Moderne and Modernity

DATE: Saturday, March 6, 2010, 9:00 AM - 5:00 pm

PLACE: Museum Theater, Berkeley Art Museum, 2621 Durant Avenue

SPONSORS: Institute of East Asian Studies, Center for Chinese Studies, Berkeley Art Museum, Asian Art Museum, Society for Asian Art, and The Asia Society



For an awakening China just emerging from the Qing dynasty, Shanghai in the early twentieth century came to embody the promise of modernity. Its new architecture, the Style Moderne, or Art Deco as it is now known, was the emblem what was new and foreign, in ideas as well as form.

This conference explores the visual forms and images current in Shanghai in the first third of the twentieth century, and what these reveal, suggest, or obscure. Its architecture and urban spaces; its economic underpinnings in foreign trade, commerce, labor, and leisure; the words and images its populace consumed; and new roles for women, youth, the family, and the citizen; all contributed to create the ideal and the reality that was Shanghai. The story of the city — individuals, groups, the city as a whole — is the subject of this conference.

Though now dwarfed by the new generation of Shanghai's architectural statements, remnants of Shanghai's "style moderne" remain, in what is still the largest extant number and variety of art deco structures anywhere in the world. Panelists address the unique formation of the city, and the sense of identity of those within it, those who created it, those who imagined it, and those who fought all that the city seemed to represent. The unprecedented changes in the Shanghai of recent decades suggest parallels between contemporary Shanghai and the Shanghai of the Style Moderne, as once again forms, ideas, and identities are being redefined.

Pre-registration is not required; admission is on a space-available basis.

This program is offered in conjunction with the Asian Art Museum's presentation of "Shanghai," an exhibition examining the visual culture of one of China's most cosmopolitan cities, scheduled for February 12 - September 5, 2010, and is part of the city-wide "Shanghai Celebration." For more information on please visit



Renée Y. Chow
Everyday Life and the Lilong of Shanghai
A century ago, Shanghai was in the midst of its first modern housing boom. Throughout the city, hidden behind shops and western style buildings, were the lilong, or alleyway house compounds. This talk describes the transformations of the alleyway house and compound, their unanticipated uses, and the parallels with the changing ideal of family.

Lisa Claypool
Picturing Gender in 1920s Shanghai
In a recently published anthology of essays on gender in 20th-century China, the editors begin their introductory comments with the startling assertion that they are interested in "how masculinity and femininity in China are constructed and performed as lived experience, as opposed to represented in artistic works..." The visual image, within their frame of reference, is one that passively mirrors social relations or dodges social forces; to their eyes, pictures just don't matter to real life. But is this truly the case? This paper investigates the ways in which editors of the Sanxitang painting manuals published in mid-1920s Shanghai took up the problem of what it means socially to make a picture of a beautiful woman (shinü hua). Looking to earlier manuals as comparison, the paper maps formal changes and editorial commentary against social debate about gender performance and real transformations in women's lives. It concludes that contrary to the assertion in the recent anthology, for those involved in studying and looking at pictures of beautiful women in 1920s Shanghai, it was clear that gender in representation could not be understood without reference to gender of representation, and vice versa. Moreover, it was through one of the most traditional of genres that gender of the modern woman was produced and contested.

Joan Judge
Title TBD
Scholars have increasingly recognized the centrality of the visual to Chinese and particularly Shanghai modernity in the early twentieth century. Visual media that shaped new modes of seeing from the late nineteenth century included lithography, photography, photolithography, and new Western-influenced styles of painting.

A visual product that has been little examined to date — partly due to the difficulty of gaining access to extant originals — is the covers of the plethora of new periodical journals published in this period. This paper closely analyzes the cover illustrations to China's first commercial women's (or gendered) journal, Funü shibao 婦女時報 (The women's eastern times), published in Shanghai from shortly before the 1911 Revolution through 1917. Rather than focus on the representation of "real" Shanghai in these portraits of cover girls, the paper traces the expanding parameters of the gendered and cultural imaginary that they represent.

This paper first creates a typology of the Funü shibao cover images. It then establishes possible links between their hybrid style and the artistic and personal background of the artists who created them. Finally, it compares these images intratextually with photographic portraits of women in Funü shibao, and intertextually with portraits of cover girls published in later Republican and People's Republic of China magazines.

