Significance of the Research on Biennial Data

Issuing time:2015-05-20 10:45Author:Kang Jianfei

Guanlan International Print Biennial has been successfully held five times in nine years, rated among all those international exhibitions held in China as one with the largest scale, the longest duration and the highest professional standards. From the very beginning, the Biennial is defined as a competitive exhibition, i.e. to collect works widely from the public, to invite international experts to form a jury committee and to bring out the selected and prized works after the preliminary assessment and reassessment. Though theme exhibition has been added since the third Biennial in order to strengthen the academic orientation, the basic mode thereof has been maintained on the whole. In this sense, data under unified mode is of sustainable research value.

The Fifth Guanlan International Print Biennial, China 2015 has received 4034 works of 2168 artists from 83 countries and regions, therein 2068 pictures of works of 985 domestic artists and 1966 original works of 1183 overseas artists and those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The actual number is still a bit higher as some works were received after the deadline due to delivery delay, customs inspection and other reasons. By this point, I think it is necessary to review the relevant data in the past five Biennials.


1st 2007

2nd 2009

3rd 2011

4th 2013

5th 2015

Number of countries and regions






Number of artists contributing works






Total number of works contributed






Number of domestic artists






Number of domestic works






Number of overseas artists






Number of overseas works






Seen from the overall data, the related data has reached the peak since the Third Guanlan International Print Biennial in 2011, which can be contributed to the continuous advertising as well as the objective number of countries and artists. It has witnessed a stable rise generally. If considered only from the perspective of data, Guanlan International Print Biennial has ranked one of the most important print biennials in the world. We will find the distinguishing characteristics as follows with the combination of data and the practical situation of printmaking.

Ⅰ. The formation of new hot spots. With the enhancement of the overall strength of China, cultural construction is becoming more and more important and therefore printmaking, as a most popular media in visual arts, develops along with the trend. Printmaking is born with certain kind of commodity property which can be found in its primitive characters such as plurality and “replication”, therefore its prosperity is indirectly influenced by the development level of national economy and culture. Printmaking firstly flourished in ancient China, then in Europe and the United States, and then in Japan and Korea of Asia since the 1970s and 1980s. From this order we know that the economic development level in a country determines the cultural demands of the public, which in turn determines the level of artistic development. The prosperity of printmaking even reflects the active degree of the economy and culture in a country; then if Guanlan International Print Biennial is taken as a reference system, theres no doubt that the new hot spot in printmaking will be transferred to China.

Ⅱ. Harmony in diversity. In the initial one or two Biennials, the exhibited works of China had significant differences from the international printmaking works, which were displayed not only in the art representation such as theme as well as expressional language, but also in basic technical indexes such as materials and printing technology. Objectively speaking, Chinese printmaking seemed relatively rough in comparison with international standards. However, this distinction can hardly be perceived in the selection of the Fifth Guanlan International Print Biennial just closed and the artists of some works cannot be known where come from until the nationality is checked. Of course, some works with strong national signs still can be recognized at the first sight. Our material technology has been abreast of the international standards. Works of some young and middle-aged artists, particularly, demonstrate a more specific artistic direction which enables some academic communication with international artists from the aspect of art. Compared with other media such as oil painting and sculpture, Chinese printmaking has been fully internationalized. Many Chinese artists have viewed with an international vision, started from ontological issues and progressed according to our own development venation, and then given highly individualized answers to some common problems faced by us.

Ⅲ. New adjustment of the international configuration. The development of printmaking is closely related to the changes in international configuration. As the host country, China is surely an important country in this field with obvious advantages in quantity. Poland, universally regarded as a power of printmaking, has occupied the second position in the number of works received in the past five Biennials. The United States arose slightly and ranked the third in this Biennial as was expected. India and Thailand surpassed Japan, Korea and the European Union, in the fifth and sixth positions respectively. Mexico and Brazil ranked the eleventh and twelfth respectively after surpassing Italy and France. The Mid East, represented by Turkey, ranked the fifteenth. Japan has declined from the third position to the sixth and Korea from the fourth in 2009 to the 23rd all the way up to now. Russia has declined from the previous 13th position in 2009 to the 37th in the last two Biennials while Serbia independent from Yugoslavia even ranked the seventh. Generally speaking, among all advanced countries, the United States is still a leading power in printmaking, Canada and Britain come next while most European countries are experiencing a comparably recession in this field and a more obvious decline has been witnessed in Japan and Korea. In Asia, China, India and Thailand develop rapidly; the number of participant artists and the increase of the number of works in some developing countries have witnessed huge progress, even up to the level of traditional printmaking powers such as the Europe, the United States, Japan and Korea. After the visit and communication of Guanlan Printmaking Base with the South America, the number of works submitted in this Biennial by the Latin American countries represented by Brazil and Mexico has increased obviously. The development in printmaking quantity and quality in Turkey and Iran implies the uprising of Mid-East in this field. Particular recognition shall be laid on the printmaking tradition of the whole Eastern Europe: except Poland, these countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia, Czech Republic and even Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia are small in area and sparse in population, however, the number of printmaking artists and the quality of printmaking works therefrom have won our admiration and their contribution to Guanlan International Print Biennial and even the development of international printmaking is obvious to all.

