local cultural influences. New directions include collaborations with artists, the use of new technologies and an identification with China’s fast-growing youth culture.
“Cheating the system is very gratifying”