Michael Knight
Shanghai Deco
During the 1920s and 1930s the transfer of fashion concepts to Shanghai was often remarkably quick- new Paris fashions might appear mere months after they first debuted. This was also true of architecture. Formal buildings of this period, such as the new banks along the Bund, were often built and furnished in the same Beaux Arts styles that were employed in civic buildings around the world. Beyond the Bund, modern influences extended from commercial structures to those built by the city government and by a vast range of private clients, both Chinese and non Chinese. Concepts and designs based on Bauhaus principles were employed for a range of public and private buildings but for more fashionable buildings, Art Deco was the craze.

Although the name did not come into common use in the 1960s, the origins of Art Deco can be traced to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts) organized in Paris in 1925 by an informal group of French artistsans known as La Societe des Artistes Decorateurs. This group based its style on modern geometric concepts but also on influences that were the rage at the time, one notable example being the materials found in Egypt in 1922 in the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Art Deco employed modern materials such as aluminum and stainless steel, glass, mirrors and other reflective surfaces and a strong palette in bold geometric shapes. Art Deco aesthetic caught on quickly in Shanghai-the first Deco buildings were completed by 1928.

What is now commonly known as "Shanghai Deco" furniture was one result. Shanghai Deco furniture combines elements of both Chinese domestic furniture and Art Deco design. Examples often reveal the extensive use of mirrors, asymmetrical designs and linear surface decoration reveals Deco influence. And yet, much of this furniture was created from domestic woods or those readily available in China, and certain common motifs are based on established Chinese traditions.

This paper will explore the growth of the popularity of this furniture in Shanghai through two avenues: a major non-Chinese patron (Sir Victor Sassoon) and the modern Shanghai woman.

I will propose that, as the financial backing behind a number of large scale "Shanghai Deco" buildings, Victor Sassoon had a profound impact on the arrival of Art Deco in Shanghai. I will use his Sassoon House/Cathay Hotel as an example. Sassoon employed the firm of Palmer and Turner, already known for their large scale Beaux Arts buildings along the Bund, to design his new building, but dictated that it be in the latest modern style. For the interior, he imported the height of current European design such as light fixtures from Lalique along with a range of Deco fixtures and furnishings. He also had a range made locally following Art Deco principles. I will propose that this was one avenue through which Chinese artisans became familiar with the forms, styles and concepts of the international Deco movement.

This paper will also explore the role of women as a consumer of Shanghai Deco furniture. Many of the forms, such as dressers, were specifically designed to fit their needs. Posters, fashion and lifestyle magazines, movies and other forms of mass communication advertising the virtues of a modern life style and Art Deco furniture and fixtures were directed at the educated middle class women of Shanghai. This also impacted the development of a wide spread market for Art Deco furniture.

Ellen Johnston Laing
The American Club, The Columbia Country Club and the Creation of an American Ambiance in Shanghai, 1920-1943
In this paper, I will introduce the architects who designed these two buildings, discuss the architectural style of the two structures, describe their amenities, and explore the contributions of these two social clubs to the creation of a visible American presence in pre-World War II Shanghai.

Catherine Vance Yeh
Guides to a Global Paradise: Shanghai Entertainment Park Newspapers and the Invention of Chinese Urban Leisure
With the introduction of the entertainment newspaper from the West to China during the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, a new concept of leisure was subtly ushered into Chinese urban life. Within the confines of the newspage, all that which the modern world can offer is on display. In the display of exotic goods and images, a new vision of paradise is evoked. At its center is the world as entertainment. Here the reader is to experience a sense of wonder and to discover previously hidden or unknown desires and pleasures. In this presentation, the world does not come in as a threat but as a dizzying variety of forms of entertainment. The reader is asked to visually traverse the civilized landscape of the illustrated paradise. For the urban reader, reading the entertainment newspaper was to experience a new quality of virtual leisure in a time-space mentally set off against the busy duties of the day. In the invention of urban leisure in modern China the entertainment newspaper thus become a most non-confrontational mediator in the global flow of concepts, institutions, and practices and the common people.

My paper explores the role of the entertainment newspaper in formulating the concept of the world as entertainment. It examines (1) this new leisure activity going on in a form of visual landscape that has the aim to evoke in the reader a sense for pleasant wonder; (2) the suspension of the hierarchies governing the "real" world in the construction of modern leisure; (3) the unforeseen social consequences of this cultural construction of the modern Paradise and its impact on resetting the hierarchy of importance of the outside world by privileging the margin in highlighting items such as novels, goods such as delicacies, or persons such as courtesans and actors.


