HAPPENINGText: Lotje Sodderland

The second phase of the exhibition takes us North along China’s coast to the birthplace of ‘China Modern’ and the country’s most cosmopolitan city – Shanghai. After millions abandoned the city as Mao’s despotic Great Leap Forward policies kicked in during the early 1950s, many emigrants are now returning as the city’s fortunes are revived, the economy is transformed, and a new urban middle class is born.

China Design Now Exhibition
Wing Shya, The Soft Touch for Time Magazine (2005)

Fashion magazines, consumer culture and an edgy fashion scene championed by designers like Ma Ke, Wang Yiyang and Zhang Da, reflect the production and consumption of a new dream that combines Western-style aspirational lifestyle culture with a nostalgia for China’s recent past.

China Design Now Exhibition
Herzog de Meuron, National Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games

Finally, we travel to China’s political and cultural centre, the rapidly modernizing Beijing, where the shape-shifting skyline reflects a spectacular array of architectural and urban planning developments including offices and hotels, shops and houses, apartments and schools, with Herzog & de Meuron‘s ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic Stadium taking centre stage.

This environment fosters a climate of independent creativity, as ambitious young studios practice independently from the state system, forging an alternative vision of modern China.

That China is taking over the States as the world’s new economic giant is nothing new. But judging by the buoyant energy and spirited confidence of the myriad exhibits at China Design Now, we may well have a new design giant in our midst too.

China Design Now
Date: March 15th – July 23rd, 2008
Place: V&A Museum
Address: South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Text: Lotje Sodderland
Photos: Courtesy of V&A Museum © the artists

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