Ian Johnson and Sky Canaves, Wall Street Journal:
BEIJING — When Qiu Zhijie organized a show of fellow young artists in the basement of a suburban Beijing apartment complex a decade ago, police burst in and closed it after just one day. Contemporary art was taboo, and Mr. Qiu was especially provocative, with installations that mocked China’s rising consumerism.
Today, Mr. Qiu is as active as ever. His current project looks at the costs of China’s 60 years of communism by contrasting the official, heroic history of a giant bridge over the Yangtze River with the span’s role as China’s top place for suicides.
But there’s a key difference: Mr. Qiu is now a member of the Chinese cultural establishment. He has a senior teaching post at the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou. And unlike the old days, exhibitions of his works now fill large halls, staying up for weeks, not hours.
Few art scenes have been as whiplashed by change as China’s. As the People’s Republic begins a week of celebrations Thursday to mark its 60th anniversary, the country’s often-edgy contemporary artists are a proxy for the country’s fast-changing political landscape…