Saturday, March 6, 2010
9:00 a.m. - Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Wen-hsin Yeh, Richard H. and Laurie C. Morrison Professor of History and Director, Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley

Lucinda Barnes, Chief Curator and Director of Programs and Collections, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, UC Berkeley

9:15 a.m. - Panel 1: Shanghai: The Form of the City

Renée Y. ChowEveryday Life and the Lilong of Shanghai

Nancy BerlinerShanghai's Jews: Art, Architecture, and Survival

Ellen Johnston LaingThe American Club, The Columbia Country Club and the Creation of an American Ambiance in Shanghai, 1920-1943

Jeffrey WasserstromThe Bund between the Wars: Tales of a New Icon and an Old Struggle

Moderator: Alex Cook

11:30 a.m. - Lunch break

1:00 p.m. - Panel 2: The Arts in Shanghai

Jay XuCollecting in Shanghai: Classical Connoisseurs Meet Modernity

Michael KnightShanghai Deco

Kuiyi ShenArt and Social Networks in Republican Shanghai

Moderator: Patricia Berger

2:45 p.m. - Break

3:00 p.m. - Panel 3: Shanghai Women: New Roles, Changing Image, and Gender Anxieties

Lisa ClaypoolPicturing Gender in 1920s Shanghai

Joan JudgeThe Modern Shanghai Visual Imaginary: Magazine Cover Girls and New Cultural Possibilities in the Early Twentieth Century

Catherine Vance YehGuides to a Global Paradise: Shanghai Entertainment Park Newspapers and the Invention of Chinese Urban Leisure

Moderator: Andrew F. Jones

4:45 p.m. - Concluding Comments and Discussion

Moderator: Wen-hsin Yeh




Nancy Berliner, Peabody Essex Museum
Nancy Berliner is curator of Chinese art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, a position she has held since 2000. She has curated exhibits of Chinese arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Yale University Art Gallery, among others. She has lectured at Harvard University, Dartmouth College, the Asia Society of Houston, and the China Institute. She has written for the New York Times, Asian Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Asian Art, and American Craft magazines, and is the author of Yin Yu Tang: The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House and Beyond the Screen: Chinese Furniture of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century, and Chinese Folk Art.

Renée Y. Chow, University of California, Berkeley
Renée Y. Chow is Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, University of California, Berkeley, and holds the Eva Li Chair in Design Ethics. She joined the faculty in the Department of Architecture in 1993 and currently teaches design studios and seminars. Professor Chow is also a principal of Studio Urbus, an architecture and urban design practice formed in collaboration with her partner, Thomas Chastain. Projects include single and multi-family residences, institutional and commercial projects, as well as urban and community specific development plans and studies. The firm has recently received an AIA Monterey Bay Chapter Design Competition Award for "New Concepts in Housing" as well as an honor award for their competition entry in "New Canal Town in South China," sponsored by the Shanghai Qingpu District Government.

Lisa Claypool, Reed College
Lisa Claypool is Associate Professor of Art History and Humanities in the Department of Art, Reed College. She earned her Ph.D in History of Chinese Art at Stanford University in 2001. She holds a MA in Asian Art History from the University of Oregon and a MA in History at the University of Chicago. Professor Claypool's BA in History, awarded with the highest honors, was earned at Kalamazoo College. She is currently working on two book manuscripts: Figuring the Social Body: Painting Manuals in Late Imperial China and Artifactual Art: Painting and Science in Modern China. Peer-reviewed articles include "Zhang Jian and China's First Museum," in The Journal of Asian Studies, and "Ways of Seeing the Nation: Chinese Painting in the National Essence Journal (1905-1911) and Exhibition Culture" (forthcoming, positions: east asian cultures critique).

Joan Judge, York University
Joan Judge, Associate Professor of Humanities and Women's Studies at York University, received her Ph.D and Masters degrees from Columbia University, as well as a Masters degree from Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris and a BA from the University of Alberta. Her research interests include Chinese women's history and print culture. Her books include The Precious Raft of History: China's Woman Question and the Politics of Time at the Turn of the Twentieth Century and Print and Politics: 'Shibao'and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China. Other recent publications include "The Power of Print: Print Capitalism and the News Media in Late Qing and Republican China" in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies; "Between Nei and Wai: Chinese Female Students in Japan in the Early Twentieth Century" in Gender in Motion: Divisions of Labor and Cultural Change in Late Imperial and Modern China, (edited by Bryna Goodman and Wendy Larson); and "Blended Wish Images: Chinese and Western Exemplary Women at the Turn of the Twentieth Century" in Beyond Tradition and Modernity: Gender, Genre, and Cosmopolitanism in Late Qing China, (edited by Grace S. Fong, Nanxiu Qian, and Harriet T. Zurndorfer.)

