art and freedom vs. money in shanghai

With the recent issues in Australia of arts funding being sent on a round trip through the local abbatoir, and the problems arising for the creation of new art when a significant percent of the arts budget gets blown on ego-driven buildings and edifices or sucked into the vortex of arts administration, it’s dismaying but entirely unsurprising to see that in China, with its maniacal current obsession with trophy buildings and events, things are no different. Asia Media has this article on the predictable state of the arts in Shanghai as the city tries to pitch itself as ‘Culture-HQ’.

Shanghai is raising the stakes in its battle to be seen as China’s cultural centre, hosting the mainland debuts of Sir Elton John, Phantom of the Opera, and Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s latest film, 2046.

But artists and writers say the financial capital will not be able to create a thriving cultural scene the same way it builds infrastructure – by merely spending vast sums of money and mobilising government officials.

Popular Shanghai writer Chen Cun says the government must also loosen its control over the arts.

“We need better ways other than campaign-like propaganda, something closer to our life and the reality of society. A more tolerant government cultural policy to allow freer expression would also help unleash more creativity and give way to a more diversified culture,” Chen said.

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In addition, the high cost of living in Shanghai has driven many artists to cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou.

“The relatively high cost of living and the higher entry level for outsiders to settle in Shanghai have in some ways kept non-mainstream artists away,” said Shen Hongfei, a Guangzhou-based columnist for the Sanlian Life Weekly magazine.