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In Session: Linking Asia to the World: Asian Urban Culture and Visual Art in the 1930s
3: Shopping and Exhibiting: Women Artists at the Department Store in 1930s Shanghai
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
The Ohio State University, United States
The department store, as the ultimate space of consumer culture, played a significant role both in the cultural representation of women and women’s public activity in Republican Shanghai. Women were constantly portrayed as the “Modern Girl” who indulged in shopping in pursuit of material pleasure or the “New Woman” who purchased national products and took care of the family for the good of the nation. Meanwhile, the Daxin Gallery, an art space in the Sun department store in the Shanghai international settlement, became a popular exhibition venue for female artists.
To explore the question of exhibited and exhibiting women and their tension in the urban culture, I focus on two female artists, Liang Baibo (1911-?) and Zhou Lihua (1900-83), who both exhibited at Daxin in 1936. Liang celebrated consumerism in her whimsical cartoon series Miss Bee while Zhou depicted domestic scenes to address such social themes as female oppression and national crisis. At the same time, she published in journals as an expert on domestic issues and child education. By examining how they appropriated contemporary discourse on women and exerted their subjectivity, my paper scrutinizes the shifting boundary between the domestic and public spheres in the female artists’ experience and explores how they found new expressions of gender subjectivities by working with/against established norms.