Michael Knight, Asian Art Museum
Michael Knight is the Senior Curator of Chinese Art and Deputy Director of Strategic Programs and Partnerships at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Ellen Johnston Laing, University of Michigan
Ellen Laing is an Associate at the Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Dr. Laing completed her doctorate in Chinese Art History at the University of Michigan in 1967. She specializes in the history of Chinese painting and Chinese material culture. Her books include The Winking Owl: Art in the People's Republic of China; Photographs of Bygone Taiwan: Taiwan in the 1960s; Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Popular Prints: Selections from the Muban Foundation Collection; and Selling Happiness: Calendar Posters and Visual Culture in Early Twentieth-Century Shanghai. Her recent work Up in Flames: The Ephemeral Art of Pasted-Paper Sculpture in Taiwan, co-authored with Helen Hui-ling Liu, is a comprehensive study of traditional Chinese paper sculpture, documenting this ancient craft as it exists today in Taiwan.

Kuiyi Shen, University of California, San Diego
Kuiyi Shen is Professor of Asian Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the University of California, San Diego. His teaching and writing focus on Chinese and Japanese art, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary Chinese art and Sino-Japanese art exchanges in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He received a BA in fine arts from Shanghai Normal University, and an MA and Ph.D in art history from Ohio State University. Prior to his 1989 relocation to the United States, Kuiyi Shen served as the director of the art book department at the Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House. Dr. Shen taught at Ohio State, SUNY Buffalo, Rice University, and University of Oregon before joining the UCSD faculty. He is the author and co-author of many books and exhibition catalogues on modern and contemporary Chinese art, including A Century in Crisis: Tradition and Modernity in the Art of Twentieth-Century China; Between the Thunder and the Rain: Chinese Paintings from the Opium War to the Cultural Revolution; Word and Meaning: Six Contemporary Chinese Artists; Chongqing Chilis; Zhou Brother: Thirty Years of Collaboration; Chinese Painting on the Eve of the Communist Revolution: Chang Shu-chi and His Collection; The Elegant Gathering: The Yeh Family Collection; Reboot: The Third Chengdu Biennale; and the forthcoming Arts of Modern China; Social Networks in Republican Shanghai; Literature in Line; and The Challenge of Modernity: Chinese Painting of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.

Jeff Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine
Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. He earned his doctorate from UC Berkeley, his MA at Harvard, and his BA from UC Santa Cruz. Professor Wasserstrom's research and teaching focus is China's recent past, with interests in global history and comparative gender history. He is the author of Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: The View from Shanghai; China's Brave New World — And Other Tales for Global Times; and China in the Twenty-first Century: What Everyone Needs to Know. He has edited or co-edited several books, including Human Rights and Revolutions. He has currently completing work on a new book, "Global Shanghai, 1850-2010."

Jay Xu, Asian Art Museum
Jay Xu is a dedicated scholar of Chinese antiquities and a curator with international museum experience who is committed to sharing his extensive knowledge of Asian art with a world-wide audience. He studied Chinese Literature at Shanghai University, and Art History in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University (MA, 1993; Ph.D. candidacy). Xu was the Pritzker Chairman, Department of Asian and Ancient Art, at the Art Institute of Chicago until 2006, after serving as Pritzker Curator of Asian Art since 2003. While at the Art Institute, Xu worked with two of America's most respected art museum directors, James Wood and James Cuno. Xu served as Head of the Department of Asian Art and Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art at the Seattle Art Museum from 1996 to 2003; as a fellow in the Department of Asian Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from 1994 to 1996; and as an assistant curator at the Shanghai Museum from 1988 to 1990.

Catherine Vance Yeh, Boston University
Catherine Vance Yeh is head of the Chinese Language and Literature section in the Department of Foreign Language and Literature at Boston University. She earned her Ph.D and MA at Harvard University and her BA at UC Santa Cruz. Her research interest is in the twentieth-century Chinese entertainment culture and literature, in particular the relationship between entertainment and the transformation of society as a whole. She has published widely on the subject, and her most recent publication is Shanghai Love: Courtesans, Intellectuals and Entertainment Culture, 1850-1910. A monograph entitled "A Literary Fashion Goes Global: The Political Novel in Late Qing China" is forthcoming. She is currently in the finishing stages of a project with the working title: "From Male "Flower" to National Star: Media, International Politics, and the Transformation of Patronage Culture in the Rise of the Peking Opera Female Impersonator."


