Dissident Chinese artists applaud France’s decision to cancel a Matisse loan to China in protest at its silence on Russia

Artists who have criticized Beijing’s response to Russia’s war on Ukraine say they welcome a French museum’s recent decision to halt the loan of nearly 300 works by Henri Matisse to China .

“Boycott and sanction against China should have been there much earlier,” Australian-based Chinese artist Badiucao told Artnet News. “The art world is the most compromised [sector] of Western society, which has turned a blind eye to so many human rights abuses in China, from the endless censorship of artists to the brutal crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and the Ughur genocide.

The French Matisse museum, which falls under the Nord department, announced on February 25 that it would suspend its cultural exchanges with China, resulting in the cancellation or postponement of “Matisse by Matisse”, the largest solo exhibition in the world. French artist in China. The show was originally scheduled to open at UCCA Beijing on March 26, followed by a show in Shanghai, UCCA Edge, in July.

The facade of the UCCA. Image courtesy UCCA.

The UCCA announced on March 3 that the exhibition would be postponed and made refund arrangements for those who have already purchased tickets.

“UCCA remains deeply committed to global cultural exchange and is actively working with partners in France in the hope of rescheduling the exhibition to a later date in Beijing and Shanghai,” the statement said.

UCCA representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

The Chinese state newspaper world times criticized the decision of the French department. “Art and culture should not be controlled by narrow political prejudices or become tools for political ends. Matisse tried to use his paintings to express his wartime optimism,” one article read. He added that China has taken a neutral stance; the country abstained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia for its war against Ukraine.

Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister, said Beijing stands ready to help end the war through diplomatic means. But there are reports that China knew about Russia’s plan to invade Ukraine a long time ago and asked Putin to wait until after the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

A resident takes a photo of a new mural in Cardiff depicting the beleaguered Ukrainian capital on March 1, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

A resident takes a photo of a new mural in Cardiff depicting the beleaguered Ukrainian capital on March 1, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images.

The Northern Department has set a good example for cultural institutions around the world, said Clara Cheung, an artist from Hong Kong who was elected as a district councilor in 2019 but was forced to resign and move to the UK following through national security. law.

“It is a cultural sanction against those who support the invasion of Ukraine. This is about standing with Ukraine and building solidarity among citizens of the world who embrace liberal values,” Cheung told Artnet News, adding that Ukraine has previously shown support for the pro-liberal movement. -Hong Kong democracy. “As a Hong Kong cultural practitioner, I know that my artist allies in Hong Kong would support the current decision of the French Northern Department.”

“China’s communist connection to Russia’s war crimes support will be exposed, soft new sanctions from the international community will continue to emerge as the war in Ukraine escalates,” the political artist says Kacey Wong, who moved from Hong Kong to Taiwan last year. “It’s the least the international art world can do.”

Western cultural institutions, including the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim and the Royal Academy, have taken tough stances against Russia, cutting ties with its artists and rejecting funding for its oligarchs over the past week.

Institutions in Asia, however, are noticeably calmer. Countries across the continent had mixed reactions to the invasion, while only those more aligned with Western values ​​spoke out in favor of Ukraine, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Japan illuminated some official facilities with blue and yellow lights, the color of the Ukrainian national flag, including at the famous Kumamoto Castle.

Top South Korean actress Lee Young-ae and K-pop group U-KISS have donated to war relief efforts in Ukraine. But the exhibition “Kandinsky, Malevich and the Russian Avant-Garde: Revolutionary Art” is still running at the Sejong Museum of Art.

Taiwan’s reactions are among the strongest, the autonomous island being threatened by China, which could seize it in the name of reunification. In addition to the Taiwan government’s official statement condemning the Russian attacks, a concert held on February 27 at the National Center for the Arts in Kaohsiung rallied public support for Ukraine.

Hong Kong institutions have been mostly quiet (and are largely closed due to the current wave of the pandemic). However, some members of Hong Kong’s art community told Artnet News that people have made cautious comments about the war in public. Others question whether donating to Ukraine would violate national security law because of Beijing’s ties to Moscow. The law implemented in June 2020 prohibits activities related to secession and collusion with foreign forces. Those found guilty can receive up to life imprisonment.

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