Why do so many contemporary Chinese artists use porcelain in their work? In New Export China, Alex Burchmore presents a deep dive into a unique genre of ceramic art to describe a framework for a broader art practice. Focusing on the work of four artists from the 1990s through the 2010s—Liu Jianhua, Ai Weiwei, Ah Xian, and Sin-ying Ho—Burchmore reveals how the materiality of ceramics has been used to highlight China’s role in global trade and to explore the function of this medium as a vessel for the transmission of Chinese art, culture, and ideas.
From its historical pedigree and transcultural relevance to its material allure and anthropomorphic resonance, porcelain offers artists a unique way to move between the global and the intimate, the mass produced and the handmade, and the foreign and the domestic. By dissecting both the legacy of porcelain export and current networks of exchange, Burchmore ultimately demonstrates why this ceramic practice is crucial to understanding the development of Chinese contemporary art.