Ⅳ. Justice creates an impartial platform. With the increase of the Biennials international influence, many celebrated international artists contribute works and participate in this exhibition. Meanwhile, the young artists from many countries with years of professional training have demonstrated their creativity and vitality with distinct artistic concepts and techniques. The voting mechanism by the jury committee has always been adopted in Guanlan International Print Biennial and some matters always hit the raw nerve with the printmakers all over the world. It is very common that some celebrated artists fail to be chosen by the Biennial and some accomplished artists are rejected even in the preliminary assessment. When the assessment results are released, in addition to the joy of the winners, some senior artists are possibly quite disappointed; the organizing committee once received complaints from the international art circles questioning why the works of some representative artists failed to be selected. Actually some important artists repeat their signs constantly that they have even brought visual fatigue to the audience; moreover, this back-to-back assessment method also represents the juries true views, which turn out to be the true feedback to these artists that they cannot obtain in other circumstances. Among these artists who have failed to be chosen, some have made remarkable contributions to Guanlan Printmaking Base and are our very good friends with good fellowship. Guanlan Print Biennial is like a comparably objective mirror which tries to restore the real academic value of printmaking art.

Ⅴ. The cradle of young artists. Many emerging artists or the young and middle-aged artists trained quietly touch the juries merely with their works, stand out from the exhibition and become the winner of Guanlan Biennial. Therefore a number of new artists appear in this exhibition every time and most of them have positive and promising development in the art circles after winning the Guanlan International Print Prize. Tomasz Daniec, a young artist from Poland, won the Prize in 2011 and was then appointed as the vice dean of the Printmaking College in Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in Poland in 2013; another Polish artist Natalya Pallas now teaches in the Cieszyn Academy of Fine Arts in Poland, has been invited by the important organizations in Chinese and American art circles and is very popular in the world. Chinese young artists who have stood out in the Biennial include Wang Xiao, Wu Jiantang, Li Jun, Tang Manwen, Zhang Hao, Zhang Hui, Qin Yiting, etc., have become important forces in contemporary Chinese printmaking circle. Previous young and middle-aged winners, such as Xu Baozhong and Fang Limin, have stepped into the vigorous period in their artistic life and played an important role in printmaking circle and their respective colleges. The awarding to overseas professional artists (such as Ingrid Ledent, Maurice Pasternak, Keisuke Yamamoto, Harumi Sonoyama and etc.) can often elevate their position and popularity in the printmaking circles all over the world, especially make themselves known in the Chinese printmaking circle.

China Guanlan Original Printmaking Base, opened with the first Guanlan International Print Biennial in 2007, has stepped into the ninth year. World-class Printmaking Museum has been constructed and an International Printmaking College has been brought onto the agenda, which imply a promising development of Guanlan printmaking in the future. Speaking of which, theres something we need to mention, i.e. people from Guanlan Printmaking Base who have made huge endeavors for the development of printmaking have contributed their youth and passion to this cause in addition to their labor and wisdom. Meanwhile, we will always remember those who offer assistance and caring for the cause of Guanlan printmaking, including Mr. Tomoya Uchida and Mr. Carl Johnson who had maintained frequent contact and established deep friendship with Guanlan as they won the Guanlan International Print Prize. They passed away from the diseases successively and expressed their sense of pride in winning the Prize at the last minute of their life. We are deeply sorry for this and are even more aware of the significance and value of the endeavors we pay for this exhibition.

Finally I'd like to give special thanks to Mr. Zhao Jiachun from the Academic Exchange Department of the Printmaking Museum as this article is written on the basis of the data processed by him.

Thanks to all the people from Guanlan Printmaking Base! I wish a flourishing future for the printmaking of China.

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