Patricia Berger, University of California, Berkeley
Patricia Berger received her Ph.D in the History of Art in 1980 from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also holds the position of Associate Professor of Chinese Art. Before joining the Berkeley faculty in 1997 she served as Curator of Chinese Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and taught at Oberlin College and the University of Southern California. Her most recent book, Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China deals with the eighteenth-century Qing court's use of Buddhist art in their relationship with Mongolia and Tibet. She also co-authored a series of exhibition catalogs on Buddhist art in China and Inner Asia, including Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism; Mongolia: The Legacy of Chinggis Khan; Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World; and Three Emperors. Her current research focuses on Buddhist painting and photographic portraiture in early twentieth-century China and Inner Asia. She is a member of the Group in Buddhist Studies and currently chair of the Department of the History of Art.

Alex Cook, University of California, Berkeley
Alex Cook is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his MA and Ph.D with distinction in History at Columbia University. He earned a BA magna cum laude with departmental honors in East Asian Studies at Brown University. Two forthcoming publications include: The Cultural Revolution on Trial: Mao and the Gang of Four and "Third World Maoism" in Critical Introduction to Mao, edited by Timothy Cheek.

Andrew F. Jones, University of California, Berkeley
Andrew F. Jones, Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley, received his Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1997. Professor Jones teaches modern and vernacular Chinese literature and popular culture. His research interests include music, cinema, and media technology, modern and contemporary fiction, children's literature, and the cultural history of the global 1960s. He is the author of Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age; co-editor of a special issue of positions: East Asia cultures critique entitled The Afro-Asian Century; and translator of literary fiction by Yu Hua, as well as Eileen Chang's Written on Water. His study of evolutionary thinking and developmentalist narrative in modern Chinese literature is forthcoming.

Wen-hsin Yeh, University of California, Berkeley
Wen-Hsin Yeh holds the Richard and Laurie Morrison Chair in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Yeh received her MA in History from University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the former chair of the Center of Chinese Studies and the current Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at UC Berkeley. Her current research focuses on the history of knowledge in China's twentieth century. The author of numerous journal articles, Professor Yeh's most recent book-length publications include The Alienated Academy: Culture and Politics in Republican China, 1919-1937; Provincial Passages: Culture, Space, and the Origins of Chinese Communism, 1919-1927; and Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843-1949.


Berkeley Art Museum

The conference, Moderne and Modernity, will be held at the Berkeley Art Museum, which is located at 2621 Durant Avenue, Berkeley. Enter through the sculpture garden. See section E5 on this large campus map.

Berkeley Art Museum

If traveling by BART, exit the Richmond-Fremont line at the Berkeley station (not North Berkeley). When you leave the BART station, walk south down Shattuck Avenue to Durant Avenue (four or five blocks depending on which station exit you use) and turn left. Walk five blocks east to just above Bowditch for the Berkeley Art Museum. at 2621 Durant Avenue.

From Interstate 80

To reach the Berkeley Art Museum by car from Interstate 80, exit at the University Avenue off-ramp in Berkeley. Take University Avenue east to Shattuck Avenue and turn right. Follow Shattuck to Durant Avenue, and turn left on Durant. Continue up Durant five blocks to just above Bowditch for the Berkeley Art Museum at 2621 Durant Avenue.

From Highways 24/13

To reach the site from Highways 24/13, exit 13 at Tunnel Road in Berkeley. Continue on Tunnel Road as it becomes Ashby. Turn right at Telegraph Avenue and continue down Telegraph to Durant. Turn right on Durant. Continue up Durant one block to just above Bowditch for the Berkeley Art Museum at 2621 Durant Avenue.

Parking at UC Berkeley

There are various public parking lots and facilities near the Berkeley campus and in downtown Berkeley. This list includes municipal and privately owned parking lots and garages open to the public. Please consult signs for hours and fees prior to entering the facilities.

Other lots:

  • Berkeley Way near Shattuck
  • Center Street near Shattuck
  • Allston Way near Shattuck
  • Kittredge Street near Milvia

More information is available on the UC Berkeley Parking and Transportation page.