The Many Names of Anonymity: Rethinking Export Art
Associate Professor, Rhetoric
UW Kane Hall 210
History leaves behind many nameless individuals. What should we do when we recover a name, but that name leads to nothing more than an archival trace or a pictured body? From a name, how do we reconstruct an authentic historical subject, a voice, a style? This lecture introduces the Chinese painters of the global maritime trade, based in the port of Guangzhou (Canton), circa 1700-1850. These painters produced thousands of artworks for European and American buyers, but even today their historical identities remain purely speculative. Examining the art market, historical archives, and collecting enterprise which have named and unnamed them, Wong explores artistic identity, anonymity and the rise of signature authorship in its global modern form.
Winnie Wong is Associate Professor of Rhetoric at University of California, Berkeley. She researches the history and present of artistic authorship, with a focus on interactions between China and the West. Her first book, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade(University of Chicago Press 2014, Joseph Levenson Book Prize 2015), is a study of Dafen village, China, the world’s largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting. With Mary Ann O’Donnell and Jonathan Bach, Wong co-edited Learning from Shenzhen: China’s Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Model City (University of Chicago Press, February 2017). With Jing Wang, she co-edited a special issue of positions: asia critique on visual culture and digital dissent (CELJ 2015 Best Special Issue Award). Since 2015, with Amy Adler, Peter Karol, and Martha Buskirk, she has organized several workshops on art and law. Wong has active several active collaborations with other colleagues on the early 19th-century diary of the Chinese literatus Xie Lansheng, and on the mid-18th century natural history projects of the tea merchant John Bradby Blake and the trade painter Mak Sau in Guangzhou. Recently, Wong has written onSmallness in Hong Kong Art, on forgery in the Library, short stories in response to Arne de Boever’s Against Aesthetic Exceptionalism, and essays on the Chinese-Canadian painter Matthew Wong. Wong is currently working on Nameless Image, an exploration of names, labor, art and science, in the export art of Guangzhou (Canton), circa 1730 to 1842, when it was the sole port of trade between China and Europe.