The conference turns out to be a gigantic affair, held to celebrate the centenary of CAFA – the Central Academy of Fine Arts – which is China’s leading art school, based on the National School of Fine Arts, founded in 1918.   In amongst the glitzy ceremonial, there was much discussion of new challenges and new methods of teaching, the loss of interest in drawing and in any system of training based on materials and skills.   Best of the papers in the morning was a provocative, but historically well informed talk by James Elkins, the art historian and Professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, about the way that all degree courses in the United States (and presumably Britain as well) bear the traces of previous systems of instruction:  the eighteenth century academic system which privileged drawing and observation;  the nineteenth century German Romantic belief in the master, in creativity and the role of the imagination;  the Bauhaus which tried to start from a tabua rasa and taught visual sensibility;  and the postwar system which encouraged writing and self-analysis.   So the question posed was how much, if any, of this remains relevant to the contemporary practice of art.   I may have oversimplified.


2 thoughts on “CAFA

  1. Ivan Gaskell says:

    The folks at the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, might take issue with your description of the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing as “China’s leading art school.” There is hot competition between them: think Harvard and Yale, Oxford and Cambridge…

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