The Chinese Art Book

Introducing The Chinese Art Book

Phaidon Senior Editor Diane Fortenberry on a book that will clue you in (and hopefully inspire a lifelong passion)

  • The Chinese Art Book
  • The Chinese Art Book
  • The Chinese Art Book
  • The Chinese Art Book

The Chinese Art Book examines the art of the oldest continuous civilisation on earth. Full of surprises for the reader new to Chinese art as well as for specialists, its unique arrangement breaks new ground by pairing works that speak to one another in unexpected historical, stylistic and cultural ways. Visually exciting pages allow each object to stand alone and at the same time to be viewed in conjunction with a carefully selected companion, producing illuminating and often inspiring pairings. The dialogue between each couple invites meanings that often go far beyond those of the individual works. Every form of Chinese visual art is featured - painting, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, figurines, jades, bronzes, gold and silver, photography, video, installation and performance art. The works date from Neolithic cultures of the fourth millennium BC to the most recent contemporary art being produced in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the West




The Chinese Art Book

Phaidon production controller Laurence Poos worked on the production of The Chinese Art book, ensuring all the images sourced from around the world were presented in their best light (and colour) and choosing the most appropriate paper stock on which to present such stunning imagery - both contemporary and ancient.

The challenging aspect of books like these, where it's a big collection of artworks from all over the globe is usually the picture research, because the images tend to come from such varying sources. Diane and Tom (Mellick), the editors, did a fantastic job in getting all the images to me, pretty much on time. In the case of this book they're not just paintings, there's photography, sculpture, lots of scrolls - so they ended up coming from anywhere and everywhere. Some of the old Northern Song paintings were a challenge. You try to make them look as true as possible to how they looked when they were originally created but this is offset by the fact that a lot of the time it is an old object and you don't want to make it any more glamorous than it should look. There was one picture that came in incredibly saturated (Emperor Xuanzong's Flight to Shu attributed to Li Zhaodao) an ink and colour on silk drawing dating from the late 8th to mid 9th century. When it came in it was essentially bright red. So we had to de-saturate it to make it look like it would have when it was painted. We have colour references from the era via the editor, and they give us other representations of the image. Obviously, if it's a modern work we will use a match print where possible. Colour matching the images to make the pairings on each spread work as best they could was a bit challenging in this case because I wasn't able to proof them in order as the final order was only decided at the end, so I had to look at the book again at the end to make sure everything sat together correctly. We went for coated paper inside the book because that gives you nice colours for any kinds of artwork and photography too - it holds the bright colours very well and keeps everything nicely in line. I really like the cover design of this book. As soon as I heard it was to be calligraphy I knew the cover had to go on off-white uncoated paper as scripts and scrolls featuring calligraphy would traditionally be uncoated. We decided to treat the calligrapher's seal and our Phaidon logo in the same fashion on the case to create a unity between the 'logos', modern and old. Rather than use the 'Chinese red' on the jacket we decided that it would create a better contrast to use red paper for the case only, peaking out from underneath the jacket. I think the colours (red, paper-white and black) work really well together, a very clean but effective design. My favourite image from the book? That has to be Huang Yongyu's Winking Owl on page 127!





Hardback | 290 x 250 mm

352 pages | 300 images | 2.4 kg






"Enormously important things are happening in China and the Chinese recognise that. They have it now in the way that we had it in New York in the Sixties. In New York we didn't even consider what was happening in Germany in the Sixties, it was beneath notice and wasn't going to compete at all with what we were doing. But obviously, look at Richter, look at Baselitz look at Kiefer. One has to realise that an artist like Zhang Xiaogang, who's working in a figurative way, is just as important as John Currin who's working in a figurative way here. They have the narrative that we do not have any longer. There's an urgency there. The cultural revolution destroyed the entire history of China for a generation. So you're dealing with the oldest country in the world and the newest country in the world and that schism between who they were and who they are and what is happening in China - that's the narrative. We had that schism in America after the war - abstract expressionism. After the war in Germany something amazing happened and after 'the war in China' something amazing happened and that's all part of the nature of new art." Arne Glimcher founder and CEO Pace Gallery

Couple The Chinese Art Book with the books below to build a library on art and culture from East Asia
  • East Asia Library
  • East Asia Library
  • East Asia Library
Browse the library




Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas

Office of Contemporary Chinese Art

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

Pace Gallery Beijing

Gisele Croes Arts d'Extreme Orient, Brussels

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

British Museum, London

Palace Museum Beijing

National Palace Museum Taipei

Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou

Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong